The Transitus

The Passover of our holy Mother Clare to eternal life

The text is variously taken from Clare's writings, the Acts of Canonization, the Legenda Sanctae Clara virginis, the Lives of St Francis by Thomas of Celano, the Latin text of her sung Transitus, the Legenda versificata, the contemporary letter from the protomonastery to other houses recounting her passover and Innocent IV’s Bull, Solet annuere, 9 August 1253 that confirms Clare’s rule.

We have retained here the narrative form which we ourselves usually share after the first Vespers of her feast day. It requires nine voices: Narrator, Clare, Innocent IV, Agnes, Rainaldo, Philippa, Angelo, Amata & Benvenuta

 

Narrator
Divine Providence now hastened to fulfil its plan in regard to Clare, and Christ himself hastened to call the Poor Pilgrim to the palace of the eternal kingdom, she who longed to be dissolved from this body of death and see reigning in the celestial mansion Him whose holy poverty she, a poor little one, had followed on earth.

23 - 25 July 1253

The Lord Pope Innocent together with the Cardinals made haste to visit the handmaid of Christ. Approaching her bed, the Holy Father extended his hand to the lips of the holy virgin for her to kiss.

Clare
I beg and beseech you, Most Holy Father, humbly permit me also to kiss your feet.

Narrator
The Holy Father humbly standing on a small stool, charitably extended his foot, and the Lady Clare kissed it reverently both above and below.

Clare
Most Holy Father, I beg you to absolve me from my sins.

Innocent IV    
Would to God, my child, that I had as little need of forgiveness as you.

Narrator
And he blessed her and gave her absolution.

Innocent IV
May the Lord absolve you from all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Clare
Amen.

Narrator
She begged the Holy Father to confirm her Rule and the privilege of most Holy Poverty. After the Supreme Pontiff and his court had left, the Provincial Minister came and brought her Holy Communion. Then Clare lifted up her eyes to heaven and joining her hands towards God, said:

Clare
Praise the Lord, my little chidren, that in this day Christ has given me so great a favour, that heaven and earth would not suffice to repay it.

Agnes
What is that, dear Mother?

Clare
This day I have merited to receive the Most High Lord himself and to behold his Vicar.

5 - 9 August 1253

Narrator
The daughters of Clare stood about her bed and their hearts were moved with great anguish.

Agnes
O Mother, and most dear sister, do not depart from us, do not leave us orphans!

Clare
It is pleasing to God, Agnes my dearest sister, that I go hence. But weep no more, for you shall come to the Lord very soon after me, and before I leave you, our Lord will grant you a great consolation.

Narrator
Clare’s mind turned ever to the fate of her Rule and the future of her Order.

Clare
If I could but kiss the seal of the Bull approving our holy Rule, I would be well content.

Narrator
In her dying Clare was visited by many Cardinals and prelates, and she was in great agony and, in total, had passed seventeen days unable to eat. Yet she did not break into complaints, nor open her mouth in lamentation. The more powerfully she was stung by the barbs of suffering so much more did she bringing her song of praise to the Lord.

Psalm 115(116b)

All
I trusted, even when I said:
‘I am sorely afflicted,’
and when I said in my alarm
‘No man can be trusted.’

How can I repay the Lord
for his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the Lord’s name.

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people,
O precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful.

Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
you have loosened my bonds.
A thanksgiving sacrifice I make:
I will call on the Lord’s name.

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now
and will be forever. Amen

Narrator
That kindly man, Brother Rainaldo, visiting her, said:

Rainaldo
Have patience, mother and daughter and bride of Christ, for great and terrible are your sufferings and long indeed is this martyrdom and unbearable this anguish.

Clare
Dearest Brother, since I have known the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ through his servant Francis, no suffering has troubled me, no penance has seemed too hard, no anguish too much to bear.

Narrator
Clare turned to the priests and friars that were there, saying:

Clare
I beg you, dearest Fathers and Brothers, to assist me and to read to me, I pray, the most holy Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and his comforting words.

Narrator
After they had done this, Brother Juniper, who often uttered fiery words of God, appeared among them, and Clare was filled with new joy.

Clare
Brother Juniper, give me I beg you, some new word from Our Lord.

Narrator
At that, Juniper opened his mouth and sent forth sparks of such fiery words from the furnace of his burning heart that the virgin of God was greatly comforted. Then turning to all her sisters, she recalled with praise the blessings of God and entrusted them to the poverty of the Lord

Clare
My daughters, observe always the most holy life and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born poor, who died for us on the cross of privation and humiliation, who was laid in a borrowed tomb, embraced Poverty as his bride and took her with him to heaven.

Narrator
She encouraged them to have joy and to bear with the poverty of our life for the love of God.

Clare
Bear with cheerfulness, bear with patience, the burden of Poverty. Bear humbly the burden of deprivation. The perseverance that grows from this will obtain, for those who continue in it for the sake of contemplating God, the joys of Paradise and the riches of eternal life.

Narrator
And she said many other things, speaking of the Most Holy Trinity with such depth that the sisters could not well understand her. Sister Philippa said to Sister Francesca:

Philippa
You have a good memory, remember what our Mother says.

Narrator
But Clare replied:

Clare
You will remember what I am now saying as far as He allows it, who now causes me to speak.

Narrator
Then she blessed all who had been kind to her, both men and women and invoked God’s blessing on her sisters who were present and those who were to come.

Clare
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He show his face to you and have mercy on you. May He turn his countenance to you and give you peace.

And I, Clare, the handmaid of Christ though unworthy, the little plant of Saint Francis, and the sister and Mother of you and of all the other Poor Sisters, beseech our Lord Jesus Christ, through his mercy, and through the intercession of his most holy mother Mary, and of blessed Michael the Archangel, and of all God’s holy angels and of all his saints, that He who is our heavenly Father would bestow on you this most holy blessing, and confirm it both in heaven and on earth; on earth by enriching you in his grace and virtues among his servants and handmaids in the Church militant, and in heaven by exalting and glorifying you among his saints in the Church triumphant.

I give you my blessing now while living, and after my death, in as far as I may; nay, even more than I may, I call down on you all the blessings that the Father of mercies has bestowed and continues to bestow on his spiritual sons and daughters both in heaven and on earth. Amen.

Angelo
Let us be comforted in the Lord, beloved, for He who has given us such great grace and holy example through our blessed Mother will not leave us orphans in this valley of tears.

Narrator
And Leo, kneeling, kissed the bed of the dying saint. Amidst their tears and silent lamentation, the saint said quietly to her soul:

Clare
Go forth, without fear, for you have a good escort for your journey. Go forth, for He who created you has redeemed you and has placed in you his Holy Spirit and cherished you always and loves you with a tender love as a mother loves her child. Blessed are you, O Lord, who has created me.

Amata
Dear Mother, to whom do you speak?

Clare
I am speaking to my blessed soul.

Narrator
She turned to Sister Amata who knelt beside her, saying:

Clare
O daughter, do you see the King of glory whom I behold?

Silent pause

10 August 1253

Narrator
Then, at last, on the tenth day of the month, a friar came from the most holy Father Innocent, bringing the long-awaited confirmation of her Rule, and although she was not far from death, the Lady Clare took the parchment reverently in her hands and kissed it many times.

Innocent IV
We confirm by our apostolic authority this form of life, according to which you should live together in unity of mind and heart, in the profession of the highest poverty. To you and all that will succeed you.... So be it!

Narrator
Sister Benvenuta had sat with the other sisters near the bed of Clare and she had begun to reflect with joy on her great and wonderful holiness, it seemed to her as if the heavenly court must be preparing to receive her. While she was lost in these thoughts, she said she saw them unfold.

Benvenuta
I saw, coming and entering into the room many virgins clothed in white with golden crowns on their heads, and there walked among them one more resplendent than the rest, from whose crown, which was like a windowed thurible, such splendour shone forth in the house as to change night to day. She advanced to the bed where the spouse of her Son lay, and bending over her, lovingly embraced her. An exquisitely beautiful mantle was then brought forth by the virgins, who clothed Clare with it and adorned her bed.

Narrator
It was thus, on the day after that of Blessed Laurence, this most holy soul passed away to be crowned with everlasting rewards, and the temple of the flesh being laid aside, her spirit soared heavenward in bliss.

Blessed is that passing from this valley of tears that became for her the gateway to eternal life.