Saints and Heroes: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Reminds Us that 'Love Is Sufficient of Itself'
the fullness of revealed truth may be known to all men. The Church does not simply promulgate data or helpful things which we might ought to notice, but rather transmits to humankind the highest and most vital truth: God's own self-disclosure. Therefore the answer to the world's spiritual and moral illnesses, which are nearly always the result of incomplete or impoverished truth, is found in the bosom of the Church. It is here, in the arms of mother Church that, as minister of salvation, God's children are guided safely across the seas of life toward their eternal beatitude.
Perhaps one thing which led St. Bernard to understand the vital truth of the Catholic Church so deeply, is reflecting on both God's mercy and God's judgment. For instance, few devout Catholics would argue against the fact that there exists widespread presumption of God's mercy in contemporary society. In a word, we presume on mercy without repentance. This problem, of course, is directly related to the loss of the sense of the seriousness of sin. If we reflect on God's mercy as it relates to the Church, it is easy to see that the Church was founded by Jesus as an institution of mercy. After all, it is through the Church that we receive Baptism, the sacrament which incorporates us into Christ, opens the door to salvation, and grants us a share in the divine life of God. Is that not mercy?
It is also through the Church that we receive Penance and Reconciliation, the sacrament in which we experience a "new resurrection" from death into life, since through it we are restored to God's grace after having fallen due to our own disordered choices. Is this, too, not mercy?
Further, it is also through the Church that we receive the Eucharist: the sacrament of sacraments in which we partake of the true body, blood, soul and divinity of the Risen Lord. As we receive this incomparable gift, we are lifted to the immeasurable heights of Love Itself -- even though we are undeserving, finite men whose existence is rife with failure. Is this, also, not mercy?
On the other hand, if we reflect on God's judgment, we clearly see both the danger and the error of relegating the Church to "one institution among others." The Church flowed forth from our Savior's pierced side on the cross. Therefore the Church's life was gained at the cost of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here the light begins to flood in, the mist clears, and the Church becomes for us a gift of unimaginable significance.
Fr. Christopher Rengers wrote that if St. Bernard thought of "God's judgments too long, he grew fearful, and if he thought too long of God's mercy, he grew lax" (Ibid.). Thus, St. Bernard adopted a balanced approach in reflecting on these two attributes of God. "And this experience has taught me to sing not alone the mercies of the Lord, and not alone His judgments, but judgment and mercy united in one embrace" (Life of St. Bernard 232).
It is really all about love and gift and Gift and Love. God has first loved us. It is through the gift of grace that we are moved to faith; through faith we are made docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who thus leads us to Christ: God's only Son, sent into the vineyard of the world to convince us of his love. Through the Church, we are sacramentally swept up in his divine arms, led across the sea of life, and ushered toward our final end, which is Love Itself.
"The reason for loving God is God Himself. The measure is to love Him beyond measure" -- St. Bernard of Clairvaux
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at his blog entitled joy in truth
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: St. Bernard, Love, holiness, sanctity, charity, monks, monasticism, charity, saints, F.K. Bartels
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