BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX

1090 - 1153

"Divine joy is a delicate thing

given only to the single-hearted."

 

LIFE

Born into a noble family in Burgundy, Bernard joined the Cistercian reform of the Benedictine tradition when he was 23 years old.  A natural leader, he was made abbot of his community at age 25.  He was a prolific writer, and his works developed in the context of his role as a teacher, preacher and pastor within a monastic order dedicated to simplicity and contemplation.   

 

Particularly noteworthy are his mystical treatises, particularly his treatise On Loving God and his cycle of eighty-six Sermons on the Song of Songs.  Also important was his work On Grace and Free Choice and his reflection on the Benedictine tradition, The Steps of Humility and Pride.

 

IMPACT

 

In the evolution of Christian thought around the incarnation—the reality that God became human—Bernard’s impact is hard to underestimate.  A doctor of the Catholic church, his intricate and beautiful writing style earned him the title the “mellifluous one.”  Although he is often recognized for his authority as a spiritual teacher, he actually accomplished a profound integration of spirituality and theology that helped the incarnation move from being a teaching to a reality that could be experienced by generations of women and men in medieval religious communities.  

INSIGHTS

The needs of the flesh are a kind of speech, proclaiming in transports of joy 

the good things experienced.  

We who feel this way will not have trouble 

in fulfilling the commandment 

to love our neighbor.

     (On Loving God)

 

My God, my help, 

I shall love you as much as I am able for your gift.  

My love is less than is your due, yet not less than I am able, 

for even if I cannot love you as much as I should, 

still I cannot love you more than I can.  

I shall only be able to love you more 

when you give me more…

(On Loving God)

 

True love is its own reward, it does not seek it. 

A reward is offered to those who do not love; 

it is due to those who love; 

it is given to those who persevere.

   (On Loving God)

“Divine joy is a delicate thing which is given only to the single-hearted.”

FURTHER READING

Divine joy is a delicate thing

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