Book: On Loving God by Saint Bernard de Clairvaux

 Title:    On Loving God

Autor:    Saint Bernard de Clairvaux   

Category:    Teologia

Language:    English

On Loving God Saint Bernard de Clairvaux


by St. Bernard of Clairvaux



 To the illustrious Lord Haimeric, Cardinal Deacon of the Roman Church,
 and Chancellor: Bernard, called Abbot of Clairvaux, wisheth long life
 in the Lord and death in the Lord.

 Hitherto you have been wont to seek prayers from me, not the solving
 of problems; although I count myself sufficient for neither. My
 profession shows that, if not my conversation; and to speak truth, I
 lack the diligence and the ability that are most essential. Yet I am
 glad that you turn again for spiritual counsel, instead of busying
 yourself about carnal matters: I only wish you had gone to some one
 better equipped than I am. Still, learned and simple give the same
 excuse and one can hardly tell whether it comes from modesty or from
 ignorance, unless obedience to the task assigned shall reveal. So,
 take from my poverty what I can give you, lest I should seem to play
 the philosopher, by reason of my silence. Only, I do not promise to
 answer other questions you may raise. This one, as to loving God, I
 will deal with as He shall teach me; for it is sweetest, it can be
 handled most safely, and it will be most profitable. Keep the others
 for wiser men.

Chapter I. Why we should love God and the measure of that love
 You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer,
 the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due
 to Him is immeasurable love. Is this plain? Doubtless, to a thoughtful
 man; but I am debtor to the unwise also. A word to the wise is
 sufficient; but I must consider simple folk too. Therefore I set
 myself joyfully to explain more in detail what is meant above.

 We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing
 is more reasonable, nothing more profitable. When one asks, Why should
 I love God? he may mean, What is lovely in God? or What shall I gain
 by loving God? In either case, the same sufficient cause of love
 exists, namely, God Himself.

 And first, of His title to our love. Could any title be greater than
 this, that He gave Himself for us unworthy wretches? And being God,
 what better gift could He offer than Himself? Hence, if one seeks for
 God's claim upon our love here is the chiefest: Because He first loved
 us (I John 4.19).

 Ought He not to be loved in return, when we think who loved, whom He
 loved, and how much He loved? For who is He that loved? The same of
 whom every spirit testifies: 'Thou art my God: my goods are nothing
 unto Thee' (Ps. 16.2, Vulg.). And is not His love that wonderful
 charity which 'seeketh not her own'? (I Cor.13.5). But for whom was
 such unutterable love made manifest? The apostle tells us: 'When we
 were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son' (Rom.
 5.10). So it was God who loved us, loved us freely, and loved us while
 yet we were enemies. And how great was this love of His? St. John
 answers: 'God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,
 that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
 everlasting life' (John 3.16). St. Paul adds: 'He spared not His own
 Son, but delivered Him up for us all' (Rom. 8.32); and the son says of
 Himself, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his
 life for his friends' (John 15.13).

 This is the claim which God the holy, the supreme, the omnipotent, has
 upon men, defiled and base and weak. Some one may urge that this is
 true of mankind, but not of angels. True, since for angels it was not
 needful. He who succored men in their time of need, preserved angels
 from such need; and even as His love for sinful men wrought wondrously
 in them so that they should not remain sinful, so that same love which
 in equal measure He poured out upon angels kept them altogether free
 from sin.

Chapter II. On loving God. How much god deserves love from man in
recognition of His gifts, both material and spiritual: and how these gifts
should be cherished without neglect of the Giver
 Those who admit the truth of what I have said know, I am sure, why we
 are bound to love God. But if unbelievers will not grant it, their
 ingratitude is at once confounded by His innumerable benefits,
 lavished on our race, and plainly discerned by the senses. Who is it
 that gives food to all flesh, light to every eye, air to all that
 breathe? It would be foolish to begin a catalogue, since I have just
 called them innumerable: but I name, as notable instances, food,
 sunlight and air; not because they are God's best gifts, but because
 they are essential to bodily life. Man must seek in his own higher
 nature for the highest gifts; and these are dignity, wisdom and
 virtue. By dignity I mean free-will, whereby he not only excels all
 other earthly creatures, but has dominion over them. Wisdom is the
 power whereby he recognizes this dignity, and perceives also that it
 is no accomplishment of his own. And virtue impels man to seek eagerly
 for Him who is man's Source, and to lay fast hold on Him when He has
 been found.

 Now, these three best gifts have each a twofold character. Dignity
 appears not only as the prerogative of human nature, but also as the
 cause of that fear and dread of man which is upon every beast of the
 earth. Wisdom perceives this distinction, but owns that though in us,
 it is, like all good qualities, not of us. And lastly, virtue moves us
 to search eagerly for an Author, and, when we have found Him, teaches
 us to cling to Him yet more eagerly. Consider too that dignity without
 wisdom is nothing worth; and wisdom is harmful without virtue, as this
 argument following shows: There is no glory in having a gift without
 knowing it. But to know only that you have it, without knowing that it
 is not of yourself that you have it, means self-glorying, but no true
 glory in God. And so the apostle says to men in such cases, 'What hast
 thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why
 dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? (I Cor. 4.7). He
 asks, Why dost thou glory? but goes on, as if thou hadst not received
 it, showing that the guilt is not in glorying over a possession, but
 in glorying as though it had not been received. And rightly such
 glorying is called vain-glory, since it has not the solid foundation
 of truth. The apostle shows how to discern the true glory from the
 false, when he says, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, that
 is, in the Truth, since our Lord is Truth (I Cor. 1.31; John 14.6).

 We must know, then, what we are, and that it is not of ourselves that
 we are what we are. Unless we know this thoroughly, either we shall
 not glory at all, or our glorying will be vain. Finally, it is
 written, 'If thou know not, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the
 flock' (Cant. 1.8). And this is right. For man, being in honor, if he
 know not his own honor, may fitly be compared, because of such
 ignorance, to the beasts that perish. Not knowing himself as the
 creature that is distinguished from the irrational brutes by the
 possession of reason, he commences to be confounded with them because,
 ignorant of his own true glory which is within, he is led captive by
 his curiosity, and concerns himself with external, sensual things. So
 he is made to resemble the lower orders by not knowing that he has
 been more highly endowed than they.


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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Jonh 3:16