Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents - 21 

remaining in love, a process that defies plans, methods, or well-defined approaches. On the contrary, in light of the numerous reflections on the mystery of Christ in her letters to Agnes, she suggests that the development of a life of prayer comes only through focusing our attention on God.

From this perspective, then, we can appreciate the simple formula that Clare offers Agnes in her second letter: "O most noble Queen, gaze, consider, contemplate, as you desire to imitate your Spouse." This is, perhaps, the only insight that we have into Clare's method of prayer. Intuere, she writes, that is, pay attention, focus your gaze upon the suffering Christ. Considera, consider the mystery upon which you are reflecting that you may lose yourself in lovingly contemplating, contemplare, Christ. Yet, all the while, she counsels, you should be desiring to imitate Him, desiderans imitari. This formula, paradoxically profound in its simplicity, reflects the insights of a woman eager to awaken affection in others for the God of her heart.

Were this formula only to appear in the second letter to Agnes of Prague, we might be tempted to interpret it as a simple suggestion of a spiritual directress eager to teach a method of prayer. But Clare repeats it eighteen years later in a much fuller way. "Gaze upon that mirror [Jesus] each day," she writes in her fourth letter to Agnes, "and continually study your face in it, that you may adorn yourself within and without with beautiful robes ... Look at the border of that mirror . . .At the surface of that mirror, consider ... Then, in the depth of this same mirror, contemplate ..." The elements are the same, although the image of Christ is developed in a contemplative and feminine way through the concept of the mirror. By combining the dimensions of the mirror with three different periods in the life of Christ, Clare allows us a glimpse into the bond that exists between her practice of prayer and her pursuit of spiritual growth.

While "mirror literature" was quite popular among the religious of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, Clare adds significantly to it by developing its Christological and feminine qualities. "That Mirror suspended on the wood of the cross," as she refers to Christ, reflected two images: that of the splendor of eternal glory, the transcendent Lord, and that of those creatures who looked upon It. Looking upon Christ, therefore, enables us to perceive the Father and, at the same time, to see a reflection of what we are called to be, reflections of His Son. No one had developed that type of imagery as Clare did; it was largely overlooked until the fourteenth century. But Clare goes beyond suggesting the mirror as an image of Christ; she offers it as a means of growing in a likeness of the Incarnate Word. "Gaze upon that mirror each day, O Queen and Spouse of Jesus Christ," Clare encourages Agnes, "and continually study your face within it, that you may adorn yourself within and without with beautiful robes ...




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 21