“It Is Not Good For Man to Be Alone”: Clare and Francis - 10 

In Giotto’s fresco, Clare bends down to kiss the dead body of Francis as it was being taken to his tomb, and reminds us of Mary on Calvary when, after the “it is consummated,” Jesus is at last wholly hers. Before that, how little room they too gave to “flesh and blood”! At one point in his public life, we see Mary reduced to asking the intercession of others when she wanted to speak for a moment with her Son: “Your mother is outside seeking you”.

The friendship between Francis and Clare had this characteristic: it was not exclusive. It did not exclude the others, those brothers of Francis or those sisters of Clare, but rather overflowed onto them. Francis is the brother and father of all the sisters; Clare is the sister and mother of all the brothers. When a friendship between a man and a woman is of this quality—non-possessive but sharing—it becomes a reminder of creation; it returns us to relationships of original innocence. It is a “return to paradise” on the lines of the ascetic ideals of the Fathers of the desert. Through, or by means of, renunciation and the cross—the cross of Christ!—humanity re-enters a lost paradise.

Instead of looking at each other, Clare and Francis looked in the same direction. And we know what this “direction” became for them: it became Jesus, poor, humble, crucified. Clare and Francis were like two eyes that, unless they are crossed—which these were not—always look in the same direction. Two eyes are not simply two eyes, that is the one eye and then a copy. Nor is anything in these two reminiscent to having only one eye, meaning that one is being kept in reserve or in order to change the wear.

Two eyes fix their gaze on an object from slightly different angles and this gives depth to the gaze, this is what throws the object looked at into relief and thus allows it to be enveloped by the gaze or the glance. This is what Clare and Francis did. They looked at the same God, the same Lord Jesus, the same Crucified, the same Eucharist, but from the angles of, and with the gifts and sensitivities of, a man and of a woman. Together they did far more than two Francis’s or two Clare’s could have done. Here is the mystery of that complementarity that Scripture throws into high relief when it says: God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them . Gn 1:27 Together they form the perfect likeness of God. Together they form a perfect likeness of the God of the Bible to Whom belongs unity and diversity, Who is one and three, in a unity of love not of number. In this way Francis and Clare are the image of the whole Christ, who is the Bridegroom and the Bride, united in forming “a great mystery”. Eph 5:32

We know only too well how far this rapport between man and woman has been diminished today, reduced almost entirely—at least in drama and publicity—to a rapport of the body, not of the spirit. Francis and

 

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Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 10