30 July 2013

What is Assisi?

This morning I took with me to the tomb of Saint Francis the ever-helpful Pilgrim's Companion to Franciscan Places I received when I made a pilgrimage in college to Assisi, Florence, and Rome. Within it I found this profound statement of what Assisi is:
Should we try to enclose in the rigidity of a formula the victorious power of Assisi's charm? .... All the seduction of Assisi and the irresistible force of its appeal seem to arise only from an apparently violent opposition and a rough contrast, but they dissolve in a mysterious harmony.  Assisi, as we admire it today and still more as we love it, is nothing more than a tomb.  But tombs evoke mournful thoughts and ... the distant strains of the Dance of Death.  Yet here Assisi eludes that general rule, and from the Tomb of St. Francis ... only waves of joy flow over us and overwhelm us and snatch us from our habitual sorrows... Francis of Assisi, who during his pain-filled life radiated ineffable joy, willed that after his death this miracle should be continually renewed, and that from the dust of his bones should flow an unquenchable spring of joy for all among the children of men who may love him with a pure heart...
And because St. Francis was the apostle of joy, that joy which he had discovered in love of poverty, he gave his Tomb the faculty of performing this kind of perpetual miracle: of removing from our souls our usual anxieties and depressing thoughts, to make us thrill with enthusiasm and joy as soon as we catch sight of the enormous foundations of his Basilica... This is the revelation of the secret of Assisi, the Assisi of St. Francis, a material and mystical reliquary of the master of perfect joy.
 - Alexandre Masseron

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