Category Archives: Bernard

Palm Sunday, 3/31/1146 – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluous, preaches the Second Crusade


-“St. Bernard Preaching the Second Crusade in Vezelay”, 1840 (oil on canvas), Signol, Emile (1804-1892)

Now is a time for holiness and saints within the Church. Would that we had a Bernard now to preach a Crusade of Holiness. It has often been the case, when the Church has faced its greatest crises, its greatest saints have arisen.

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.” -Joel 2:13

-by Hugh O’Reilly

“Born in 1091, died in 1153, made Abbot of Clairvaux in 1115, St. Bernard exercised strong influence on 12th century Europe. When the Crusader State of Edessa fell in 1144, Pope Eugene III, who himself had been a monk in Clairvaux, called on his spiritual father to preach a Second Crusade to bring succor for the distressed condition of the Holy Land.

Abbot Bernard girded on the sword of the Divine Word and inspired many for the overseas Crusade.

This is one of his most famous speeches, preached at Vezelay, a little city of Burgundy, on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1146. The orator of the Crusade preached on a large tribune on the side of a hill outside the gates of the city. With King Louis VII of France in his royal robes present, St. Bernard first read the letters of the Sovereign Pontiff calling for a Crusade, then made this plea to arms to the large crowd that had gathered there to hear his words:

“How can you not know that we live in a period of chastisement and ruin? The enemy of mankind has caused the breath of corruption to fly over all regions; we behold nothing but unpunished wickedness. Neither the laws of men nor the laws of religion have sufficient power to check the depravity of customs and the triumph of the wicked. The demon of heresy has taken possession of the chair of truth, and God has sent forth His malediction upon His sanctuary.

“Oh, ye who listen to me, hasten then to appease the anger of Heaven. But no longer implore His goodness by vain complaints; clothe not yourselves in sackcloth, but cover yourselves with your impenetrable bucklers. The din of arms, the dangers, the labors, the fatigues of war are the penances that God now imposes upon you. Hasten then to expiate your sins by victories over the infidels, and let the deliverance of holy places be the reward of your repentance.

“If it were announced to you that the enemy had invaded your cities, your castles, your lands; had ravished your wives and your daughters and profaned your temples – who among you would not fly to arms? Well, then, all these calamities, and calamities still greater, have fallen upon your brethren, upon the family of Jesus Christ, which is yours. Why do you hesitate to repair so many evils; to revenge so many outrages? Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people?

“Remember that their triumph will be a subject for grief to all ages and an eternal opprobrium upon the generation that has endured it. Yes, the living God has charged me to announce to you that He will punish them who shall not have defended Him against His enemies.

“Fly then to arms! Let a holy ire animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet, ‘Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!’ “If the Lord calls you to the defense of His heritage think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve Legions of Angels or breathe one word and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name.

“Christian warriors, He Who gave His life for you, today demands yours in return. These are combats worthy of you, combats in which it is glorious to conquer and advantageous to die. Illustrious knights, generous defenders of the Cross, remember the example of your fathers, who conquered Jerusalem, and whose names are inscribed in Heaven. Abandon then the things that perish, to gather unfading palms and conquer a Kingdom that has no end.”

All the barons and knights applauded the eloquence of St. Bernard and were persuaded that he uttered the will of God. Louis VII, deeply moved by the words he had heard, cast himself at the feet of St. Bernard and demanded the Cross. Then, clothed with this sign, he exhorted all those present to follow his example.

The hill upon which this vast multitude was assembled resounded for a long period of time with the cries of Deus vult! Deus vult! (God wills it). Then, many counts and a crowd of barons and knights followed the example of the King. Several Bishops threw themselves at the feet of St. Bernard, taking the oath to fight against the infidels.

The crosses that the Abbot of Clairvaux had brought were not sufficient for the great number who asked for them. He tore his vestments to make more.

To preserve the memory of this day, Pons, abbot of Vèzelay, founded upon the hill where the knights and barons had assembled a Church that he dedicated to the Holy Cross. The tribune upon which St. Bernard had preached the Crusade remained there a long time, the object of the veneration of the faithful.”

Today, a cross marks the spot on the hill in Vèzelay where Bernard preached.

“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people.

For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.” -Psalm 117

Love,
Matthew

Holy Name of Jesus – St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluus, Doctor of Mercy

-by St Bernard of Clairvaux

“Wisdom is a kindly spirit, and easy of access to those who call upon Him. Quite often He anticipates their request and says: “Here I am.” Listen now to what, because of your prayers, He has revealed to me about the subject we postponed yesterday; be ready to gather the ripe fruit of your intercession. I put before you a name that is rightly compared to oil, how rightly I shall explain. You encounter many names for the Bridegroom scattered through the pages of Scripture, but all these I sum up for you in two. I think you will find none that does not express either the gift of His love or the power of His majesty. The Holy Spirit tells us this through the mouth of one of His friends: ‘Two things I have heard: it is for God to be strong, for you, Lord, to be merciful.” With reference to His majesty we read: “Holy and terrible is His name;” with reference to His love: “Of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” Further examples make it clearer still.

Jeremiah says: ‘This is the name by which He will be called: ‘the Lord our righteous one’ ” – a name suggesting power; but when Isaiah says: “His name will be called Emmanuel,” he indicates His love. He himself said: ‘You call me Master and Lord.” The first title implies love, the second majesty. Love’s business is to educate the mind as well as to provide the body’s food. Isaiah also said: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God, the Mighty One, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The first, third and fourth signify majesty, the others love. Whom of these therefore is poured out? In some mysterious way the name of majesty and power is transfused into that of love and mercy, an amalgam that is abundantly poured out in the person of our Savior Jesus Christ. The name “God” liquefies and dissolves into the title “God with us,” that is, into “Emmanuel.” He who is ‘Wonderful” becomes “Counselor”; “God” and “the Mighty One” become the “Everlasting Father” and the “Prince of Peace.” “The Lord our righteous one” becomes the “gracious and merciful Lord.” This process is not new: in ancient times “Abram” became Abraham and Sarai became “Sara”; and we are reminded that in these events the mystery of the incarnation of salvation was pre-figured and celebrated.

So I ask where now is that warning cry: “I am the Lord, I am the Lord,” that resounded with recurring terror in the ears of the people of old. The prayer with which I am familiar, that begins with the sweet name of Father, gives me confidence of obtaining the petitions with which it continues. Servants are called friends in this new way, and the resurrection is proclaimed not to mere disciples but to brothers.

Run then, O pagans, salvation is at hand, that name is poured out which saves all who invoke it. “The God of the angels calls Himself the God of men. He poured out oil on Jacob and it fell on Israel. Say to your brothers: “Give us some of your oil. If they refuse, ask the Lord of the oil to give it to you. Say to Him: ‘Take away our reproach.” See that no envious tongue insults your beloved, whom it has pleased you to call from the ends of the earth with a compassion all the greater for her unworthiness. Is it fitting, I ask, that a wicked servant should shut out the invited guests of the master of the house? You have said: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Of no more than these? Pour out, continue to pour; open your hand still wider and satisfy the desire of everything that lives.

Let them come from the east and the west and take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Let them come, let the tribes come up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise his name according to his command to Israel. Let them come and take their place, let them feast and be filled with gladness, let the banqueters sing as one man the resounding song of exultation and praise: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” One thing I know: if we find that the porters are Andrew and Philip, we shall not be repulsed when we ask for oil, when we desire to see Jesus. Philip will at once tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip will tell Jesus. And what will Jesus say? Precisely because he is Jesus he will tell them: “Unless a wheat-grain falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”” Let the grain die therefore, and let the harvest of the pagans spring to fruition. It is necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and that penance and forgiveness of sin should be preached in his name, not alone in Judea but even among all nations, because from the sole name of Christ thousands upon thousands of believers are called Christians, whose hearts all re-echo: ‘Your name is oil poured out.”

I recognize new the name hinted at by Isaiah: “My servants are to be given a new name. Whoever is blessed on earth in that name will be blessed by the Lord, Amen.” O blessed name, oil poured out without limit! From heaven it pours down on Judea and from there over all the earth, so that round the whole world the Church proclaims: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” And what an outpouring! It not only bathes the heavens and the earth, it even bedews the underworld, so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld should bend the knee in the name of Jesus, and that every tongue should acclaim: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” Take the name Christ, take the name Jesus; both were infused into the angels, both were poured out upon men, even upon men who rotted like animals in their own dung. Thus you became a savior both of men and beasts, so countless are your mercies, O God. Hew precious your name, and yet how cheap! Cheap, but the instrument of salvation. If it were not cheap it would not have been poured out for me; if it lacked saving power it would not have won me. Made a sharer in the name, I share too in its inheritance. For I am a Christian, Christ’s own brother. If I am what I say, I am the heir of God, co-heir with Christ. And what wonder if the name of the Bridegroom is poured out, since he himself is poured out? For he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.

Did he not even say: “I am poured out like water”? The fullness of the divine life was poured out and lived on earth in bodily form, that all of us who live in this body doomed to death may receive from that fullness, and being filled with its life-giving odor say: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” Such is what is meant by the outpouring of the name, such its manner, such its extent.

How shall we explain the world-wide light of faith, swift and flaming in its progress, except by the preaching of Jesus’ name? Is it not by the light of this name that God has called us into his wonderful light, that irradiates our darkness and empowers us to see the light? To such as we Paul says: ‘You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord.” This is the name that Paul was commanded to present before kings and pagans and the people of Israel; a name that illumined his native land as he carried it with him like a torch, preaching on all his journeys that the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon – let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the day-time. To every eye he was a lamp on its lamp-stand; to every place he brought the good news of Jesus, and him crucified.

What a splendor radiated from that light, dazzling the eyes of the crowd, when Peter uttered the name that strengthened the feet and ankles of the cripple, and gave light to many eyes that were spiritually blind! Did not the words shoot like a flame when he said: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk”? But the name of Jesus is more than light, it is also food. Do you not feel increase of strength as often as you remember it? What other name can so enrich the man who meditates? What can equal its power to refresh the harassed senses, to buttress the virtues, to add vigor to good and upright habits, to foster chaste affections? The food of the mind is dry if it is not dipped in that oil; it is tasteless if not seasoned by that salt. Write what you will, I shall not relish it unless it tells of Jesus. Talk or argue about what you will, I shall not relish it if you exclude the name of Jesus. Jesus to me is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, a song in the heart.

Again, it is a medicine. Does one of us feel sad? Let the name of Jesus come into his heart, from there let it spring to his mouth, so that shining like the dawn it may dispel all darkness and make a cloudless sky. Does someone fall into sin? Does his despair even urge him to suicide? Let him but invoke this life-giving name and his will to live will be at once renewed. The hardness of heart that is our common experience, the apathy bred of indolence, bitterness of mind, repugnance for the things of the spirit – have they ever failed to yield in presence of that saving name? The tears damned up by the barrier of our pride – how have they not burst forth again with sweeter abundance at the thought of Jesus’ name?

And where is the man, who, terrified and trembling before impending peril, has not been suddenly filled with courage and rid of fear by calling on the strength of that name? Wnere is the man who, tossed on the rolling seas of doubt, dti not quickly find certitude by recourse to the clarity of Jesus’ name? Was ever a man so discouraged, so beaten down by afflictions, to whom the sound of this name did not bring new resolve? In short, for all the ills and disorders to which flesh is heir, this name is medicine, fair proof we have no less than his own promise: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Nothing so curbs the onset of anger, so allays the upsurge of pride.

It cures the wound of envy, controls unbridled extravagance and quenches the flame of lust; it cools the thirst of covetousness and banishes the itch of unclean desire. For when I name Jesus I set before me a man who is meek and humble of heart, kind, prudent, chaste, merciful, flawlessly upright and holy in the eyes of all; and this same man is the all-powerful God whose way of life heals me, whose support is my strength. All these re-echo for me at the hearing of Jesus’ name. Because he is man I strive to imitate him; because of his divine power I lean upon him. The examples of his human life I gather like medicinal herbs; with the aid of his power I blend them, and the result is a compound like no pharmacist can produce.

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.” Here is a theme we shall treat of again. 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: fair they give neither light nor food nor medicine. Hence the Synagogue is in the darkness still, enduring the pangs of hunger and disease, and she will neither be healed nor have her fill until she discovers that my Jesus rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth, until she comes back in the evening, hungering like a dog and prowling about the city. True, 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.” The child who was dead is now yawning, he yawns seven times as if to say: “Seven times daily I praise you, Lord.” Take note of this number seven. It is not a meaningless number, it bears a sacred significance. But because you are by now sated, we should do well to hold this theme over for another sermon, and come with whetted appetites to a table newly laden, to which we are invited by the Church’s Spouse, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen. ”

Love,
Matthew

Annunciation, the Ark of the Covenant, & Sts Joseph, Jerome, & Bernard of Clairvaux

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-Annunciation, 1655, by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

Among the early doctors of the Church, Saint Jerome is the staunchest defender of Saint Joseph’s honor and integrity. For he clarifies that Joseph feared to take Mary home as his wife not out of any fear that Our Lady had in any way sinned. Rather, Saint Joseph, the son of David, shared his royal ancestor’s fear of coming into overly close contact with the Tabernacle of the Lord, the Ark of the Covenant, wherein God dwells. “Who am I,” asked King David, “that the Ark of the Lord should come to me?” (2 Sam. 6:9).

“…Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God…David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household. Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing…Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”
-2 Sam 6:6-7, 9-12, 14-15

Joseph, believing fully that Mary had conceived by the power of God’s Spirit, feared to bring her into his home lest he be overcome by the majesty of the divine mystery and overwhelmed by the presence of such sanctity. This is why he chose to honor Mary’s secret, not to expose her mystery. His decision not to bring her into his home was born not out of envy but out of reverential fear. In this view, Saint Jerome is supported by the Mellifluous Doctor, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Love,
Matthew

Advent, 4th, 5th, & 6th Circumstances – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

Fra_bartolomeo_02_Vision_of_St_Bernard_with_Sts_Benedict_and_John_the_Evangelist
-The Vision of St Bernard, by Fra Bartolomeo, 1504, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Circumstance 4: For what end must we believe that He came?

“This question is the next in order to be examined; nor will the search demand much labour, for the end and purpose of His coming is proclaimed by His words and His works. To seek after the one sheep of the hundred that had strayed He hastened from the mountains. For our sake He came down from heaven, that His mercies and His wonders might be openly proclaimed to the children of men. O wonderful condescension of God in this search! O wonderful dignity of man who is thus sought! If he should wish to glory in this dignity, it would not be imputed to him as folly. Not that he need think anything of himself, but let him rejoice that He Who made him should set so high a value on him. For all the riches and glory of the world, all that is desirable therein, is far below this glory–nay, can bear no comparison with it. “Lord, what is man that thou should magnify him? and why settest thou thy heart upon him?” (cf Job 7:17).

I still further desire to know why He should come to us, and not we rather go to Him, for the need was on our side, and it is not usual for the rich to go to the poor, though otherwise willing to assist them. It was indeed our place to go forward to Him, but there stood a twofold impediment in the way; for our eyes were heavy, and He “dwelt in light inaccessible.” We lay as paralytics on our beds, and could not raise ourselves to the Divine elevation. Wherefore this most benign Saviour and Physician of souls descended to us from His lofty throne, and tempered His brightness to the weakness of our sight. He clothed Himself with His most glorious and spotless body as with the shade of a lantern, thus attempering to us His splendour. This is that bright and shining cloud upon which the Lord was to descend upon Egypt, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold. (cf Isaiah 19:1).

Circumstance 5: It is now fitting that we should consider the time of our Lord’s coming.

He came, as you know, not in the beginning, nor in the midst of time, but in the end of it. This was no unsuitable choice, but a truly wise dispensation of His infinite wisdom, that He might afford help when He saw it was most needed. Truly, “it was evening, and the day was far (Luke 24:29); the sun had well nigh set, and but a faint ray of his justice light and heat remained on earth. The light of Divine knowledge was very small, and as iniquity abounded, the fervour of charity had grown cold. No angel appeared, no prophet spoke. The angelic vision and the prophetic spirit alike had passed away, both hopelessly baffled by the exceeding obduracy and obstinacy of mankind. Then it was that the Son of God said “Behold, I come” (Hebrews 10:7). And “while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, the almighty word leaped down from heaven from thy royal throne” (Wisdom 18:14-15). Of this coming the Apostle speaks: “When the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). The plenitude and affluence of things temporal had brought on the oblivion and penury of things eternal. Fitly, therefore, did the Eternal God come when things of time were reigning supreme. To pass over other points, such was the temporal peace at the birth of Christ that by the edict of one man the whole world was enrolled.

You have now heard Who He is that comes, whence, whither, and to whom He comes; the cause, likewise, and the time of His coming are known to you.

Circumstance 6: One point is yet to be considered namely, the way by which He came.

This must be diligently examined, that we may, as is fitting, go forth to meet Him. As He once came visibly in the body to work our salvation in the midst of the earth, so does He come daily invisibly and in spirit to work the salvation of each individual soul; as it is written: “The Spirit before our face, Christ the Lord.” And that we might know this spiritual advent to be hidden, it is said: “Under his shadow we shall live among the Gentiles” (Lamentations 4:20). Wherefore, if 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” (Proverbs 3:17). “Behold,” says the Spouse of the Canticles, He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Song of Songs 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” (Song of Songs 1:7). 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” (Matthew 1:2), etc. From the mountains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find from the Prophet Isaiah: “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” (Isaiah 11:1-2a). 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’ ” (Isaiah 7:14). He Who is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, and in the rod is named the virgin. But we must reserve for another day further consideration of this sublime mystery, as there is ample material for another sermon, especially as to-day’s has been rather long.”

Love, Joyful Advent, He comes!!!
Matthew

Advent, 2nd & 3rd Circumstance – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

Heiligenkreuz.Bernard_of_Clervaux
-St Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1700) with the true effigy of the Saint by Georg Andreas Wasshuber (1650-1732), (painted after a statue in Clairvaux with the true effigy of the saint)

Circumstances 2 and 3: Behold, you have heard Who He is that comes; consider now whence and to whom He comes.

“He comes from the heart of God the Father to the womb of a virgin mother; He comes from the highest heaven to this low earth, that we whose conversation is now on earth may have Him for our most desirable companion. For where can it be well with us without Him, and where ill if He be present? “What have I in heaven, and besides Thee what do I desire upon earth? Thou art the God of my heart and the God that is my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:25-26) and “though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” if only “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

But here I see that our Lord descends not only to earth, but even to hell; not as one bound, but as free among the dead; as light that shines in the darkness, “and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Wherefore His soul was not left in hell, nor did His holy body on earth see corruption. For Christ “that descended is the same also that ascended…that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10) “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). And elsewhere we read, He “hath exalted as a giant to run his way…His going forth is from the highest heavens, and his circuit even to the end thereof” (cf Psalm 19:7). Well might St. Paul cry out: “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). In vain would the Apostle labour to raise our hearts upwards if he did not teach us that the Author of our salvation is sitting in heaven.

But what follows? The matter here is indeed abundant in the extreme; but our limited time does not admit of a lengthened development. By considering Who He is that comes, we see His supreme and ineffable majesty, and by contemplating whence He comes, we behold the great highway clearly laid out to us. The Prophet Isaiah says: “Behold, the name of the Lord cometh from afar” (Isaiah 30:27). By reflecting whither He comes, we see His inestimable and inconceivable condescension in His descending from highest heavens to abide with us in this miserable prison-house. Who can doubt that there was some grand cause powerful enough to move so sovereign a Majesty to come “from afar,” and condescend to enter a place so unworthy of Him as this world of ours. The cause was in truth great. It was His immense mercy, His multiplied compassion, His abundant charity.”

Love, Joyful Advent!! He comes!!!
Matthew

Advent, 1st Circumstance – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

Bernard_of_Clairvaux_-_Gutenburg_-_13206
-St Bernard

“The name of this great annual commemoration is sufficiently familiar to us; its meaning may not be so well known.

When the unhappy children of Eve had abandoned the pursuit of things true and salutary, they gave themselves up to the search for those that are fleeting and perishable.

To whom shall we liken the men of this generation, or to what shall we compare them, seeing they are unable to tear themselves from earthly and carnal consolations, or disentangle their minds from such trammels? They resemble the shipwrecked who are in danger of being overwhelmed by the waters, and who may be seen catching eagerly at whatever they first grasp, how frail soever it may be. And if anyone strive to rescue them, they are wont to seize and drag him down with them, so that not infrequently the rescuer is involved with them in one common destruction. Thus the children of the world perish miserably while following after transitory things and neglecting those which are solid and enduring, cleaving to which, they might save their souls. Of truth, not of vanity, it is said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Do you, therefore, to whom as to little ones God has revealed things hidden from the wise and prudent, turn your thoughts with earnestness to those that are truly desirable, and diligently meditate on this coming of our Lord (cf Matthew 11:25). Consider:

1. Who He is that comes,
2. Whence He comes,
3. To whom He comes,
4. For what end He comes,
5. When He comes, and
6. In what manner He comes.

This is undoubtedly a most useful and praiseworthy curiosity, for the Church would not so devoutly celebrate the season of Advent if there were not some great mystery hidden therein.

Circumstance 1: Wherefore, in the first place, let us with the Apostle consider in astonishment and admiration how great He is Who comes.

According to the testimony of Gabriel, He is the Son of the Most High, and consequently a coequal with Him. Nor is it lawful to think that the Son of God is other than coequal with His Father. He is coequal in majesty; He is coequal in dignity. Who will deny that the sons of princes are princes, and the sons of kings kings?

But how is it that of the Three Persons Whom we believe, and confess, and adore in the Most High Trinity, it was not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost, but the Son that became Man? I imagine this was not without cause. But “who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34). Not without some most deep counsel of the Blessed Trinity was it decreed that the Son should become Incarnate. If we consider the cause of our exile, we may perchance be able to comprehend in some degree how fitting it was that our deliverance should be chiefly accomplished by the Son.

Lucifer, who rose brightly as the morning star, because he attempted to usurp a similitude with the Most High, and “it was thought robbery in him to equal himself with God,” an equality which was the Son’s by right, was cast down from heaven and ruined; for the Father was zealous for the glory of the Son, and seemed by this act to say: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And instantly “I saw Satan as lightning falling from heaven” (Luke 10:18).

Dust and ashes, why art thou proud? If God spared not pride in His angels, how much less will He tolerate it in thee, innate corruption? Satan had committed no overt act, he had but consented to a thought of pride, yet in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, he was irreparably rejected because, as the Evangelist says, “he stood not in the truth” (John 8:44). Fly pride, my brethren, I most earnestly beseech you. “Pride is the beginning of all sin” (Sirach 10:13) and how quickly did it darken and overshadow with eternal obscurity Lucifer, the most bright and beautiful of the heavenly spirits, and, from not only an angel, but the first of angels, transform him into a hideous devil! Wherefore, envying man’s happiness, he brought forth in him the evil which he had conceived in himself by persuading man that if he should eat of the forbidden tree he would become as God, having a knowledge of good and evil. Wretch! what dost thou promise, when thou knowest that the Son of God has the key of knowledge yea, and is Himself the “key of David, that shutteth and no man openeth” (cf Revelation 3:7) that “in Him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God?” (Colossians 2:3). Wouldst thou, then, wickedly steal them away to give them to men?

You see, my brethren, how true is the sentence of our Lord, “The devil is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He was a liar in saying, “I will be like unto the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14) and he was the father of lies when he breathed his spirit of falsity into man. “You will be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). And wilt thou, man, “seeing the thief, run with him?” (Psalm 50:18). You have heard, my brethren, what has been read this night from Isaiah. The Prophet says to the Lord, “Thy princes are faithless, companions of thieves” or, as another version has it, “disobedient companions of thieves” (Isaiah 1:23). In truth, Adam and Eve were disobedient companions of thieves, for, by the counsel of the serpent, or, rather, of the devil in the serpent, they tried to seize upon what belonged by birthright to the Son of God. Nor did the Father overlook the injury, for the Father loveth the Son. He immediately took revenge on that same man, and let His hand fall on us all, “for in Adam all have sinned” and in his sentence of condemnation we have shared.

What, then, did the Son do, seeing His Father so zealous for His glory, and for His sake sparing none of His creatures? “Behold,” He says, “on My account My Father has ruined His creatures: the first of the angels aspired to My throne of sovereignty, and had followers who believed in him; and instantly My Father’s zeal was heavily revenged on him, striking him and all his adherents with an incurable plague, with a dire chastisement. Man, too, attempted to steal from Me the knowledge which belongs to Me alone, and neither doth My Father show him mercy, nor doth His eye spare him. He had made two noble orders sharing His reason, capable of participating in His beatitude, angels and men; but behold, on My account He hath ruined a multitude of His angels and the entire race of men. Therefore, that they may know that I love My Father, He shall receive back through Me what in a certain way He seems to have lost through Me. ‘It is on my account this storm has arisen take me and cast me into the sea’ (Jonah 1:12). All are envious of Me; behold I come, and will exhibit Myself to them in such a guise as that whosoever shall wish may become like to Me; whatsoever I shall do they may imitate, so that their envy shall be made good and profitable to them.”

The angels, we know, sinned through malice, not through ignorance and frailty; wherefore, as they were unwilling to repent, must of necessity perish, for the love of the Father and the honor of the King demand judgment. For this cause He created men from the beginning, that they might fill those lost places, and repair the ruins of the heavenly Jerusalem. For He knew “the pride of Moab, that he is exceedingly proud” (Isaiah 16:6) and that his pride would never seek the remedy of repentance, nor, consequently, of pardon. After man’s fall, however, He created no other creature in his place, thus intimating that man should yet be redeemed, and that he who had been supplanted by another’s malice might still by another’s charity be redeemed.

Be it so, dear Lord, I beseech Thee. Be pleased to deliver me, for I am weak. Like Joseph of old, I was stolen away from my country, and here without any fault was cast into a dungeon. Yet I am not wholly innocent, but innocent compared with him who seduced me. He deceived me with a lie: let the truth come, that falsehood may be discovered, and that I may know the truth, and that the truth may make me free. But to gain the freedom I must renounce the falsehood when discovered, and adhere to the known truth; otherwise the temptation would not be human, nor the sin a human sin, but diabolical obstinacy. To persevere in evil is the act of the devil, and those who persevere in evil after his example deservedly perish with him.”

Love, Joyful Advent, He comes!!!
Matthew

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation

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“You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a Son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.


-Annunciation Triptych Merode Altarpiece, workshop of Robert Campin (Netherlandish, Tournai), 1427–32, Oil on oak, overall (open): 25 3/8 x 46 3/8 in. (64.5 x 117.8 cm), central panel: 25 1/4 x 24 7/8 in. (64.1 x 63.2 cm), each wing: 25 3/8 x 10 3/4 in. (64.5 x 27.3 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. (Please click on the image for greater detail.)

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the Desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If He should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek Him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

St Bernard of Clairveaux

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Love,
Matthew

Aug 20 – St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 AD), Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluus, Doctor of Mercy

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-“Christ embracing St Bernard“, by Francisco Ribalta, ca 1625-1627.

While a Dominican novice, right after college, I was assigned to write a report on St Bernard of Clairvaux.  I know him better now.  I hope you appreciate him, too.

When the subject of the Crusades comes up in cocktail party conversation, as it oft tends to do…just kidding.  But, seriously, some “enlightened” moderns, injecting the cardinal sin of presentism into their study of history, say, “You Christians!  Specifically, you Catholics!  How could you?  How dare you?”

Being the devil’s gadfly, I like to respond, calmly, after a brief pause so all can recapture their breath, “Imagine if today, a Christian army, as if that could occur today, were to invade Saudi Arabia and capture and hold, without ever the prospect of likely leaving, the holy cities of Mecca & Medina, such that Muslims might likely be denied access to two of their holiest shrines, and the pilgrimage to one a central tenet of their faith?  What would the reaction of the Muslim world be?  Not to pick on the Muslim world, it’s just that example might most clearly demonstrate my point for me that human nature and its inevitable reactions, even in our modern, “enlightened” world might not be that unique to Christians or, specifically, Catholics.

Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But the “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days.

In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.

His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know.

Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.

The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster.

Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.

Bernard’s life in the Church was more active than we can imagine possible today. His efforts produced far-reaching results. But he knew that they would have availed little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and heavenly direction. His life was characterized by a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. His sermons and books about Mary are still the standard of Marian theology.

“Wherefore, O Eve, hasten to Mary; hasten, O Mother, to your daughter. Let the daughter answer for the mother; let her take away her mother’s reproach; let her satisfy also for her father Adam, for if he fell by a woman, behold, he is now raised up by a woman. God gave a woman in exchange for a woman; a prudent woman for one that was foolish; a humble woman for one who was proud; one who, instead of the fruit of death, shall give you to eat of the tree of life, and who, in place of the poisoned food of bitterness, will bring forth the fruit of everlasting sweetness.” -St Bernard of Clairvaux

“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal” -St Bernard of Clairvaux

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Love,
Matthew