Today I would like to speak about St. Bernard of Clairvaux, called “the last father” of the Church, because in the 12th century he renewed once again and rendered present the great theology of the Fathers.

[…] His solicitude for the intimate and vital participation of the Christian in the love of God in Jesus Christ does not offer new guidelines in the scientific status of theology.

But, in a more than decisive way, the abbot of Clairvaux configures the theologian to the contemplative and the mystic.

Only Jesus – insists Bernard in face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time – only Jesus is “honey to the mouth, song to the ear,  joy to the heart”.

From here stems, in fact, the title attributed to him by tradition of Doctor Mellifluus: his praise of Jesus Christ, in fact, “runs like honey”.

In the extenuating battles between nominalists and realists – two philosophical currents of the age – the abbot of Clairvaux does not tire of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus the Nazarene.

“Arid is all food of the soul”, he confesses, “if it is not sprinkled with this oil; insipid, if it is not seasoned with this salt. What is written has no flavor for me, if I have not read Jesus.”

And he concludes: “When you discuss or speak, nothing has flavor for me, if I have not heard resound the name of Jesus”.

For Bernard, in fact, true knowledge of God consists in a personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love.

And this, dear brothers and sisters, is true for every Christian: Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more.

[…] St. Bernard, solidly based on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church, reminds us that without a profound faith in God, nourished by prayer and contemplation, by a profound relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming a futile intellectual exercise, and lose their credibility.

Theology takes us back to the “science of the saints”, to their intuitions of the mysteries of the living God, to their wisdom, gift of the Holy Spirit, which become the point of reference for theological thought

Together with Bernard of Clairvaux, we too must recognize that man seeks God better and finds him more easily “with prayer than with discussion”.

In the end, the truest figure of the theologian and of every evangelizer is that of the Apostle John, who leaned his head on the heart of the Master.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): On St Bernard of Clairvaux (translation by Zenit).