A Letter from St. Clare
The 1st Letter of St Clare to St Agnes of Prague

To the esteemed and most holy virgin, Lady Agnes, daughter of the most excellent and illustrious King of Bohemia: Clare, an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ and a useless servant of the enclosed Ladies of the Monastery of San Damiano, her subject and servant in all things, presents herself totally with a special reverence that she attain the glory of everlasting happiness.

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. 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 emperor 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 a more noble lineage, who will keep your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you have loved him, you are chaste;
when you have touched him, you become more pure;
when you have accepted him, you are a virgin.
Whose power is stronger,
whose generosity 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 on 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 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, and have been beautifully adorned with the sign of an undefiled virginity and most holy poverty: Be strengthened in the holy service which you have undertaken out of a burning desire for the Poor Crucified, who for the sake of all of us took upon himself the Passion of the Cross, delivered us from the power of the Prince of Darkness to whom we were enslaved because of the disobedience of our first parent, and so reconciled us to God the Father.

O blessed poverty,
who bestows eternal riches
on those who love and embrace her!
O holy poverty,
God promises the kingdom of heaven
and, in fact, offers eternal glory and a blessed life
to those who possess and desire you!
O God-centered poverty,
whom the Lord Jesus Christ
who ruled and now rules heaven and earth,
who spoke and all things were made,
condescended to embrace before all else!

"The foxes have dens," he says, "and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man, Christ, has nowhere to lay his head", but bowing his head gave up his spirit.

If so great and good a Lord, then, on coming into the Virgin's womb, chose to appear despised and needy, and poor in this world so that people who were in utter poverty, want and absolute need of heavenly nourishment might become rich in him by possessing the kingdom of heaven, be very joyful and glad! Be filled with a remarkable happiness and a spiritual joy! Because, since contempt of the world has pleased you more than its honours, poverty more than earthly riches, and you have sought to store up greater treasures in heaven rather than on earth, where rust does not consume nor moth destroy nor thieves break in and steal, your reward is very rich in heaven! And you have truly merited to be called a sister, spouse and mother of the Son of the Most High Father and of the glorious Virgin.

You know, I believe, that the kingdom of heaven is promised and given by the Lord only to the poor for she who loves temporal things loses the fruit of love. Such a person cannot serve God and money, for either the one is loved and the other hated, or the one is served and the despised.

You also know that one who is clothed cannot fight another who is naked, because she is more quickly thrown who gives her adversary a chance to get hold of her; and that one who lives in the glory of the earth cannot rule with Christ in heaven.

Again you know that is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, you have cast aside your garments, that is earthly riches, that you might not be overcome by the one fighting against you and you might enter the kingdom of heaven through the straight path and narrow gate.

What a great and praiseworthy exchange:
to leave the things of time for those of eternity,
to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth,
to receive the hundred-fold in place of one,
and to possess a blessed eternal life!

Because of this I have resolved, as best I can, to beg Your Excellency and your holiness by my humble prayers in the mercy of Christ, to be strengthened in his holy service, and to progress from good to better, from virtue to virtue, that he whom you serve with the total desire of your soul may bestow on you the reward for which you so long.

I also beg you in the Lord, as much as I can, to include in your holy prayers me, your servant, though useless, and the other sisters with me in the monastery, who are all devoted to you, that by their help we may merit the mercy of Jesus Christ, and together with you may merit to enjoy the everlasting vision.

Farewell in the Lord. And pray for me.
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