Contemplating Jesus

BEYOND PARALLEL

Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

States of poverty are experienced by degrees.  These degrees vary according to the age and the norms of culture.  However, an Italian medieval noble woman (who left her riches to live as a Franciscan pauper) provided a valuable resource for understanding the poverty of Jesus that stands to this day.  Blessed Angela of Foligno (1248-1309) introduced three degrees of poverty by which we can recognize the radical resolve of the Son of Man.*

The first is that of the physical: Jesus was born into a humble environment, of simple parentage and status.  From the time of his ministry, he accepted even less than he began with – no home, no wage, no personal comforts, no fine foods.   He chose to live like a common beggar.

The second degree of Jesus’ poverty, which is deemed greater than the first, is in relationships.  Jesus had no reliable, constant friends, or a close familial relationship, nor was he accepted and found pleasing company at the tables of the influential.  In fact, he “deprived himself” from any customary intercourse among equals – on philosophy or religion – and kept an unadulterated focus and resolve on solely pleasing and carrying out the will of the One who sent him.

The third degree of Jesus’ poverty, which Angela called “the supreme degree” was that of laying aside his own power.  Instead of his omnipotence, Jesus chose to live in and relate to the world as a “man weak, infirm and impotent” in order to meet those burdened with multiple miseries.   At the end of his days, Jesus taught that weariness and meekness in the patient endurance of insult, mockery, disgrace, pain and eventually death, engendered an incomparable portrait of love.

If that wasn’t enough, Angela shrewdly pointed out that the holiness of Jesus was never fully acknowledged: that he sacrificed the satisfaction of even this recognition.  Jesus chose poverty as his path and companion, and pain as his crown.  His kingdom was not of this world so the world offered him nothing and for that, Jesus offered everything.

  • The Book of Divine Consolation in Collected Writings of Angela of Foligno (pp 54-60)
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