20 August 2009

Bernardus, Doctor Mellifluus

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is a Doctor of the Church. He was a twelfth century Cistercian Abbot of the monastery of Clairvaux, and an edifying example of holiness to the monks under his care.

“Amor” or “Amo” (Love) seemed to be a popular word in his vocabulary. “Amor per se sufficit; is per se placet” (Love is self-sufficient; it is pleasing to itself). “Amo quia amo; amo ut amem” (I love because I love; I love in order to love). “Magna res amor, si tamen ad suum recurrat principium, si suæ origini redditus, si refusus suo fonti” (Love is a great thing, only if it returns to its beginning, if it returns to its origin, if it flows back to its fount). And Saint Bernard went on to say that love must always draw from that endless stream.

The greatness of love is true because it is caused by the greatness of God – Who is Love. God is the Beginning, the Origin, the Fount and Endless Stream of love. Saint Bernard said that love is the only adequate means by which the creature may respond to its Creator, although the weakness of the creature will always make that response inadequate.

This holy man of God asks: “Why should Love not be loved?” Saint Bernard talks about emptying ourselves, “renouncing all other affections” submitting all our “being to Love alone,” responding “to Love by giving love in return.”

This is a broken world we live in and we are a fallen nature. We will never be able to give back to God what He has given to us. And so, Saint Bernard asks the frightening question: “Can it be that all will perish… simply because it is futile to race against a Giant, or to contend with Honey in sweetness, with the Lamb in gentleness, with the Lily in whiteness, with the Sun in splendor, with Love in love?”

If justice always prevailed over mercy, then these examples from this Doctor of the Church would be a blood pressure raising thing to ponder for anyone with a conscience. But this saint and heavenly intercessor won’t let us go there. He offers the answer: “Even though the creature loves less than the Creator… nevertheless if he loves with all his being, he lacks nothing.”

There’s great hope in that statement but great conviction is required of the creature. God must be loved above all things; He must be the Center of our lives. Do we love with all our being? Does our love return to its Origin, to its Source, to Love Himself.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of the Christian life (cf. CCC 1324). The document from the Synod of Bishops XI Ordinary General Assembly reads: “Receiving Communion means to enter into communion with the Lord and the saints of the Church, both in heaven and on earth. Thus, Communion and contemplation follow each other. We cannot receive sacramental Communion, without making it personal… it is the sacrament of infinite value.” The document also teaches that Communion and Adoration are inseparable. “Adoration of the Eucharist begins in Communion and leads to acts of Eucharistic piety, adoring God the Father, in Spirit and in Truth, in the risen and living Christ, truly present among us.”

If Communion and Adoration are inseparable, then our reception of the Eucharist at Mass does not end there. We are called to Eucharistic piety by also adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; in adoring the One we love with all our being, the One Who loved us first. During Eucharistic Adoration, consider keeping close to your heart these words of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: “Lord Jesus, what has made You so small? Love!” Jesus continues to suffer in the Blessed Sacrament, continues to make Himself vulnerable by permitting Himself to be contained in a Monstrance or in the Tabernacle. How deeply we must love, how small we must become when meditating on the words of Sacred Scripture and Saint John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). We will never be able to compete with our Lord’s deliberate “smallness,” but if we love Him with all our being, we lack nothing.

Sancte Bernarde, ora pro nobis!