Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Feast Day of St Chiara of Assisi

"Totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for your love."


Undeniably, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Medieval buildings of pink granite, turned golden in the sun. Hot red geraniums, bold against the dark blue of a Northern Italian sky: the scent of olive groves, rosemary and lavender, and good coffee. Magical, an inspired setting for the romance of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

And if you had only a passing awareness of Saints Francis and Chiara you would well imagine a romantic union between them; two young noble people in love.

And they were; but not with each other; or rather, yes, with each other, but with the vision of Christ that they saw in each other’s eyes. A love for a Christ who is both Romeo and Juliet. Whose love is so all-consuming that he would sacrifice his life rather than live without us. A love for a Christ whose love is undeniable and eternal. Chiara and Francis, lovesick in their desire to live in the shadow of that love.

St Chiara died 800 hundred years ago, holding the document that confirmed the vow of poverty for her order and thanking God for letting her be a human being - Her sisters continue in her footsteps...

In medieval times the entrance to the House of the Poor Ladies was guarded by the most formidable of the Sisters and could only be reached by a ladder. Imagine having to make such an effort, to actually need, actually want to climb a ladder to reach a place of such poverty and sacrifice.

Not the sort of ladder we would usually be interested in.

Because in these times we know about ladders; the ladders of success, of promotion, of fortune. The rungs that mean the move from second-hand car to shiny 4x4; from two-up two-down to two bathrooms and a second home; from punch card to platinum card; from GCSE to PhD. We need to know that we are on our way up; vertically challenged is not good enough; we want our heads in the clouds.

And it isn’t just how we measure ourselves, we survey everyone else on our horizon – are they higher or lower than us? Envy or ridicule makes us dizzy as we not only strive to raise our own position but to keep tabs on those around us. Top or bottom, way up or way down, high or low – this is what matters. Our place in society; our place in the grand scheme of things; our point of balance flimsy and tottering; always on the brink.

If this is important, if this is what matters, then how could we measure our Christ, our Lord who started at the bottom, climbed a couple of rungs then fell off into the ditch where he died? If we are ladder people then we have to consider what that says about Christ – what that says about us – and why we still don’t get it.

And why it is so important to hear the words of those saints who have gone before us. Sometimes to move forward, first we have to go back to our roots.


No comments: