For Clare and Agnes being poor was important. The cloisters in that time were decadent and rich, and there were many poor people in the society. The nuns in San Damiano and Prague gave all what they possessed to the poor. They expected that giving to the poor would give them the “glory of heaven”, and “eternal riches” in return, as well as a “happy life”, and the necessities they needed to live on earth. Joan Mueller calls this the "sacred exchange". This explains Clare’s focus on poverty. But maybe there is more, or maybe there are other angles to be found why poverty is vital to her. This is the subject of today.
“(15) O blessed poverty
that provides eternal riches to those who
love and embrace it!
(16) O holy poverty,
to those who possess and desire it, God
promises the kingdom of heaven and, of
course, gives eternal glory and a happy life!
(17) O pious poverty
that the Lord Jesus Christ, who ruled and is
ruling heaven and earth, and who spoke and
all things were made, deigned to embrace
before anything else!”
The card of today is meant as a help for getting closer to the thought of Clare of Assisi about poverty. There are two questions to be answered with one card.
Poverty for Clare is something which is blessed, holy and pious. What is poverty to Clare, and why is poverty so important to her?
I have pulled Ace of Swords from the Victoria Regina Tarot. I was shocked seeing such a huge gun on this card. I know Clare was radical, but this explosive!
The card is an Ace, a signal of a new beginning. Poverty for Clare meant a new beginning. It is a call and a cry to the world and to the church to see Christ (and herself) in another way: as poor, and vulnerable, as standing next to the poor, caring for the poor. I think that is why poverty is so important too her, because she could make a powerful statement with it.
Since the image is of a gun, poverty must have been explosive and dangerous stuff for Clare. She was a disgrace for her rich family, who wanted her back. She was a problem for the church, who tried to get her into the rule of the Benedictines. Poverty was dangerous stuff for herself too. Too much fasting, and you die.
But the main thing is, that poverty was a new beginning, a call for the church too repent, and change its ways.