Guerric of Igny: “Through His Faith and Gentleness the Lord Sanctified Him” – St Benedict Compared with Moses Friday, Jul 13 2012 

GuerricThrough his faith and gentleness the Lord sanctified him.

These words were written of Moses, but they may today be applied not unfittingly, I think, to blessed Benedict.

For since he was filled with the Spirit of all the saints, it is reasonable to believe that he had not a little of Moses’ spirit.

If the Lord took some of the spirit of Moses and put it upon the whole group of elders who assisted him and were chosen to share his ministry, how much more must he have put that spirit on a man who more truly and more spiritually carried out every ministry in its fullness?

Moses led those who came forth from Egypt; Benedict was leader of those who forsook the world.

Moses was a legislator: so was Benedict.

Moses was minister only of the letter that kills; Benedict was minister of the spirit that gives life.

Moses wrote much that is difficult to understand and inapplicable today or impossible to put into practice;

Benedict is the author of a very sound rule of life that is clearly written and remarkable for its discretion.

Finally, the leader of the children of Israel did not bring into the promised rest those he had led out of Egypt.

Our leader, as the standard bearer of an army of monks, has gone before us by the straight way, the way stretching east, into the kingdom of heaven.

It is therefore not unreasonable to think that he equalled in merit one whom he actually surpassed in ministry.

Nor does it seem unfitting to apply to him what scripture says of Moses: Through his faith and gentleness the Lord sanctified him, especially since Benedict, who lived what he taught, teaches us those two virtues in particular.

Brethren, it is the command of our gentle and peace-making Master that we should be at peace with one another. Yet before that he says: Have salt in yourselves.

He knows well that peaceful gentleness nourishes vices unless the severity of zeal has first sprinkled them with the sharp taste of salt, just as mild weather causes meat to grow wormy unless the heat of salt has dried it out.

Therefore be at peace with one another, but let it be a peace that is seasoned with the salt of wisdom.

Try to acquire gen­tleness, but let it be a gentleness filled with the warmth of faith.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 4 on the Feast of St  Benedict (PL 185,111-112), @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Guerric of Igny: When Prayer Increases Love, We Share in the Resurrection of Christ Tuesday, Jul 3 2012 

GuerricKeep awake, brethren, intent upon your prayers.

Keep awake, careful how you carry out your duties, all the more so since the morning of that unending day has dawned, which saw the doubly welcome, serene, eternal light, return to us from the dead, and the morning rising caused the sun to shine with a new brightness.

It is now time for you to wake out of sleep; it is far on in the night; day is near.

Keep awake, I say, that the morning light may rise upon you, no other than Christ, who will reveal himself, sure as the dawn.

Christ is prepared to enable those who are on the watch for him to relive once more the mystery of his resurrection in the morning.

Then indeed you will sing with joyful heart: The Lord is God; he has given light to us. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This is the day, that is, when he will allow the light which he has hidden with his hands to shine upon you, telling you, his friend, it is his to give, and that you may raise yourself up to receive it.

[…] For you who fear my name, says the Prophet, the sun of righteousness shall rise. And the man who lives an upright life, his eyes shall see the king in his splendour.

This undoubtedly refers to happiness in the life to come; but, as Christ’s resurrection clearly proves, it is also granted to us in due measure for our consolation in this life.

So let us all rouse up and requicken our spirits, whether to watch in prayer or to work with a will, so that our renewed and lively zest may show that, once again, we have received a share in Christ’s resurrection.

Indeed the chief sign of a man’s return to life is vigorous and energetic action.

Moreover, he will make a perfect return to life, if he dies to the body and opens his eyes to contem­plation.

However, his understanding will be undeserving of this until he increases his love by frequent longings and ardent desires, to render himself capable of something so sublime.

Life begins to return when prayer increases love; it reaches perfection when the understanding receives the light of contem­plation.

Strive, then, brethren, to mount ever higher on the ladder of the virtues, the means whereby we grow in holiness of life, so that, as the Apostle says, you may finally arrive at the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 3, On the Resurrection 3.5 (SC 202:250, 256-258); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

William of Saint-Thierry: Hasten to Share in the Holy Spirit Sunday, May 27 2012 

If you feel a natural hesitation when confronted with the more profound mysteries of faith, take courage, Christian soul, and say not contentiously but with loving submission: ‘How can these things be?’

Let your question be a prayer, let it be an expression of love, piety, and humble longing.

Seek not to explore the heights of the divine majesty, but to find salvation in the saving deeds of God our Saviour.

Then the Messenger of God’s great design will reply: When the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send you from the Father, he will remind you of everything and teach you all truth.

Even as no one knows the thoughts of man except the spirit of the man that is within him, so no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Hasten therefore to share in the Holy Spirit. He is with you when you call upon him; you can call upon him only because he is already present.

When he comes in answer to your prayer, he comes with an abundance of divine blessings. He is the river whose streams give joy to the city of God.

If when he comes he finds you humble, silent, and trembling at the words of God, he will rest upon you and reveal what God the Father has hidden from the wise and the prudent of this world.

You will then begin to understand the things holy Wisdom could have told his disciples on earth, but which they were unable to bear until the Spirit of truth came who was to teach them all truth.

We cannot hope to learn from the lips of any man truths that Truth himself could not convey. For he himself has told us: God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth, so those who wish to know him must seek understanding of their faith and perception of its pure and simple truth only through the Holy Spirit.

In the darkness and ignorance of this life the Holy Spirit is the light that enlightens the poor in spirit, the love that draws them on, the sweetness that attracts them, their access to God, the love of the loving.

The Spirit is devotion and piety. From one degree of faith to the next the Spirit reveals to believers the justice of God, so that grace follows grace, and the faith that comes from hearing gives place to a faith enlightened by understanding.

William of Saint-Thierry (c.1075/80-1148): The Mirror of Faith (PL 180:384); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Friday of the Seventh Week of Eastertide Year 2.

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.

Guerric of Igny: “My Heart and My Flesh Rejoice in the Living God” Monday, Apr 9 2012 

GuerricFor myself, when I looked upon the dead Jesus I was overwhelmed by despairing grief, but in the living God, as Scripture says, my heart and my flesh rejoice.

It is with no mean profit to faith, no slight dividend of joy, that Jesus returns to me from the tomb, for I recognize the living God where only a little while ago I mourned a dead man.

My heart was sorrowing for him as slain; but now that he is risen, not only my heart but my flesh also rejoices in the confident hope of my own resurrection and immortality.

I slept and I arose, Christ says.

Awake, then, my sleeping soul, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!

As the new sun rises from below, the grace of the Resurrection already casts its radiance over the whole world, a radiance reflected in the eyes of those who have watched for him since daybreak, a dawn that ushers in the day of eternity.

This is the day that knows no evening, the day whose sun will never set again. Only once has that sun gone down, and now once and for all it has ascended above the heavens, leading death captive in its train.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

And you also, if you watch daily at the threshold of wisdom, fixing your eyes on the doorway and, like the Magdalen, keeping vigil at the entrance to his tomb, you also will find what she found.

You will know that what was written of Wisdom was written of Christ: She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. Anyone who rises early to seek her will have no trouble; he will find her sitting at his gates.

While it was still dark Mary had come to watch at the tomb, and she found Jesus whom she sought standing there in the flesh.

But you must know him now according to the spirit, not according to the flesh, and you can be sure of finding his spiritual presence if you seek him with a desire like hers, and if he observes your persevering prayer.

Say then to the Lord Jesus, with Mary’s love and longing: My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks for you.

Make the Psalmist’s prayer your own as you say: O God, my God, I watch for you at morning light; my soul thirsts for you.

Then see if you do not also find yourselves singing with them both: In the morning fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 3 On the Resurrection 1-2, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Easter Saturday, Year 2.

Aelred of Rievaulx: In the Cross of Christ there is Death, and in the Cross of Christ there is Life Saturday, Mar 31 2012 

Rievaulx Abbey

Be careful…to reflect not only on the fact of this redemption but also on two other points: the manner in which this redemption was wrought, and the place in which it was wrought.

The manner of redemption is the suffering of the Cross; the place, outside the city.

Let us then learn from the Cross of Jesus our proper way of living.

Should I say ‘living’ or, instead, ‘dying’? Rather, both living and dying.

Dying to the world, living for God.

Dying to vices and living by the virtues.

Dying to the flesh, but liv­ing in the spirit.

Thus in the Cross of Christ there is death and in the Cross of Christ there is life.

The death of death is there, and the life of life.

The death of sins is there and the life of the virtues.

The death of the flesh is there, and the life of the spir­it.

But why did God choose this manner of death?

He chose it as both a mystery and an example.

In addition, he chose it because our sickness was such as to make such a remedy appropriate.

It was fitting that we who had fallen because of a tree might rise up because of a tree.

Fitting that the one who had con­quered by means of a tree might also be conquered by means of a tree.

Fitting that we who had eaten the fruit of death from a tree might be given the fruit of life from a tree.

And because we had fallen from the security of that most blessed place on earth into this great, expansive sea, it was fitting that wood should be made ready to carry us across it.

For no one cross­es the sea except on wood, or this world except on the Cross.

Let me say something now about the mystery contained in the manner of our redemption.

[…] When a Cross is set upright, the head is directed to heaven and the feet to earth, and the outstretched arms to what is located between heaven and earth.

[…] Do you see, now, the mystery in the kind of death Christ chose?

[…] St Paul says: He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross.

And, revealing the mystery, he says: Therefore God exalted him and gave him the name that is above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee might bend of those who are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.

Since, then, he was to take possession of heaven and earth through the Cross, on the Cross he embraced heaven and earth.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): In Hebd. Sancta, sermon 36.1-2.4 (CCM 2A:294-295); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Palm Sunday, Year 2.

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.

Aelred of Rievaulx: The Memory of His Passion in Our Heart Friday, Mar 2 2012 

Rievaulx Abbey

After the people of Israel left Egypt with Moses at their head, the Amalekites, a savage race, came and did battle against them.

Moses sent an army against them, while he himself went up on to a mountain to pray for them and raised his hands to the Lord.

And it came to pass that while he kept his hands raised, the people of Israel were triumphant but whenever he lowered his hands Amalek started to win.

Why was it, do you think, that the raising of his hands possessed such grace? Without doubt God usually takes more account of the attachments of the mind than of the postures of the body.

Why was it then? Did his prayer have no effect before God unless he raised his hands? That lifting up of his hands had such an effect that their enemies could not withstand the Israelites.

The reason why this lifting up of hands had such force was that it signified the raising of the hands of him who said in the psalm, The lifting up of my hands is like an evening sacrifice.

For, when evening had already come upon the world, his sweetest hands were stretched out on the Cross and there was offered up that evening sacrifice that took away the sins of the whole world.

So that raising of Moses’ hands signified the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ who went up on to a mountain to pray because he ascended into heaven to plead our cause with the Father.

There he lifts up his hands so that Amalek – that is, the devil – will not be able to vanquish us.

For there he appears in God’s sight on our behalf and re­presents to him the Passion that he underwent for us.

As for us, brothers, as long as…our fight is against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of the dark things of the world, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens, we need to have our Lord lifting up his hands within us.

That is to say, the remembrance of his Passion should be continually present in our minds.

We can be quite sure, my brothers…that as long as the memory of his Passion is in our heart, as long as our hope is directed to where Christ is pleading our cause at the right hand of the Father, the spiritual Amalek – that is, the devil – will not be able to vanquish us.

And therefore…let us see that this attachment, this remembrance, does not through some negligence on our part grow lukewarm in us.

For then we shall immediately grow faint and our enemy will gain the upper hand and cause us distress.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Sermon 13.27-29 (1st Clairvaux Coll.); tr. Berkeley & Pennington, from Cistercian Fathers 58, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday in 2nd 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.


Aelred of Rievaulx: “They shall Beat their Swords into Ploughshares and their Spears into Sickles” Friday, Dec 2 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

Our way of life is a strongly fortified city surrounded on all sides by sound observances which, like walls and towers, rise up to prevent our enemy from deceiving us and enticing us away from our Emperor’s army.

What a wall poverty is! How well it defends us against the pride of the world, against harmful and ruinous vanities and superfluities.

What a tower silence is! It repels the assaults of contention, quarrelling, dissension, and detraction.

What about obedience, humility, cheap clothing? What about a restricted diet? They are walls, they are towers against vices, against the attacks of our enemies.

In this city we declare ourselves, not Romans, but angelic beings. For these observances demonstrate that we belong to the fellowship of the angels and are not among the slaves of the Romans.

When we make profession of this way of life the words of Isaiah are fulfilled: They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles.

Then he goes on: Nation shall not lift sword against nation nor ever again be trained for war.

[…] Let us think about the sword of which the Lord said: Everyone who takes up the sword will perish by the sword, and the ploughshares by which the earth of our heart is broken, in accordance with the text: Rend your hearts and not your garments.

And we shall see at the present time countless persons changing their swords into ploughshares.

The sword is wrongdoing. With this sword a person wounds himself before he does anyone else; as Saint Augustine says:

‘Every person who is a wrongdoer harms himself before he harms anyone else because, even before he injures the other person, by making up his mind to injure someone else he injures himself, slaying himself with the sword of wrongdoing.

This is the sword of which the Lord says to Peter: Everyone who takes up the sword will perish by the sword.

How many there are, brothers, who at the present time are beating this sword of wrongdoing into the ploughshare of compunction!

Many who have previously killed their soul with the sword of sin now rend their heart by the compunction of penance.

Many today are also changing their spears – that is, the subtlety of their wits by which they used to drag many others down into sin with them – into sickles with which they are reaping a spiritual harvest so that they may come to meet the Lord bearing in their hands the sheaves of justice and salvation.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): The Liturgical Sermons 3.7-13, tr. Berkeley & Pennington (2001), from Cistercian Fathers 58, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday in 1st Week of Advent, Year 2.

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