Pope Francis is quoted: "How beautiful is the gaze with which Jesus regards us - how full of tenderness. Let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God." (April 7, 2013)
Yesterday (March 7, 2014) many of our Fraternity attended a Franciscan Retreat at St. Lucie Church in Port St. Lucie. Fr. Vincent Rubino, OFM Conv., spoke about two and a half hours (in two sessions) on Franciscan Spirituality. He talked about the Admonitions of Saint Francis, and on God's loving Gaze.
I tried to take notes, Fr. Vincent's delivery, very evidently guided by the Holy Spirit, was too fast for me to keep up. I remembered he talked of God's Gaze, a term one encounters in writings about Heaven and particularly concerning the Life of St. Clare of Assisi.
In the Letter of His Holiness John Paul II for the Eigth Centenary of the Birth of Saint Clare of Assisi (Aug. 11, 1993): (Excerpt)
The Spirit creates an image of God's Son in the Christian
Clare and her sisters are called "spouses of the Holy Spirit": an expression not common in the Church's history, in which a sister, a nun, is always described as the "spouse of Christ". However, here we have the resonance of some expressions from Luke's account of the annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38), which become key words for expressing Clare's experience: the "Most High", the "Holy Spirit", the "Son of God", the "handmaid of the Lord" and, lastly, that "over-shadowing" which for Clare is her investiture, when her hair was shorn and fell at the foot of our Lady's altar in the Portiuncula, "before her bridal chamber, as it were" (cf. LegCl 8).
3. "The Spirit of the Lord and his holy manner of working", which is given to us in Baptism, is that of creating in a Christian the image of the Son of God. In solitude and silence, which Clare chooses as a form of life for herself and her sisters within the most poor walls of her monastery half-way between Assisi and the Portiuncula, the curtain of smoke of words and earthly things fades away, and communion with God becomes a reality: love which is born and which gives of itself.
Clare, bowed down in contemplating the Infant of Bethlehem, exhorts us: Since this vision "is the splendour of eternal glory, the brilliance of eternal light and the mirror without blemish, gaze upon that mirror each day.... Look at... the poverty of him who was placed in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. O marvellous humility! O astonishing poverty! The King of angels, the Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger" (4LAg 14, 19-21).
This loving relationship of the contemplative nun with God is so special, so loving, so rich that there is nothing else they need or should want. All Franciscans (incl. the OFS) whose interior life is strong may share in this special relationship with God, as indeed, everyone can. Through Baptism, we are all made in His Image. Ref. 1 Cor. 6:19 "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?"
God's Loving Gaze is experienced in our Soul and is a Gift of God. I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the words to write more on this subject on other days.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
March 8, 2014