French Ecclesiastic Abbot and primary builder of the Cistercian Order
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
French Ecclesiastic Abbot and primary builder of the Cistercian Order
What I know of the divine sciences and the Holy Scriptures, I have learned in woods and fields. I have no other masters than the beeches and the oaks.
What of the souls already released from their bodies? We believe that they are overwhelmed in that vast sea of eternal light and of luminous eternity
Who taught himself may well have a fool for a master.
You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer, the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable love. Is this plain? Doubtless, to a thoughtful man; but I am debtor to the unwise also. A word to the wise is sufficient; but I must consider simple folk too. Therefore I set myself joyfully to explain more in detail what is meant above. We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable. When one asks, Why should I love God? he may mean, What is lovely in God? or What shall I gain by loving God? In either case, the same sufficient cause of love exists, namely, God Himself. And first, of His title to our love [i.e., his right/claim to it]. Could any title be greater than this, that He gave Himself for us unworthy wretches? And being God, what better gift could He offer than Himself? Hence, if one seeks for God?s claim upon our love here is the chiefest: Because He first loved us.
To shame our sins He blushed in blood; He closed His eyes to show us God; Let all the world fall down and know that none but God such love can show.
Vines and trees will teach you that which you will never learn from masters.
know this thoroughly, either we shall not glory at all, or our glorying will be vain. Finally, it is written, If thou know not, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock (Song of Solomon. 1:8). And this is right.
We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still: we drink of Thee, the Fountainhead and thirst our souls from Thee to fill.
There is nothing he does not know all things that are in heaven and which are on earth, except themselves.
To learn in order to know is scandalous curiosity.
The more I contemplate God, the more God looks on me. The more I pray to him, the more he thinks of me too.
The peacemakers shall be called the sons of God, who came to make peace between God and man. What then shall the sowers of discord be called, but the children of the devil? And what must they look for but their father's portion?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The third degree of love, we have now seen, is to love God on His own account, solely because He is God.
Then you have some people who wish to know for the sake of knowing, and that is scandalous curiosity.
There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.
There is no greater misery than false joys.
Obey your bishop! ?Obey those set over you [Heb 13:17],? the teachers of the Church?. I remind you, my dear friends, of what I said when I was with you: do not receive any outside or unknown preacher, unless he be sent by your bishop or preaches with the permission of the pope. For ?how shall they preach unless they are sent [Rom 10:15]??
Seeing that the Scripture saith, God has made all for His own glory (Isa. 43.7), surely His creatures ought to conform themselves, as much as they can, to His will. In Him should all our affections center, so that in all things we should seek only to do His will, not to please ourselves. And real happiness will come, not in gratifying our desires or in gaining transient pleasures, but in accomplishing God?s will for us: even as we pray every day: ?Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven? (Matt. 6.10). O chaste and holy love! O sweet and gracious affection! O pure and cleansed purpose, thoroughly washed and purged from any admixture of selfishness, and sweetened by contact with the divine will! To reach this state is to become deified. As a drop of water poured into wine loses itself, and takes the color and savor of wine; or as a bar of iron, heated red-hot, becomes like fire itself, forgetting its own nature; or as the air, radiant with sun-beams, seems not so much to be illuminated as to be light itself; so in the saints all human affections melt away by some unspeakable transmutation into the will of God. For how could God be all in all, if anything merely human remained in man? The substance will endure, but in another beauty, a higher power, a greater glory. When will that be? Who will see, who possess it? ?When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?? (Ps. 42.2). ?My heart hath talked of Thee, Seek ye My face: Thy face, Lord, will I seek? (Ps. 27.8). Lord, thinkest Thou that I, even I shall see Thy holy temple?
So far from being able to answer for my sins, I cannot even answer for my righteousness!
So then in the beginning man loves God, not for God?s sake, but for his own. It is something for him to know how little he can do by himself and how much by God?s help, and in that knowledge to order himself rightly towards God, his sure support. But when tribulations, recurring again and again, constrain him to turn to God for unfailing help, would not even a heart as hard as iron, as cold as marble, be softened by the goodness of such a Savior, so that he would love God not altogether selfishly, but because He is God?
So, we start by loving God, not for his own sake but ours. It is good for us to know how little we can do by ourselves, and how much we can do with God?s help, and therefore to live rightly before God, our trusty support. But when recurring troubles force us to turn to God for help, even a heart as hard as iron, as cold as marble, would be softened by the goodness of such a Savior, so that we love God not altogether selfishly, but also simply because he is God. If frequent troubles drive us to frequent prayer, surely we will taste and see how gracious the Lord is. [Ps. 34.8] Then, realizing how good he is, we find ourselves drawn to love him unselfishly, even more powerfully than we are drawn by our own needs to love him selfishly.
The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself... Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare... You too must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.
O wretched slaves of Mammon, you cannot glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ while you trust in treasures laid up on earth: you cannot taste and see how gracious the Lord is, while you are hungering for gold. If you have not rejoiced at the thought of His coming, that day will be indeed a day of wrath to you.
In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.