Bernard on Loving God

Here’s a nice selection from Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) that has to do with the Christian’s love for God.

“God…brings about your love for him, just as he causes other goods.  This is how he does it: he who made nature also protects it.  For it was so created that it needs its Creator as its Protector, so that what could not have come into existence without him cannot continue in existence without him.”

“So that no rational creature might be in ignorance of this fact and (dreadful thought) claim for himself the gifts of the Creator, that same Creator willed by a high and saving counsel that man should enter tribulation; then when man fails and God comes to his aid and sets him free, man will honor God as he deserves.”

“For this is what he says: ‘Call upon me in the day of tribulation.  I will deliver you, and you shall honor me’ [Ps. 50:15].  And so in that way it comes about that man, who is a bodily animal and does not know how to love anything but himself, begins to love God for his own benefit, because he learns from frequent experience that in God he can do everything that is good for him and that without him he can do nothing” (p. 75-6).”

I really appreciate that quote, which can be found in a treatise Bernard wrote called “On Loving God.”  (By the way, if any of our readers know the Latin behind “protector” in the first paragraph above, please let me know; that word got my attention.)

The above quote was taken from Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works ed. E. Griffen, trans. G.R. Evans (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2005).

shane lems


Do Not Love the World… (Bernard)

Around the year 1129 AD St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a letter to Alexander, a bishop who was known for his greed and injustice.  Among other things, Bernard addressed Alexander’s greed.  This is worth thinking about today.   He said,

“[I exhort you] lovingly not to take the glory of the world seriously as something that will last, and so lose that glory that will never pass away.  Do not love your possessions more than yourself or for your own sake, and so lose both your possessions and yourself.  Do not let the pleasure of your present prosperity hide your end from you, or endless adversity will follow.  Do not let the joy of this world bring about while concealing from you, and conceal from you while bringing it about, the grief that is everlasting.  Do not think death is a long way off, for it may catch you when you are not ready; and when you think life will go on and on, it may suddenly come to an end when you are in the wrong frame of mine, as it is written ‘When they are saying, ‘Peace and security,’ then suddenly death will come, like the pains of a woman in labor, and they will not escape it.‘ (1 Thes. 5.3).”

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Bernard on a Loving Community

“If you take the advice of Wisdom and turn away from your pleasure and make yourself content with food and clothing as the Apostle teaches, soon you will find that your love is not impeded by carnal desires that fight against the soul.  I think you will not find it a burden to share with your fellow-man what you withhold from the enemy of your soul.  Then will your love be sober and just, when you do not deny your brother what he needs from the pleasures you have denied yourself.  It is in this way that bodily love is shared, when it is extended to the community.”

From Bernard of Clairvaux’s treatise On Loving God in his Selected Works edited by Emilie Griffin.

shane lems

sunnyside wa