Saturday, August 20, 2011

Feast of St Bernard

St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) is undoubtedly the most famous Cistercian monk and abbot.  His influence was felt throughout Europe and even into the Holy Land.  He is judged harshly for his involvement in preaching the Crusades, but is loved by many monastics past and present for his writings in which he reveals and teaches a way of affective union with Christ, the Beloved.  Here are some excepts from writings:

The psalmist says: "seek God's face." Not, I think , will the soul cease to seek God even when she has found God. It is not with steps of the feet that God is sought, but with the heart's desire. And, when the soul happily finds God, her desire is not quenched but kindled. Does consummation of joy bring about the consuming of desire? Rather it is oil poured on the flames. So it is. Joy will be fulfilled, but there will be no end to desire and, therefore, no end to the search. Think, if you can, of this eagerness to see God as not caused by God's absence, for God is always present. And think of the desire for God as without fear of failure, for grace is abundantly present. (quoted from The Spiritual Teachings of Bernard of Clairvaux, p 114)

So the soul returns and is converted to the Word to be reformed by him and conformed to him. In what way? In Charity - in love. Such conformity weds the soul to the Word, for one who is like the Word by nature shows herself like him too in the exercise of her will, loving as she is loved. When she loves perfectly, the soul is wedded to the Word..... Truly this is a spiritual contract, a holy marriage. It is more that a contract, it is an embrace. An embrace where identity of will makes of two, one spirit. (St Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Song 83:23)