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cure, you will cure by bearing. But if any one is in such spiritual health that he rather helps you than is helped by you, recognise that to him you are not father and abbot, but equal and friend. You were sent to sustain and console others because you are spiritually stronger and better able to bear than they, and because with the grace of God you are able to sustain all without needing yourself to be aided and sustained by any. ... Knowing, then, that you were sent to help, not to be helped, remember that you are the vicar of him who came not to be ministered unto but to minister."
To another young abbot (Baldwin of Rieti) who had complained of his insufficiency for the task assigned him, Bernard wrote :
“The letter which you have sent is fragrant with your affection. It arouseth mine. . . . As a mother loveth her only son, so did I love you, when you were close at my side, delighting my heart. . . . Take care to be found a faithful and prudent servant. ... Do not make unmeaning excuses, as if by reason of your newness in your work, or of your inexperience. ... Attend to your duty. Rid yourself of shyness by the thought of your office. Behave as a teacher should. Prepare to act in accordance with the one talent confided to you, without care for aught else. If you have received much, give much; but if little, give that little. For who in the least is not faithful will not be so in the greatest. Remember also to give to your voice the note of valour. 'What is that ?' do you ask ? Let your deeds harmonise with your words, or rather your words with your deeds ; so that your care may be to act rather than to teach. It is a most beautiful and salutary
rule of life, that the burden which you lay on others you should first bear yourself. Thus by self-control you may learn to control others. Therefore, on these two commands—as to speech and as to example-understand that there depend the highest efficiency of your office and the freedom of your conscience from care. Still if you are wise you will add also a third, zeal in prayer.... Thus there abideth these three-speech, example, prayer, but the greatest of these is prayer. For although, as I have said, the valour of speech is manifested in action, yet prayer imparteth grace and efficacy to both action and speech.”
As a rule Bernard found much happiness in his correspondence, regarding it as one of the chief means of fulfilling his ministry of truth and love ; but naturally there were times in the course of his “ busy days and short nights," when he wished that his friends, if they had nothing very urgent to say, would spare themselves the trouble of saying it and him the trouble of replying. Thus he writes to one (Oger, the Canon) :
“What need have true and lasting friendships of exchanging empty and fugitive words ?... I feel more certain of your affection than I do that you have succeeded in expressing it, and you will not be wrong if you think the same in respect to me. When your letter came into my hands you were present in my heart, and I am quite convinced that it will be the same for me when you receive my letter, and that when you read it I shall not be absent. It is labour to each of us to scribble to the other, and for our messengers a fatigue to carry our letters from the one to the other ; but the heart feels neither labour nor fatigue in loving. Let those things cease, then, which without labour cannot be carried on, and let us practice only that which, the more earnestly it is done, seems to cost the less labour. Let our minds, I say, rest from dictating, our lips from conversing, our fingers from writing, our messengers from running to and fro. But let not our hearts rest from meditating day and night on the law of the Lord, which is the law of love. The more we cease to be occupied in doing this, the less quiet shall we enjoy; and the more engrossed we are in it, so much the more calm and repose we shall feel from it. Let us love and be loved, striving to benefit ourselves in the other, and the other in ourselves. For those whom we love, on those do we rely, as those who love us rely in turn on us. Thus to love God is to love charity, and therefore it is to labour for charity, to strive to be loved for the sake of God.”
The transition from the private letter to the treatise meant for general circulation was a very easy and natural one. A book could do the work of many letters. Dr. Edmund Gardner speaks of St. Bernard's “ Book on the Love of God” (De diligendo Deo) as “the simplest book of mediaeval mysticism.” Perhaps its simplicity is due to some extent to the fact that it was intended originally as a letter; and indeed a large part of it is included in one of Bernard's letters—that written to Guignes about the year 1125. His treatment of the subject had a profound influence on later mediaeval thought. It is easy to see, for example, how Bernard's teaching lies behind the beautiful passage in the Paradiso in which Piccarda, in reply to Dante's question as to her being content to remain in the lower circles of heaven, says:
“ Brother, the quality of love stilleth our will, and maketh us long only for what we have, and giveth us no other thirst.
“Did we desire to be more aloft, our longings were discordant from his will who here assorteth us, and for that, thou wilt see, there is no room within these circles, if of necessity we have our being here in love, and if you think again what is love's nature.
"Nay, 'tis the essence of this blessed being to hold ourselves within the divine will, whereby our own wills are themselves made one.
"So that our being thus, from threshold unto threshold throughout the realm, is a joy to all the realm as to the king, who draweth our wills to what he willeth;
" And his will is our peace; it is that sea to which all moves that it createth and nature maketh.
“Clear was it then to me how everywhere in heaven is Paradise, e'en though the grace of the chief good doth not rain there after one only fashion.”l
Bernard's book on loving God was written in reply to some one who had asked him why, and in what measure, God is to be loved. “The reason for loving God,” he answers briefly, “is God, and he is to be loved without measure.” In the course of the treatise this answer is explained and elaborated. God is to be loved both because of the material things he gives to menbread and sun and air, and of the varied provision he makes for their spiritual life and wellbeing. He has moreover endowed men with worth and knowledge and virtue. These endowments are the stamp of his image
1 Canto, III. Wicksteed's translation.
in their souls; and it is because of this divine image or ideal within them that they can never truly rest in anything less than himself, however much they try. In their wilfulness they are ever trying one thing after another outside of him, and always failing to find the peace they crave. “And if,” says Bernard, “their utmost longing were realised, so that they should have all the world for their own, yet without possessing him who is the author of all being, then the same law of their desire would make them contemn what they had, and restlessly seek him whom they still lacked, that is God himself. Rest is in him alone.”
Several chapters of the book are devoted to what Bernard calls the four degrees of love. The first is that in which a man loves himself alone and for his own sake ; the second, that in which he loves God for the sake of the benefits he receives and expects from God; the third that in which he loves God for the sake of God, that is for what God is in himself, in his infinite loveliness and perfection; and the fourth and highest degree is that in which he loves himself for God's sake.
“To reach this state is to become Godlike. As a drop of water, poured into wine, loses itself, and takes the colour and savour of wine ; or as a bar of iron, heated red-hot, becomes like fire itself, forgetting its own substance; or as the air, radiant with sunbeams, seems not so much to be illuminated as to be light itself; so, in the saints, all human affections melt away, as by an unspeakable transmutation, into the will of God. For how could God be all in all, if anything merely human remained in man ? The substance will endure, but in another beauty, a higher power, a greater glory.” (x.)