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Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

19 August 2005
  Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
AD 1090, Fontaines, near Dijon – 21 August AD 1153, Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvauxernard of Clairvaux, a leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the 11th century A.D., is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy, he was drawn toward the Church by his own nature and encouraged by his mother's desire. His family opposed His desire to enter a monastery and sent him to study at Châlons in order to qualify him for higher ecclesiastical office. However, Bernard left his affluent heritage, entering the monastery of Citeaux at age 22. He persuaded four of his brothers, an uncle, and 26 other men, mainly the sons of nobles, to join him.

After two years he and several others were sent to a new monastic house at Clairvaux, where Bernard soon became its abbot. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some 68 daughter houses.

During the disputed papal elections between Anacletus II and Innocent II, he took the side of Innocent. From 1130-38, Bernard worked to solidify the papal claim through ecclesiastical and secular politics. He battled against the "New Teaching" espoused by Pierre Abélard at the University of Paris, resisting a broad-based liberal arts education using the philosophy of Aristotle. Instead, Bernard insisted that such an education was only to be used in preparation for the priesthood.

At the command of Pope Eugenius III in 1146, Bernard preached in favor of a new effort to free the Holy Land from the Mohammedans. This gave life to the previously moribund Second Crusade. While the results of the campaign were certainly mixed, events during it served to enhance Bernard's perception among non-Christians: When a monk named Radulf (or Raoul) incited the populace of Mainz against the Jews, Bernard vigorously opposed him, calling the monk arrogant, without authority, a preacher of mad and heretical doctrines, a liar, and a murderer. Radulf slipped away, the riots ended, and Bernard became known as a "righteous gentile." His reputation among Rhine valley Jews remained so good that his name is still given to some of their descendents. The most famous of these would probably be American businessman and presidential advisor Bernard Baruch.

Certainly, we remember Bernard for his charity and political abilities. Even more, we honor his preaching ability and, especially, his poetry and hymn writing: The original texts O Jesus, King Most Wonderful (MIDI audio) and O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (MIDI audio), as well as other hymns, remain vital parts of our Christian heritage, courtesy of Saint Bernard.

Suggested Collect and Lections:

O God, by whose grace Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux, kindled with the flame of Your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, walking before Tou as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,"even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Ps 139:1-12 ESV)
or

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Ps 19:7-11 ESV)

He who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be concerned with prophecies; he will preserve the discourse of notable men and penetrate the subtleties of parables; he will seek out the hidden meanings of proverbs and be at home with the obscurities of parables. He will serve among great men and appear before rulers; he will travel through the lands of foreign nations, for he tests the good and the evil among men. He will set his heart to rise early to seek the Lord who made him, and will make supplication before the Most High; he will open his mouth in prayer and make supplication for his sins. If the great Lord is willing, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; he will pour forth words of wisdom and give thanks to the Lord in prayer. He will direct his counsel and knowledge aright, and meditate on his secrets. He will reveal instruction in his teaching, and will glory in the law of the Lord’s covenant. Many will praise his understanding, and it will never be blotted out; his memory will not disappear, and his name will live through all generations. Nations will declare his wisdom, and the congregation will proclaim his praise. (Sirach 39:1-10 RSV)

[Jesus said:] "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:7-11 ESV)

Be Thou my Consolation, My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well!

(P. Gerhardt; from Bernard's Salve caput cruentatum)

In case you're wondering, the Saint Bernard dog is not named for Bernard of Clairvaux but indirectly for Bernard of Montjoux (or Menthon), an earlier monk who founded a travelers' hospice and monastery in the Pennine Alps and another hospice in the Graian Alps. Both of these passes were later named for him and and the large rescue dogs for these places where they were stationed.

Hymn texts and MIDI audio linked from the Lutheran Hymnal Project.
 
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