Guerric of Igny: “From the Days of John the Baptist Until Now the Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence” Saturday, Feb 8 2014 

GuerricOn Genesis 32:22-33 and Matthew 11:12 (“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force”).

See also here (Gregory the Great) and here (Charles Wesley).

Did not the untiring wrestler, the patriarch Jacob, do violence to God?

As it is written, he was strong against God and prevailed, wrestled with him until morning perseveringly and with all his might held fast to him when he asked to be let go.

I will not let you go, he said, unless you bless me.

I say that he wrestled with God, for God was in the angel with whom he wrestled. Otherwise the angel would not say: Why do you ask for my name? and Jacob would not say: I have seen the Lord face to face.

It was a good sort of violence then that extorted a blessing; happy the wrestling in which God yielded to man and the vanquished rewarded the victor with the grace of a blessing and the honour of a holier name.

What if he touched the sinew of his thigh and it withered, and so he went limping? A man will readily sacrifice his body and soon be comforted for the harm done when it is compensated for by such a gift, especially the man who could say: I have loved wisdom more than health and all beauty.

Would that not only the sinew of my thigh but the strength of my whole body would wither, provided I might win but one blessing from an angel.

Would that I might not only limp with Jacob but also die with Paul so as to obtain the grace and name of Israel as an everlasting gift.

Jacob bears a withered hip, but Paul a dead body, because the mortification of the body’s members begun by the first practices of the prophets was brought to completion by the gospel.

Jacob goes limping, because in part his thoughts dwell on the things of the world while his other foot he bears raised up from the earth.

Paul’s thoughts dwell only on the things of God whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows; he is wholly free in spirit and flies up to heaven.

So to you, brethren, we say, you whose set purpose it is to win heaven by force, you who have come together to wrestle with the angel who guards the way to the tree of life, to you we say: it is wholly necessary that you should wrestle perseveringly and without remission.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 2 on the Feast of the Nativity of St  John the Baptist (PL 185, 167-169), @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

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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.

Guerric of Igny: If Anyone is Nailed to the Cross with Christ He is Altogether Wise, Righteous, Holy and Free Tuesday, Mar 26 2013 

GuerricIt seems to me that during these days when we are solemnly observing the annual commemoration of our Lord’s passion and crucifixion, I cannot speak to you on a more appropriate subject than that of Jesus Christ himself, and him crucified.

Even at another season of the year it would be hard to find a worthier theme. Could you hear anything more salutary or occupy your minds with anything more profitable?

Surely nothing can so sweetly stir the hearts of the faithful or exert so wholesome an influence on their lives; nothing has such power to cut off their sins, root out their vices, nourish and strengthen their virtues, as the remembrance of Jesus crucified.

To those who have reached maturity Saint Paul may preach about the hidden wisdom of God; but to me, whose shortcomings are visible to all, let him speak of the crucified Christ, who indeed seems mere foolishness to those who are on the road to perdition, but is the power and the wisdom of God to those who are on the way to salvation.

For me this is the highest and noblest philosophy, in the light of which all worldly and human wisdom is of no account.

How perfect I might think myself, how advanced in wisdom, if only I could qualify as a true disciple of Jesus crucified, for God has made him not only our wisdom but also our righteousness, our holiness and our freedom!

If anyone is nailed to the Cross with Christ he is altogether wise, righteous, holy and free.

Wise, because he has been raised with Christ above the earth, and now seeks and understands the things of heaven;

righteous, because sin has been put to death in him and he is no longer enslaved to it;

holy, because he has offered himself to God as a living sacrifice, consecrated and acceptable to him;

free, because the Son of God has redeemed him, and in freedom of spirit he can now boldly repeat the Son’s confident words: The prince of this world is on his way, but he has no claim on me.

Truly there is mercy and fullness of redemption with our crucified Lord. So completely has he redeemed Israel from all its iniquity that it is now acquitted of any accusation that the prince of this world could make against it.

The Lord has redeemed his people from the land of the foe and gathered them from far-off lands. Let them be of one mind with their teacher, Saint Paul, in declaring: God forbid that 1 should boast of anything but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 2, On the Palm Branches, 1 (PL 185:130-131); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday in Holy Week, Year 1.

Guerric of Igny: Christ – the Way by which We Journey and the Eternity which is Our Journey’s End Monday, Dec 10 2012 

GuerricBe ready to go and meet the Lord, O Israel, for he is coming. You too must be ready, for at a time when you do not expect it the Son of Man will come.

Nothing is more certain than that he is coming, nothing more uncertain than when he is coming.

So far is it from being our province to know the times and seasons which the Father has appointed by his own authority, that not even to the angels who stand in his presence is it granted to know that day and hour.

As for our own last day, it is most sure that this will come upon us, but most unsure when, or where, or from what quarter it will come.

[…] There is only one security, and that is never to feel secure. Thus our fear, prompting us to watch ourselves carefully, keeps us always prepared until fear gives way to security, not security to fear.

How beautiful a thing it is, how blessed, not merely to face death without anxiety, but through the testimony of a good conscience to triumph gloriously in it!

[…] It belongs to our human condition, I know, to quail before the wrench of death, since even the perfect are unwilling to have the old body stripped off and would rather wish to have the new body put on over it.

[…] Yet whether my distress arises from my human feelings or from my falling short in holiness or from my fear of judgment, I can say with the righteous psalmist:

You, O Lord, will be mindful of your mercy; you will display your tender love and faithfulness and snatch my soul from the midst of the young lions.

Then after my dismay sleep will come at once and I shall find rest.

Do you, then, Lord, rise up to meet me as I run to meet you. Since I have not the strength to scale your summits unless you stretch out your right hand to me whom your hands have made, rise to meet me, and see whether there is any sinful way in me.

If you find any sinful way at all, then take it from me; grant me the grace to live by your law and lead me in the way of eternity, that is, in Christ who is the way by which we journey and the eternity which is our journey’s end: an undefiled way and a blessed dwelling place.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 3 on Advent 3.5 (PL 185, 18-20), from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the First Week in Advent, Year 1.

Aelred of Rievaulx: In Advent We Inflame Our Souls with Love and Longing for Christ Monday, Dec 3 2012 

Aelred of RievaulxThe present holy season which we call Advent directs our thoughts to our Lord’s twofold coming.

[…] Advent calls to mind the two comings of our Lord.

The first is the coming of the fairest of the sons of men and the desire of all nations, so long awaited and so fervently prayed for by all the fathers when the Son of God graciously revealed to the world his visible presence in the flesh, that is to say when he came into the world to save sinners;

The other is that second coming to which we look forward no less than did our fathers of old.

[…] To speak more precisely, however, the day we are shortly to celebrate in memory of our Lord’s birth brings him before us as a newborn child – that is to say it more expressly signifies the day and the hour when he first came into the world.

Whereas the season we keep beforehand represents him to us as the longed-for Messiah, and reminds us of the yearning that filled the hearts of those holy fathers of ours who lived before his coming.

How beautifully then at this season the Church provides that we should recite the words and recall the longing of those who lived before our Lord’s first advent!

Nor do we commemorate that desire of theirs for a single day, but share it so to speak for a long period of time, because when something we greatly love and long for is deferred for a while it usually seems sweeter to us when it does arrive.

It is our duty then to follow the example and recall the longing of the holy fathers and so inflame our own souls with love and longing for Christ.

You must understand that the reason why this season was instituted was to inspire us to remember the desire of our holy fathers for our Lord’s first coming, and through their example learn to have a great longing for the day when he will come again.

We should consider how much good our Lord did us by his first coming, and how much more he will do for us by his second.

This thought will help us to have a great love for that first coming of his and a great longing for his return.

And if our conscience is not so perfect that we dare entertain such a desire, we ought at least to fear his second coming and by means of that fear to correct our faults, so that if perhaps we cannot help being afraid here and now, we shall at least be secure and fearless when he comes again.          

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Sermo 1 in Adventu Domini 1-6 (CCCM IIA);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, 1st Sunday in Advent, Year 1.

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.

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