Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

To know the spirit of the Middle Ages in its highest expressions, it is necessary to study the writings of Bernard. He is one of the main sources of thought and inspiration on which Thomas Aquinas and Dante and Thomas à Kempis drew. This is notably the case as regards his teaching about divine love, a subject which he made his own. In his sermons on the Song of Songs, he developed the theme of the Bridegroom and the Bride, Christ and the Church. His best known treatise is on the love of God (De diligendo Deo). His most famous hymn, Jesu, dulcis memoria, is a true spiritual love song, made familiar to us in the beautiful rendering of Edward Caswall :

Jesu, the very thought of thee

With sweetness fills my breast :
But sweeter far thy face to see,

And in thy presence rest.
O hope of every contrite heart,

O joy of all the meek !
To those who fall, how kind thou art !

How good to those who seek !
But what to those who find ? Ah ! this

Nor tongue nor pen can show ;
The love of Jesus ! What it is

None but his loved ones know. There is necessarily a great deal in mediaevalism and even in the noblest of mediaeval teachers, that is alien to our ways of thought. The monastery, for example, does not represent for us the ideal of the Christian community, but it stood for that in the Middle Ages. In Bernard's day and for many a day before and after much of the best life of Christendom flowed through the cloisters, and in them the work of civilization as well as Christianization was chiefly carried on. There were, of course, differences in the monastic orders, some being rich and others poor, some rigorous in their discipline, and others accommodating themselves more easily to human frailty. And the human nature that filled them was like what human nature still is : beset by the same temptations to self-indulgence and worldliness, sensitive to the same experiences of joy and sorrow. It was as the spiritual guide of those who had vowed obedience to their highest vision of duty, and were striving to be faithful to it, that Bernard's best work was done; and he did it largely through his letters.

The Cistercian order was based on the strictest interpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict. But not every one who entered Clairvaux proved fit to stand the severe test of its discipline, and great was the Abbot's grief when such an one left the monastery for another where the conditions were easier, or went back into "the world.” Among the companions who had entered Câteaux with him, and had afterwards accompanied him to Clairvaux, was his young cousin Robert. But Robert, after a while, moved by his own desire for greater comfort and by the persuasions of friends, left Clairvaux and made his way to the luxurious monastery at Cluny, into which he was received. The letter which Bernard sent after him, pleading with him to return, reveals some of the qualities of mind and heart which made him so true a father in God. He bids the youth ask his own conscience why he has gone.

“Why didst thou desert thine order, thy brethren, thy place and me; me who am near to thee in blood and still nearer in spirit ? ... Though thou hast many teachers in Christ, thou hast not many fathers. For both by my word and by my example have I begotten thee to religion. For what good to thee, or for what need of thine, have our friends endeavoured to do this ? For I confess that they have taken not the bone of my bone, nor the flesh of my flesh, but the joy of my heart, the fruit of my spirit, the crown of my hope, and, as I verily believe, the half of my soul. Is thy salvation likely to be advanced by fineness of dress or abundance of dainties ? If such things make a saint, why should I not follow thy example ? But these are the comforts of invalids, not the weapons of fighting men. Rise, soldier of Christ, shake off the dust, return to the battle whence thou hast fled. Contending more bravely after thy flight, thou shalt conquer the more gloriously. Christ hath indeed many soldiers who have begun most bravely, stood fast and overcome, but few who, having taken flight, have turned back again and faced anew the danger from which they shrank, and have put to flight the foe from whom they fled. And because every rare thing is precious, I rejoice that thou shouldst be of those who shall appear more glorious the rarer they are. Woe to thee if, declining the fight, thou losest at once the victory and the crown ! Which loss may God avert from thee, my dearest son.”

Bernard's advice was much sought, and many of his letters are in reply to requests for counsel and guidance. Naturally he found it difficult at times to know what to say; but even when his judgement was in suspense

in regard to the particular matter at issue, he managed to indicate the principles on which his correspondent would best be able to settle the question for himself. His letter to Bruno, Archbishop-elect of Cologne, shows his wisdom in dealing with such a case. “You seek counsel from me, most illustrious Bruno," he writes, " as to whether you ought to accept the episcopate, to which it is desired to advance you. What mortal can presume to decide this for you ? " Bruno had mentioned that his hesitation in accepting the position was due largely to his consciousness that his character and his past life were not such as fitted him for the office. And Bernard agrees that there is reason for misgiving on that account. On the other hand, he says, Bruno is justified in fearing lest his sense of unworthiness should prevent him from making good use of the talent committed to him. It is unfortunate, Bernard thinks, that there is not time for prolonged penitence and selfscrutiny before the decision has to be made ; but he recalls the story of the dying thief on the cross and other Gospel stories which show how the grace of God can accomplish great moral and spiritual changes in a very brief time, and he suggests that what happened in those cases may happen also in the case of an archbishopelect. He remembers, too, how some men were chosen for apostleship out of occupations and ways of life far removed from such a sacred office—as Matthew from the receipt of customs, Paul from persecuting the Christians. Still, he suggests, these cases are to be regarded rather as marvels than as examples or as offering any help towards rightly deciding the question as to whether Bruno should accept the episcopate. So Bernard

concludes: “Let these provisional replies to your questions suffice. If I do not express a decisive opinion, it is because I do not feel assured. ... Yet there is one thing I can do for a friend without danger, and with the assurance of a good result, and that is to offer to God my petition that he will assist you in the matter. Leaving therefore to him the secret of his providence I will beg him with humble prayer and earnest supplication that he will work in you and with respect to you that which shall be for his glory and at the same time for your good.”

A letter of a different kind is the one addressed to Rainald, the young Abbot of Foyny, who had written to Bernard complaining that his post was a very hard one, that many of the brethren in the monastery were extremely troublesome, that he was sorry he had ever undertaken the charge, and would be glad to be relieved of it, and much else to that effect. And how does Bernard reply? Pending an enquiry as to whether a change was desirable in the interests of the monastery and of Rainald himself, he reminds the young Abbot that he had warned him, before taking up the position, that he would not find it an easy one ; and he goes on to say that it is the special duty of an Abbot to be patient with the troublesome brethren under his charge.

“ Those who are in health do not need to be borne with, and are not, therefore, a burden. Whomsoever, then, of your brethren you shall find sad, mean-spirited, discontented, remember well that it is for these and for their sake that you are abbot and father. In consoling, in exhorting, in reproving, you do your duty, you bear your burden; and those whom you bear in order to

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »