Mar 14 2014
What you hold, may you always hold
by Clare of Assisi
English version by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP & Ignatius C. Brady, OFM
What you hold, may you always hold.
What you do, may you do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step,
so that even your steps stir no dust,
securely, joyfully, and swiftly,
on the path of prudent happiness,
agreeing with nothing
which would dissuade you from this resolution
or which would place a stumbling block for you on the way,
so that you may offer your vows to the Most High
in the pursuit of that perfection
to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.
— from Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality, Translated by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP / Translated by Ignatius C. Brady, OFM
/ Photo by trinket /
This poem by Clare of Assisi clearly has a beauty about it, but it isn’t necessarily clear on the first reading what she is truly talking about. What, for example, is it that is held which she hopes may always be held?
Clare wrote this poem in a letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, whom she is encouraging into ever deeper states of union with the Divine.
What is “held” in the first line is the awareness of God within, what Clare refers to elsewhere in her letter as Agnes’s “many virtues” with which she is already “adorned.”
What Agnes (and we) “do” in the second line is the continual practice of that awareness, which must be done “with swift pace, light step, / unswerving feet.”
But why must our steps “stir no dust”? The dust is the busy-ness of the world, reflecting our busy thoughts. Action must be performed without inner disturbance. Action must be performed without it even being action in the ways defined by the world. We must move through life without leaving a personal (egoistic) trace of our passing. This is similar to the metaphor used in the East that, for the enlightened, all action is like writing in water.
When you do so, you “go forward / securely, joyfully, and swiftly, / on the path of prudent happiness,” that is, on the supremely poised path of divine bliss.
|Clare of Assisi|