Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux NULL

French Ecclesiastic Abbot and primary builder of the Cistercian Order

"Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment."

"You will find something far greater in the woods than you will find in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which; you will never learn from masters."

"The Word of God is not a sounding but a piercing Word, not pronounceable by the tongue but efficacious in the mind, not sensible to the ear but fascinating to the affection. His face is not an object possessing beauty of form but rather it is the source of all beauty and all form. It is not visible to the bodily eyes, but rejoices the eyes of the heart. And it is pleasing not because of the harmony of its color but by reason of the ardor of the love it excites."

"Slander is a poison which extinguishes charity, both in the slanderer and in the person who listens to it; so that a single calumny may prove fatal to an infinite number of souls; since it kills not only those who circulate it, but also all those who do not reject it."

"What would learning do without love? It would puff up. And love without learning? It would go away."

"Of all the motions and affections of the soul, love is the only one by means of which the creature, though not on equal terms, is able to treat with the Creator and to give back something resembling what has been given to it."

"Many men are wise about many things, and ignorant about themselves."

"It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment."

"Death, the gate of life."

"He who labors as he prays lifts his heart to God with his hands."

"Who is He? I can think of no better answer than, He who is."

"Grace is necessary to salvation, free will is equally so; but grace in order to give salvation, free will in order to receive it."

"Take away free will and there remaineth nothing to be saved... Salvation is given by God alone, and it is given only to the free-will; even as it cannot be wrought without the consent of the receiver it cannot be wrought without the grace of the giver."

"Who labors as he prays lifts his heart to God with his hands."

"He who makes himself his own teacher, makes himself pupil to a fool."

"Hell is paved with good intentions."

"Hail, O bleeding Head and wounded, With a crown of thorns surrounded, Buffeted, and bruised and battered, Smote with reed by striking shattered, Face with spittle vilely smeared! Hail, whose visage sweet and comely, Marred by fouling stains and homely, Changed as to its blooming color, All now turned to deathly pallor, Making heavenly hosts affeared! "

""My burden is light," said the blessed Redeemer, a light burden indeed, which carries him that bears it. I have looked through all nature for a resemblance of this, and seem to find a shadow of it in the wings of a bird, which are indeed borne by the creature, and yet support her flight towards heaven."

"A pretext is never lacking to him who would break with a friend."

"Ah! from how great bitterness of soul have you often delivered me, O Good Jesus, coming to me!... How often has prayer taken me on the brink of despair, and restored me to the state of soul of one exulting in joy and confident forgiveness. Those who are afflicted in this way, behold they know that the Lord Jesus is truly a Physician Who healeth the broken of heart and bindeth up their bruises."

"Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters."

"Give Him glory once for offenses pardoned; give it again for virtues conferred."

"Great faith merits great rewards. And wherever you set down the foot of hope among the goods of the Lord, they will be yours."

"He gave Himself to merit for us, He retains Himself to be our reward, He offers Himself as the food of saintly souls, He gives himself as the price of the redemption of those in captivity."

"He that will teach himself in school, becomes a scholar to a fool."

"His fatherly love is greater than any injustice whatsoever."

"I do a great wrong in His sight, when I beseech Him that He will hear my prayer, which as I give utterance to it, I do not hear myself. I entreat Him that He will think of me; but I regard neither myself nor Him. Nay, what is worse, turning over corrupt and evil thoughts in mine heart, I thrust a dreadful offensiveness into His presence."

"I know by myself how incomprehensible God is, seeing I cannot comprehend the parts of my own being."

"I, for one, shall speak about those obstinate Greeks, who are with us and against us, united in faith and divided in peace, though in truth their faith may stray from the straight path."

"If the appetite alone hath sinned, let it alone fast, and it sufficeth. But if the other members also have sinned, why should they not fast, too. . . . Let the eye fast from strange sights and from every wantonness, so that that which roamed in freedom in fault-doing may, abundantly humbled, be checked by penitence. Let the ear, blameably eager to listen, fast from tales and rumors, and from whatsoever is of idle import, and tendeth least to salvation. Let the tongue fast from slanders and murmurings, and from useless, vain, and scurrilous words, and sometimes also, in the seriousness of silence, even from things which may seem of essential import. Let the hand abstain from . . . all toils which are not imperatively necessary. But also let the soul herself abstain from all evils and from acting out her own will. For without such abstinence the other things find no favor with the Lord."

"In order to merit, it is enough to know that our merits do not suffice for us."

"Inordinate love for the flesh is cruelty, because under the appearance of pleasing the body, we kill the soul."

"It is a misery to be born, a pain to live, a trouble to die."

"It is commonly said: What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve."

"It suffices me for attaining to all righteousness, to have Him alone propitious toward me against whom alone I have sinned... Not to sin is the righteousness of God: Man's righteousness is God's forgiveness."

"It’s not as if grace did one half of the work and free choice the other; each does the whole work, in its own peculiar contribution. Grace does the whole work, and so does free choice – with this one qualification: That whereas the whole is done in free choice, so is the whole done of grace."

"Love is sufficient of itself; it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in the practice. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return. The sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him."

"My burden is light, said the blessed Redeemer, a light burden indeed, which carries him that bears it. I have looked through all nature for a resemblance of this, and seem to find a shadow of it in the wings of a bird, which are indeed borne by the creature, and yet support her flight towards heaven."

"Nothing can work me damage except myself. The harm that I sustain I carry about with me, and am never a real sufferer but by my own fault."

"Nothing can work me damage except myself. The harm that I sustain I carry about with me, and never am a real sufferer but by my own fault."

"One cannot now say, the priest is as the people, for the truth is that the people are not so bad as the priest."

"Prayer is a virtue that prevaileth against all temptations."

"Religion brought forth riches, and the daughter devoured the mother."

"That beast of the Apocalypse, to whom is given a mouth speaking blasphemies, and to make war with the saints, is sitting on the throne of Peter, like a lion ready for his prey."

"The cause of loving God is God. I spoke the truth, for He is both the efficient and final Cause. It is He who gives the occasions, it is He who creates the affection, He consummates the desire."

"The faith of simplicity is mocked… questions on the highest things are impertinently asked, the Fathers scorned because they were disposed to conciliate rather than solve such problems. Human reason is snatching everything to itself, leaving nothing for faith. It falls upon things which are beyond it... desecrates sacred things more than clarifies them. It does not unlock mysteries and symbols, but tears them asunder; it makes nought of everything to which it cannot gain access and disdains to believe all such things."

"The obedience which we render to a superior is paid to God, Who says, ‘He that hears you hears Me;’ so that whatever he who holds the place of God commands, supposing it is not evidently contrary to God's law, is to be received by us as if it came from God Himself; for it is the same thing to know His Will, either from His Own, from an Angel's, or from a man's mouth."

"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 tears of penitents are the wine of angels."

"The true measure of loving God is to love Him without measure."