The Mirror Without Spot


Gaze upon this mirror each day
and continually study  your face within it,
that you may adorn yourself within and without
with beautiful robes...

These words were not written by a modern fashion designer but by a medieval mystic, St. Clare of Assisi.  Secular cosmeticians refer their clients to large, shiny mirrors. The Lady Clare bids us to look to the Mirror without spot who is Christ. She concludes her unique directive with the goal of this beholding: that you may be covered with the flowers and garments of all the virtues.

Medieval spiritual authors often made use of the image of the mirror when writing of the stages of contemplative transformation.   St. Clare adds a distinctively feminine touch to her use of this image, a use which is also decidedly Christological and utterly practical in character.

Knowing that now we see through a mirror darkly 1 Cor. 13:12, the Seraphic Mother urges her followers to look at the Divine Mirror DAILY.  Most people include in their morning routine at least a glance at the mirror.  Models, actors and ballerinas make it part of their professional lives. How much more should we who have put on Christ in Baptism look many times daily into the Mirror without spot!

The invitation to Gaze upon this mirror EACH DAY reminds us also that acquiring the virtues which make us Christ-like is an on-going challenge for fallen human nature.  We NEED this daily contact with Christ in prayer -- whether private or liturgical, in the depths of one’s heart or in the silence of an adoration chapel -- in order to see HOW the virtues were operative in Jesus’ earthly life and to allow them to penetrate into our own lives.

Then this gazing must be DELIBERATE.  In order to continually study our faces within the Christ-Mirror, we must (as St. Clare says elsewhere), PLACE our minds before the mirror of eternity.  We need to come to our Lord in prayer freely, willingly and with determination.  Otherwise, we risk being like those looking at their faces in a mirror: who look and go away, forgetting what they looked like. (cf. James 1:23-24)  Deliberate, continual studying of the face of the soul in the Mirror who is Christ both impresses the image of the Beloved in our minds and hearts, and challenges us to become what we have beheld.

Finally, the Lady Clare exhorts us to look DEEPLY into this Mirror.  Medieval mirrors were convex and had only a limited space where the image was clearly reflected.  It took time and effort to find those spaces.   It is the same when we look into the Mirror without spot.  Quick, superficial or passing glances will not yield in-depth penetration of His mysteries nor open the soul to a truly contemplative encounter with the Son of the living God. 

St. Clare tells us that beholding the true reflection of blessed poverty, holy humility and ineffable charity can only be done with the grace of God.  This is a great consolation.  We are not left alone with our weaknesses and distractions.  God, who placed in our hearts the desire to behold His Son, will grant us the strength, focus, and patience needed to look on Jesus daily, determinedly, deeply, until one day we too are robed with the beautiful garments of the virtues of Him whom St. Clare extols as the brightness of eternal glory, the splendor of eternal light and the MIRROR WITHOUT SPOT.

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