‘To the esteemed and most holy virgin, the Lady Agnes, daughter of the most excellent and illustrious King of Bohemia: Clare, an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ and useless handmaid (Lk 17:10) of the Cloistered Ladies of the Monastery of San Damiano, her subject and servant in all things, presents herself totally with a special reverent prayer that she attain the glory of everlasting happiness (Sir 50:5).
As I hear of the fame of your holy conduct and irreproachable life, which is known not only to me but to the entire world as well, I greatly rejoice and exult in the Lord (Hab 3:18). I am not alone in rejoicing at such great news, but I am joined by all who serve and seek to serve Jesus Christ. For though you, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honour and dignity of the world, and could have been married to the illustrious Caesar with splendour befitting you and His Excellency, you have rejected all these things and have chosen with your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution. Thus you took a spouse of more noble lineage, who will keep your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ:
When you have loved Him, you shall be chaste;
when you have touched Him, you shall become pure;
when you have accepted Him, you shall be a virgin.
Whose power is stronger,
Whose generosity is more abundant,
Whose appearance more beautiful,
Whose love more tender,
Whose courtesy more gracious.
In whose embrace you are already caught up;
who has adorned your breast with precious stones
and has placed priceless pearls in your ears
and has surrounded you with sparkling gems
as though blossoms of springtime
and placed on your head a golden crown
as a sign to all of your holiness.
Therefore, most beloved sister, or should I say, Lady worthy of great respect: because you are the spouse and the mother and the sister of my Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 11:2; Mt 12:50) and have been adorned resplendently with the sign of inviolable virginity and most holy poverty: Be strengthened in the holy service which you have undertaken out of an ardent desire for the Poor Crucified, who for the sake of all of us took upon himself the Passion of the cross (Heb 12:2) and delivered us from the power of the Prince of Darkness (Col 1:13) to whom we were enslaved because of the disobedience of our first parents, and so reconciled us to God the Father (2 Cor 5:18)’.
from the first letter to St Agnes of Prague by St Clare of Assisi, 1194-1253
Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation: that we who rejoice in the festival of blessed Clare, thy Virgin, may grow in the knowledge and love of true devotion; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon