Bernard of Clairvaux: Thy Name is Music to the Heart, Inflaming It with Love Saturday, Jan 4 2014 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxJanuary 3rd was the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): translated by Edward Caswall (1814-1878) @ CyberHymnal.

Bernard of Clairvaux: “Behold, a Virgin shall Conceive and Bear a Son, and His Name shall be Called Emmanuel” Friday, Dec 20 2013 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxIf the infirm cannot go far to meet this great Physician, it is at least becoming they should endeavour to raise their heads and lift themselves a little to greet their Saviour.

For this, O man, you are not required to cross the sea, to penetrate the clouds, to scale the mountain-tops. No lofty way is set before you.

Turn within thyself to meet thy God, for the Word is nigh in thy mouth and in thy heart.

Meet Him by compunction of heart and by confession of mouth, or, at least, go forth from the corruption of a sinful conscience, for it is not becoming that the Author of purity should enter there.

It is delightful to contemplate the manner of  His visible coming, for His “ways are beautiful, and all his paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17).

“Behold,” says the Spouse of the Canticles, “he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Cant. 2:8).

You see Him coming, O beautiful one, but His previous lying down you could not see, for you said : “Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest” (Cant. 1:6).

He lay feeding His angels in His endless eternity with the vision of His glorious, unchanging beauty. But know, O beautiful one, that that vision is become wonderful to thee; it is high, and thou canst not reach it.

Nevertheless, behold He hath gone forth from His holy place, and He that had lain feeding His angels hath undertaken to heal us.

We shall see Him coming as our food, Whom we were not able to behold while He was feeding His angels in His repose.

“Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” The mountains and hills we may consider to be the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and we may see His leaping and skipping in the book of His genealogy. “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, etc.” (Matt. 1:2).

From the mountains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find from the Prophet Isaias: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isa. 11:1-2).

The same prophet speaks yet more plainly: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us” (Isa. 7:14). He Who is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, and in the rod is named the virgin.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermon 1 on the Advent of the Lord, pp. 13-14, from Sermons of St Bernard on Advent and Christmas.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Jesus is a Physician Who Heals the Broken-Hearted and Binds Their Wounds Tuesday, Aug 20 2013 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxThe person who…smarts at the remembrance of past deeds and says to God in bitterness of soul: “Do not condemn me,” or who may still be caught up in the snare of his own evil propensities, still perilously tempted, this person needs a physician, not a bridegroom; hence kisses and embraces are not for him, but only oil and ointments, remedies for his wounds.

Is not this how we too often feel? Is not this our experience at prayer, we who are tempted daily by our passions and filled with remorse for our past sins?

Good Jesus, from what great bitterness have you not freed me by your coming, time after time? When distress has made me weep, when untold sobs and groans have shaken me, have you not anointed my wounded conscience with the ointment of your mercy and poured in the oil of gladness?

How often has not prayer raised me from the brink of despair and made me feel happy in the hope of pardon? All who have had these experiences know well that the Lord Jesus is a physician indeed, “who heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”

And those who cannot lay claim to experience must for that very reason put their trust in him when he says: “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the humble, to bind up the broken-hearted.”

And if they should still be in doubt, let them draw near and put it to the test and so learn by inward experience what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

[…] When men grow weary of studying spiritual doctrine and become lukewarm ~ when their spiritual energies are drained away, then they walk in sadness along the ways of the Lord. T

hey fulfill the tasks enjoined on them with hearts that are tired and arid, they grumble without ceasing, they complain of the long days and the long nights in words like those of Job: “When I lie down I say: ‘When shall I arise?’ And then I shall be waiting for evening.”

If when we are subject to these moods, the compassionate Lord draws near to us on the way we are traveling, and being from heaven begins to talk to us about heavenly truths, sings our favourite air from among the songs of Zion, discourses on the city of God, on the peace of that city, on the eternity of that peace and on the life that is eternal, I assure you that this happy discourse will bear along as in a carriage the man who has grown tired and listless; it drives all trace of aversion from the hearer’s mind and weariness from his body.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 32, 3-4.

Bernard of Clairvaux: This Name of Jesus – Salutary Remedy Against Spiritual Illness Friday, Nov 2 2012 

Hidden as in a vase, in this name of Jesus, you, my soul, possess a salutary remedy against which no spiritual illness will be proof.

Carry it always close to your heart, always in your hand, and so ensure that all your affections, all your actions, are directed to Jesus.

You are even invited to do this: “Set me as a seal,” he says, “upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.”

[…] For the moment you have this ready medicine for heart and hand.

The name of Jesus furnishes the power to correct your evil actions; to supply what is wanting to imperfect ones.

In this name your affections find a guard against corruption, or if corrupted, a power that will make them whole again.

Judea too has had her Jesus – Messiahs in whose empty names she glories: For they give neither light nor food nor medicine.

[…] They were sent on in advance, like the staff preceding the Prophet to where the child lay  dead, but they could not see a meaning in their own names because no meaning was there.

The staff was laid upon the corpse but produced neither voice nor movement since it was a mere staff.

Then he who sent the staff came down and quickly saved his people from their sins, proving that men spoke truly of him when they said: “Who is this man that he even forgives sins?”

He is no other than the one who says: “I am the salvation of my people.”

Now the Word is heard, now it is experienced, and it is clear that, unlike the others, he bears no empty name.

As men feel the infusion of spiritual health they refuse to conceal their good fortune. The inward experience finds outward expression.

Stricken with remorse I speak out his praise, and praise is a sign of life: “For from the dead, as from one who does not exist, praise has ceased.”

But see! I am conscious, I am alive! I am perfectly restored, my resurrection is complete. What else is the death of the body than to be deprived of life and feeling?

Sin – which is the death of the soul – took from me the feeling of compunction, hushed my prayers of praise. I was dead.

Then he who forgives sin came down, restored my senses again and said: “I am your deliverer.”

Why wonder that death should yield when he who is life comes down?

“For a man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 15, 7-8.

Bernard of Clairvaux: God’s Wisdom Frees Us from the Turmoil of Desires and the Discord of Thoughts Monday, Oct 8 2012 

How precious is the wisdom by which we know God and despise the world!

The one who has found it is indeed blessed, if he holds fast to it.

What will he give to possess it? Give obedience as its price, and you will receive wisdom in return.

Scripture tells us: Do you desire wisdom? Keep the commandments and God will give it to you.

If you want to be wise, be obedient. Obedience has no will of its own: it is at the service of another’s will, subject to another’s command.

Embrace it, then, with all the yearning of your heart, with all the effort of your body. Embrace, I repeat, the blessing of obedience, drawing near by obedience to the light of wisdom.

Scripture says: Draw near to him and be enlightened. Draw near, that is, by means of obedience, for there is no approach more direct or secure, and be enlightened by wisdom.

The man who does not know God does not know where he is going, but walks in darkness and dashes his foot against a stone.

Wisdom is light, the true light that shines on every person coming into this world, not the one who is wise with the wisdom of this world, but the one who is not of the world though in the world.

This is the new self of one who has turned away from the sinful and slothful ways of his former self, and strives to walk in newness of life, knowing that damnation is not for those who walk in the way of the Spirit, but in the way of sinful nature.

As long as you follow your own will, you cannot escape turmoil within you, even though at times you seem to escape turmoil outside you.

This turmoil of self-will cannot end until the desires of your sinful nature are changed, and God becomes for you a source of delight.

Sinners enlightened by wisdom are said to be freed from turmoil because, once they taste the goodness of the Lord, they are freed from their sin.

From that time they worship the Creator, not the creature, and when they leave self-will behind they are freed from their feverish turmoil.

While at last they get rid of the turmoil of desires and the discord of thoughts, they experience peace in their inmost heart, and God takes up his dwelling within them: his dwelling-place is in peace.

Where God is, there is joy; where God is, there is calm; where God is, there is happiness.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Epiphany Sermons, 7, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Christ Demands Solitude of the Spirit Monday, Aug 20 2012 

“Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtledove’s, thy neck as jewels” (Song of Songs 1:9).

To seek God for his own sake alone, this is to possess two cheeks made most beautiful by the two elements of intention.

This is the bride’s own special gift, the source of that unique prerogative by which she may be told with all propriety: “Your cheeks are beautiful as the turtle dove’s.”

But why as the turtle dove’s? This is a chaste little bird that leads a retired life, content to live with one mate; if it loses this mate it does not seek another but lives alone thenceforward.

[…] You who are moved by the urgings of the Holy Spirit and long to perform all that is required of one who would be the bride of God should strive to ensure that both elements of your intention are like two beautiful cheeks.

Then, in imitation of that most chaste of birds, and following the advice of the Prophet, abide in solitude because you have raised yourself above yourself.

You are well above yourself when espoused to the Lord of angels; surely you are above yourself when joined to the Lord and become one spirit with him?

Live alone therefore like the turtle dove. Avoid the crowds, avoid the places where men assemble; forget even your people and your father’s house and the king will desire your beauty.

Holy soul, remain alone, so that you might keep yourself for him alone whom you have chosen for yourself out of all that exist.

Avoid going abroad, avoid even the members of your household; withdraw from friends and those you love, not excepting the man who provides for your needs.

Can you not see how shy your Love is, that he will never come to you when others are present?

Therefore you must withdraw, mentally rather than physically, in your intention, in your devotion, in your spirit.

For Christ the Lord is a spirit before your face, and he demands solitude of the spirit more than of the body, although physical withdrawal can be of benefit when the opportunity offers, especially in time of prayer.

To do this is to follow the advice and example of the Bridegroom, that when you want to pray you should go into your room, shut the door and then pray.

And what he said he did. He spent nights alone in prayer, not merely hiding from the crowds but even from his disciples and familiar friends.

He did indeed take three of his friends with him when the hour of his death was approaching; but the urge to pray drew him apart even from them.

You too must act like this when you wish to pray.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 40, 4.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Christ Could be Touched, but by the Heart, not by the Hand Sunday, Apr 22 2012 

Jesus saith to her [Mary Magdalen]: “Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17).  

She is impelled, therefore, to seek the surer knowledge of faith, which discerns truths unknown to the senses, beyond the range of experience.

When he said: “Do not touch me,” he meant: depend no longer on this fallible sense; put your trust in the word, get used to faith.

Faith cannot be deceived. With the power to understand invisible truths, faith does not know the poverty of the senses; it transcends even the limits of human reason, the capacity of nature, the bounds of experience.

Why do you ask the eye to do what it is not equipped to do? And why does the hand endeavor to examine things beyond its reach?

What you may learn from these senses is of limited value. But faith will tell you of me without detracting from my greatness.

Learn to receive with greater confidence, to follow with greater security, whatever faith commends to you.

“Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” As if after he had ascended he wished to be or could be touched by her!

And yet he could be touched, but by the heart, not by the hand; by desire, not by the eye; by faith, not by the senses.

Why do you want to touch me now, he says; would you measure the glory of the resurrection by a physical touch?

Do you not remember that, while I was still mortal, the eyes of the disciples could not endure for a short space the glory of my transfigured body that was destined to die?

I still accommodate myself to your senses by bearing this form of a servant which you are accustomed to seeing.

But this glory of mine is too wonderful for you, so high that you cannot reach it.

Defer your judgment therefore, refrain from expressing an opinion, do not entrust the defining of so great a matter to the senses; it is for faith to pronounce on it.

With its fuller comprehension, faith will define it more worthily and more surely. In its deep and mystical breast it can grasp what is the length and breath and height and depth.

‘What eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived,’ is borne within itself by faith, as if wrapped in a covering and kept under seal.

She therefore will touch me worthily who will accept me as seated with the Father, no longer in lowly guise, but in my own flesh transformed with heaven’s beauty.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 28, 9-10.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Truth, Compassion and Purity of Heart Friday, Mar 16 2012 

We discover truth in ourselves when we pass judgment on ourselves.

We find it in our neighbour when we suffer in sympathy with others.

We search out its own nature by contemplation in purity of heart.

[…] Before we inquire into the nature of truth, Truth itself must first teach us to seek it in our neighbour.

Then we shall understand why, before we find it in our neighbour, we must seek it in ourselves.

The sequence of beatitudes given in the Sermon on the Mount places the merciful before the pure in heart.

The merciful are those who are quick to see truth in their neighbour.

They reach out to others in compassion and identify with them in love, responding to the joys and sorrows in the lives of others as if they were their own.

They make themselves weak with the weak, and burn with indignation when others are led astray.

They are always ready to share the joys of those who rejoice and the sorrows of those who mourn.

Men whose inner vision has thus been cleansed by the exercise of charity toward their neighbour can delight in the contemplation of truth in itself.

[…] But can people find the truth in their neighbour if…they either scoff at their tears or disparage their joys, being insensitive to all feelings but their own?

There is a popular saying which well suits them: A healthy person cannot feel the pains of sickness, nor can one who is well-fed feel the pangs of hunger.

The more familiar we are with sickness or hunger, the greater will be our compassion for others who are sick or hungry.

Just as pure truth can only be seen by the pure in heart, so the sufferings of our fellow men and women are more truly felt by hearts that know suffering themselves.

However, we cannot sympathize with the wretchedness of others until we first recognize our own.

Then we shall understand the feelings of others by what we personally feel, and know how to come to their help.

Such was the example shown by our Saviour, who desired to suffer himself in order that he might learn to feel compassion, and to be afflicted in order that he might learn how to show mercy.

Scripture says of him that he learned the meaning of obedience through what he suffered. In the same way he learned the meaning of mercy.

Not that the Lord whose mercy is from age to age was ignorant of mercy’s meaning until then.

He knew its nature from all eternity, but he learned it by personal experience during his days on earth.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Degrees of Humility and Pride 3.6, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Third Week of Lent, Year 2.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Our Most Kindly Saviour, the Physician of Souls, Tempered His Glory to Our Weak Eyes Tuesday, Dec 6 2011 

See, the name of the Lord is coming from afar, says the prophet.

Who could doubt that something tremendous was responsible, when sublime majesty deigned to come down from such a distance to so unworthy a place?

Something tremendous it assuredly was: great mercy, abundant compassion, and overwhelming charity were the cause.

For what purpose did he come, according to our faith? It will be no arduous task to find out, since both his words and his deeds clearly proclaim the reason for his coming.

It was to search for the hundredth sheep which had strayed that he hastened down from the mountains;

he came for our sake so that his tender mercies and his wonderful dealings with the children of Adam might more evidently give glory to the Lord.

How astonishing the condescension on the part of God who searches; how great the value of those he sought!

If we should wish to boast of it we shall not be acting foolishly; not that we can claim to be anything as of ourselves, but because he who made us has made us worth so much.

All riches, all the glory of the world and whatever in it is an object of desire pale before this glory, compared with which they are nothing.

Lord, what is man that you make so much of him and set your heart on him?

All the same I should like to know what it means that he came to us, rather than our going to him.

The need was ours, and it is not customary for the rich to go in search of the poor, even if they wish to make them some gift.

It would have been seemly, therefore, for us to go to him, but there was a double hindrance.

First, our eyes were dim, whereas he dwells in unapproachable light.

Second, lying paralysed on our pallet as we were, we tacked the strength to reach the summit of the Godhead.

So our most kindly Saviour, the physician of souls, came down from his great height and tempered his glory to our weak eyes.

He shielded himself in a lantern when he took to himself that glorious body entirely free from all stain.

This body assuredly is that very swift and shining cloud upon which the prophet foretold that he would ride to descend into Egypt.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermon 1 On the Advent of the Lord, 7-8, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent Year 2.


Bernard of Clairvaux: The Name of Jesus is a Medicine Friday, Sep 2 2011 

The name of Jesus is…a medicine.

Does one of us feel sad? Let the name of Jesus come into his heart, from there let it spring to his mouth, so that shining like the dawn it may dispel all darkness and make a cloudless sky. Does someone fall into sin?

Does his despair even urge him to suicide? Let him but invoke this life-giving name and his will to live will be at once renewed.

The hardness of heart that is our common experience, the apathy bred of indolence, bitterness of mind, repugnance for the things of the spirit – have they ever failed to yield in presence of that saving name?

The tears dammed up by the barrier of our pride – how have they not burst forth again with sweeter abundance at the thought of Jesus’ name?

And where is the man, who, terrified and trembling before impending peril, has not been suddenly filled with courage and rid of fear by calling on the strength of that name?

Where is the man who, tossed on the rolling seas of doubt, did not quickly find certitude by recourse to the clarity of Jesus’ name?

Was ever a man so discouraged, so beaten down by afflictions, to whom the sound of this name did not bring new resolve?
In short, for all the ills and disorders to which flesh is heir, this name is medicine.

For proof we have no less than his own promise: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Nothing so curbs the onset of anger, so allays the upsurge of pride.

It cures the wound of envy, controls unbridled extravagance and quenches the flame of lust; it cools the thirst of covetousness and banishes the itch of unclean desire.

For when I name Jesus I set before me a man who is meek and humble of heart, kind, prudent, chaste, merciful, flawlessly upright and holy in the eyes of all; and this same man is the all-powerful God whose way of life heals me, whose support is my strength.

All these re-echo for me at the hearing of Jesus’ name.

Because he is man I strive to imitate him; because of his divine power I lean upon him.

The examples of his human life I gather like medicinal herbs; with the aid of his power I blend them, and the result is a compound like no pharmacist can produce.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 15, 6.

Next Page »