A Mirror of the Perfection (1318) - 208 

The "mirror" tradition initially was based on Saint Augustine's varied use of the image especially for the Scriptures which, according to him, offered examples or mirrors of holy living. This expanded in the twelfth century to include any literature that presents an exemplar of virtue. With Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the notion of mirror took a moral twist: any exemplar should not only inspire but also purify. In this same moral tradition, Hugh of St. Victor (+1141), identified the purpose of his Explanation of the Rule of St. Augustine: "This little book may well be called a mirror. In it we are able to see the state of our soul . . . whether it be holy or sinful . . . Those that aim at holiness constantly look into the sacred writings to examine their lives, to scrutinize their deeds."8 He continues that if his readers "find anything reprehensible, inordinate, or out of keeping with their state, they must use at once every effort to amend and set it right, according to the light they have received."9 These statement can easily be seen as providing the context for reading the fourteenth century compilations bearing the title "Mirror of Perfection."

These two texts have this twofold function: "to show us what we are and what we ought to be."10 By its title, the Sabatier edition, A Mirror of the Perfection of the Status of the Lesser Brother, follows more explicitly Hugh of St. Victor's notions of purification and perfection of one's way of life. In the Sabatier Mirror, Francis is especially presented as the light that is to purify and amend the life of the Lesser Brothers who were living during the early part of the fourteenth century. The Lemmens edition, on the other hand, as its title—A Mirror of the Perfection, Rule, Profession, Life and True Calling of the Lesser Brother—suggests that "what we are and what we ought to be" is identified by the Rule and profession of the Lesser Brothers.

Both texts are compilations relying heavily on the rotuli or scrolls,11 edited in such a way, however, to invite readers to scrutinize and amend their lives according to the examples of Francis. The shorter text, the Lemmens edition, accomplishes this by selecting and presenting earlier written examples of Francis from the rotuli in a simple and straightforward manner. The longer text, the Sabatier edition, draws from the same source, but, with the addition of many and sometimes sharp editorial comments, it is longer and more developed. It also has clear agenda and leaves little to the discretion of the reader as to how the scrutiny or amendment of life is to be realized in the state or status of the Lesser Brother.

Both editions offer the brothers of the early fourteenth century a sourcebook for Francis as the perfect imitator of Christ. In this context, earlier images of St. Francis are embellished as new images emerge. The notion, however, that Francis is an icon that must always be held before his followers to learn about themselves and their need to change and reform, is not new. Thomas of Celano, not only by his arrangement of material from the rotuli in The Second Book of his The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, but even as early as 1228/29 in The Life of Saint Francis, makes it clear: "If people intend to put their hand to difficult things, and strive to seek the higher gifts of a more




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 208