When You have loved, You shall be chaste

by Clare of Assisi

English version by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP & Ignatius C. Brady, OFM
Original Language Italian

When You have loved, You shall be chaste; when You have touched, You shall become pure; when You have accepted, 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 of Your holiness.

-- 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

<<Previous Poem | More Poems by Clare of Assisi |

/ Image by ahisgett /

View All Poems by Clare of Assisi

Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

When we really read this poem, we discover that it has a sort of monastic, spiritualized eroticism to it.

Notice the repeated counterpoint of the first line:

When You have loved <-> You shall be chaste
when You have touched <-> You shall become pure
when You have accepted <-> You shall be a virgin

When God is the Beloved, ideas of celibacy and sexual purity are turned on their head. Virginity is attained by the very act of yielding to the Divine embrace.

I also especially like the line, "In Whose embrace You are already caught up..." In the normal consciousness, we tend to think that we are bereft of God's embrace and must desperately seek it out. St. Clare is saying, no, we are, in fact, already enwrapped in that embrace. The only effort necessary is to truly recognize it.

Those final phrases, being adorned by God with "precious stones" and "sparkling gems." That suggests to me how spiritual awakening not only reveals our own inner light, but also how the world around us glimmers. All of existence, inner and outer, is revealed to be secretly shining: a thousand colors, ten thousand facets, all reflecting a single light.


Thank you for the emails wishing my wife well. Her surgery yesterday went well, and she is recovering. She now has a small metal plate in her wrist to make sure the bones reform and heal properly. She now claims that she is the bionic woman... but I already knew she had super powers!

Recommended Books: Clare of Assisi

Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Voices Through the Ages Sacred Companions Sacred Community: Reflections with Clare of Assisi

When You have loved