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Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153)


Abbot of Clairvaux, was a highly influential French churchman, theologian and mystic.
Bernard of Clairvaux
The king set the example by prostrating himself at the feet of the monk and receiving from his hands the badge of the cross. "The cross! the cross!" was the response of thousands who crowded about the platform. Queen Eleanor imitated her husband and was followed by such a host of nobles bishops and knights that Bernard tore his garments into strips to supply the enthusiasts with the insignia of their new devotion. Similar scenes were enacted throughout France wherever the saint appeared. Eye witnesses do not hesitate to tell of miracles wrought by his hands emblazoning his mission with the seals of heaven.
Bernard of Clairvaux quotes
"My burden is light," said the blessed Redeemer, a light burden indeed, which carries him that bears it. I have looked through all nature for a resemblance of this, and seem to find a shadow of it in the wings of a bird, which are indeed borne by the creature, and yet support her flight towards heaven.
Bernard of Clairvaux
Seeing that the Scripture saith, God has made all for His own glory (Isa. 43.7), surely His creatures ought to conform themselves, as much as they can, to His will. In Him should all our affections center, so that in all things we should seek only to do His will, not to please ourselves. And real happiness will come, not in gratifying our desires or in gaining transient pleasures, but in accomplishing God’s will for us: even as we pray every day: ‘Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt. 6.10). O chaste and holy love! O sweet and gracious affection! O pure and cleansed purpose, thoroughly washed and purged from any admixture of selfishness, and sweetened by contact with the divine will! To reach this state is to become deified. As a drop of water poured into wine loses itself, and takes the color and savor of wine; or as a bar of iron, heated red-hot, becomes like fire itself, forgetting its own nature; or as the air, radiant with sun-beams, seems not so much to be illuminated as to be light itself; so in the saints all human affections melt away by some unspeakable transmutation into the will of God. For how could God be all in all, if anything merely human remained in man? The substance will endure, but in another beauty, a higher power, a greater glory. When will that be? Who will see, who possess it? ‘When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?’ (Ps. 42.2). ‘My heart hath talked of Thee, Seek ye My face: Thy face, Lord, will I seek’ (Ps. 27.8). Lord, thinkest Thou that I, even I shall see Thy holy temple?




Bernard of Clairvaux quotes
There were some men whose genius and virtues would have adorned any age. Among these was... Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), whose pen was to control Christendom for a generation, and whose sainthood shines through all ages, was in the nursery when the soldiers of the cross started for the East. There were noble women, too. Bernard owed much of his talent and virtue to his mother, Aletta, whose memory is the imperishable ornament of womanhood. ...The intellectuality of this period exercised itself almost entirely with theological and religious subjects. Men in seclusion elaborated and defended existing church doctrines and gave pious flight to their imaginations. But of literature as such there was none; even the Troubadours had not begun to rhyme the Provencal tongue. The hot breath of the crusades themselves forced the debris of the Latin to send out its first flowers of poesy.
Bernard of Clairvaux
It is difficult now to look back across the centuries and appreciate the tremendous impact of his personality on all who knew him. The fire of his eloquence has been quenched in the written words that survive. As a theologian and a controversialist he now appears rigid and a little crude and unkind. But from the day in 1115 when, at the age of twenty-five, he was appointed Abbot of Clairvaux, till his death nearly forty years later he was the dominant influence in the religious and political life of western Europe.
Bernard of Clairvaux quotes
Do what Jesus says,... what he commands through his ministers who are in the Church [see 1 Cor 6:4]. Be subject to his vicars, your leaders, not only those who are gentle and kind, but even those who are overbearing [see 1 Pt 2:18].
Bernard of Clairvaux
Qui me amat, amat et canem meam.
Bernard of Clairvaux quotes
Inter faeces et urinam nascimur, from ...et quid de nobis, fratres, qui inter faeces et urinam nascimur...
Bernard of Clairvaux
Our King [Jesus] is accused of treachery; it is said of him [by the Muslims] that he is not God, but that he falsely pretended to be something he was not.
Bernard of Clairvaux
When Henry I of England hesitated to acknowledge Innocent II, Bernard's choice for Pope, on the ground that he was not the rightful occupant of the holy see, the monk exclaimed, "Answer thou for thy other sins; let this be on my head."
Bernard of Clairvaux
Not distrustful of the king, but credulous of the heavenly mission of Bernard, the multitude, including the most noted warriors, called for the monk to become their military leader. Only the intervention of the Holy Father, who declared that it was sufficient for the saint to be the trumpet of Heaven without wielding the sword, allayed the universal demand.




Bernard of Clairvaux quotes
Non est jam dicere, "Ut populus, sic sacerdos"; quia nec si populus, ut sacerdos.
Bernard of Clairvaux
It was while the papal territory in Italy was... occupied by the adherents of Arnold that the second crusade [1145–1149] was inaugurated. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, was its chief inspirer, both in counsel with the leaders of Europe and with his voice as its popular herald. High above generals and scholars, beyond kings, emperors, and popes, this man stands in the gaze of history. His repute for wisdom and sanctity was extended by miracles accredited to his converse with Heaven. Believed to be above earthly ambition, he commanded and rebuked with a celestial authority. Papal electors came to consult the monk before they announced their judgment as to who should be Pope, and when on the throne, the Pope consulted the monk before he ventured to set the seal of his infallibility to his own utterances. Bernard's humility may have been great Godward, but it was not of the sort to lead him to decline the solemn sovereignty of men's minds and wills.
Bernard of Clairvaux quotes
Liberavi animam meam.
Bernard of Clairvaux
The true measure of loving God is to love Him without measure.
Bernard of Clairvaux quotes
Experto crede: aliquid amplius invenies in silvis, quam in libris. Ligna et lapides docebunt te, quod a magistris audire non possis.
Bernard of Clairvaux
Prostrate, see Thy cross I grasp,
And Thy pierced feet I clasp;
Gracious Jesus, spurn me not;
On me, with compassion fraught,
Let Thy glances fall.
Thy cross of agony,
My Beloved, look on me;
Turn me wholly unto Thee;
"Be thou whole," say openly:
"I forgive thee all."
Bernard of Clairvaux quotes
Qui se sibi magistrum constituit, stulto se discipulum subdit.
Bernard of Clairvaux
Among us on the earth there is His memory; but in the Kingdom of heaven His very Presence. That Presence is the joy of those who have already attained to beatitude; the memory is the comfort of us who are still wayfarers, journeying towards the Fatherland.
Bernard of Clairvaux
When Louis VII of France, in his rage against Thibaut, Count of Champagne, carried devastation through the count's domains and burned the church of Vitry, with thirteen hundred of its citizens who had there taken refuge against his vengeance, Bernard openly rebuked the king, and with such effect that the monarch proposed, as a self-inflicted penance, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, there to wipe out his guilt in the blood of Moslems. In this purpose of Louis VII originated the second crusade.


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