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The Heavenly Spouse






The writings of St. Clare of Assisi, Saint Pope John Paul II once commented,
are so marked by the love stirred up in her by her loving,
prolonged gazing upon Christ the Lord that it is not easy to express
what only a woman’s heart could experience.


Nowhere is this difficulty more evident than in trying to describe what Clare has experienced in her relationship with Christ as the Spouse of her soul.  She writes as a woman in love, a woman who knows she is loved -- intimately, intensely, infinitely -- by Him whom the angels serve, whose beauty the sun and moon admire.   And yet, though Jesus is truly the divine, exalted heavenly Spouse, He is One who is ineffably near.

He is the Spouse of a nobler rank, whose power is stronger, whose countenance is more beautiful, whose love is more tender and whose courtesy is more pleasing.  1st Letter to St. Agnes of Prague   He is the Center of Clare ’s life -- better yet, He IS her Life, her Hope, her ALL.   He gives meaning to her existence, and strength, grace and perseverance.  On her deathbed, the Lady Clare could frankly confess that ever since I have known the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, no suffering has troubled me.

It is the suffering Spouse who stole the heart of Clare.  This Spouse, more beautiful than the sons of men, became for our salvation, the lowest of men, despised, struck, scourged untold times in His whole body, and died amid the suffering of the Cross. For the first spiritual daughter of the Poor Man of Assisi, there is only one thing to do when brought face-to-face with such love: Behold Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, desiring to imitate Him! 2nd Letter to St. Agnes  Love Him in complete surrender who has given Himself up entirely for your love.  3rd Letter to St. Agnes

Thus, Clare’s Crucified Spouse is also the Spouse of Glory. His eternal newness draws Clare beyond the limits of time as she contemplates His unspeakable delights, His eternal riches and honors and cries out: Draw me after You, O heavenly Spouse! I will run and not grow weary until you bring me into the cellar of wine. 4th Letter to St. Agnes

What does this have to do with the “ordinary” Christian?  Everything!   For spousal union with the Son of God is not a privilege reserved for a few elite souls.   It is the gift that God desires to grant to ALL the baptized, the grace which will be our eternal glory in the Kingdom of heaven.  Contemplatives like St. Clare of Assisi are raised up to highlight the nuptial aspect of this mystical union, and to be, as she herself expresses it, models and mirrors for those living in the world. Testament of St. Clare            

This union with the heavenly Spouse, moreover, is not for the individual alone.   It also has a decidedly ecclesial dimension which witnesses to the fullness of the plan God has decreed in Christ:  The entire Church, through the mystical nuptial vocation of consecrated virgins, appears as what she will be forever: the pure and beautiful Bride of Christ, the heavenly Spouse.  Pope Benedict XVI