The Inflamed Love


At the end of her life, St. Clare shared a beautiful summary of her spiritual life with St. Agnes of Prague.  After extolling the sublime dignity of spiritual marriage with Christ, the Seraphic Mother declares: Happy is she to whom it is given to cling with all her heart to Him whose Love inflames our love.  As the rest of the letter unfolds, it is obvious that Clare is writing from personal experience, that she knows what it is to have the fire of God’s Love inflame her love.   

From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures repeatedly use fire as a symbol of divinity and an image of God’s relationship with man.  A flaming torch ratified God’s covenant with Abraham; the apostle John saw seven torches of fire surrounding God’s heavenly throne.  It could even be said that Jesus’ redemptive mission was conceived and concealed in fire: I have come to cast fire upon the earth.  And the Letter to the Hebrews proclaims: Our God is a consuming fire.

God’s way of working in the soul has also been described in terms of fire. Kindle in our hearts the fire of Your love, is a prayer the Church frequently directs to the Holy Spirit.   We know what is meant when someone is said to be on fire with the love of God.   While every saint has an intimate connection with the divine Fire, Francis and Clare of Assisi were so utterly transformed by divine Love that they were known, even in their own time, as the Seraphic saints. 

The seraphim are the highest rank of angels in the heavenly court.  They are, so to speak, the angelic “firebrands,” eternally consumed by love for God and forever singing before His throne: Holy! Holy! Holy!   The Assisian saints so mirrored these pure, burning creatures in their love for God that to this very day we still honor them with that title: the Seraphic St. Francis, our Seraphic Mother Clare.

His Love inflames our love!  St. Clare would be quick to explain that this mystery of love and fire does not begin with us, but with God.  HE is the Fiery Love which enkindles, enlightens, transforms, consoles, consumes, delights, deifies.  It is not we who kindle this love within our hearts; rather, under the impetus of grace, we open our hearts to receive this divine Fire, we surrender to it, we allow it to transform and transfigure us.  

Prayer offered St. Clare a privileged place for encountering the burning Love who is our God.  She especially recommends contemplating the ineffable charity with which Christ willed to suffer on the tree of the Cross so that we may ever more strongly be set afire with love.   Such an encounter can be likened to entrance into a furnace.  The ancient chroniclers used just that image to describe the Lady Clare when she emerged from the blessed furnace of prayer.  For when she returned with joy from holy prayer, she brought from the altar of the Lord burning words that also inflamed the hearts of her Sisters. 

His Love inflames our love! proclaims the Mother and Foundress who urged her spiritual progeny to love one another with the love of Christ and to show forth by their actions the love they had in their hearts.  To allow His Love to inflame our love is the work of a lifetime. Yet it is also the work of this very moment -- an opening to God’s grace, an awareness of His love, an acceptance of His holy way of working in and through the fire of Love, until His Love inflames our love and God Himself begins to love in us.

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