Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Bernard of Clairvaux
The Holy Spirit will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you. (Jn 14:26)
“My Father and I will come to him”—that is to say, to the holy of heart—says the Son of God, “and we will make our home with him.” It seems to me that when the psalmist said to God: “You make your dwelling in the holy place, you who are Israel’s praise,” he had no other heaven in mind than the hearts of the saints. The apostle expresses it quite clearly: “Christ lives in our hearts through faith,” he tells us.
Surely it is no wonder that the Lord Jesus gladly makes his home in such a heaven because, unlike the other heavens, he did not bring it into existence by a mere word of command. He descended into the arena to win it; he laid down his life to redeem it.
And so after the battle was won he solemnly declared: “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I have chosen to dwell.” Blessed indeed is the soul to whom the Lord says: “Come, my chosen one, I will set up my throne in you.”
Why, then, are you sorrowful, my soul, and why are you troubled within me? Are you trying to find a place for the Lord within yourself? Who among us can provide a fitting place for the Lord of glory, a place worthy of his majesty!
O that I might be counted worthy to worship at his footstool, that I might at least cling to the feet of some saintly soul whom the Lord has chosen to be his dwelling place!
However, the Lord has only to anoint my soul with the oil of his mercy for me in my turn to be able to say: “I have run the way of your commandments because you have enlarged my heart.”
Then perhaps, even if I cannot usher him into a large and richly furnished room in my heart where he may refresh himself with his disciples, I shall at least be able to offer him a place to lay his head.
It is necessary for a soul to grow and be enlarged until it is capable of containing God within itself. But the dimensions of a soul are in proportion to its love, as the apostle confirms when he urges the Corinthians “to widen their hearts in love.”
Although the soul, being spiritual, cannot be measured physically, grace confers on it what nature does not bestow. It expands spiritually as it makes progress toward human perfection, which is measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ, and so it grows into a temple sacred to the Lord.
Love, then, is the measure of the soul. Souls are large that love much, small that love little; while as for the soul that has no love at all, such a soul is itself nothing. “Without love,” says Saint Paul, “I am nothing.”
(On the Song of Songs 27, 8-10: Edit. Cist. 111957] 187-189)
Bernard of Ckaurvaux (1090-1153) entered the monastery of Citeaux with thirty companions in 1112. He received his monastic training under the abbot, Saint Stephen Harding, who sent him in 1115 to make a foundation at Clairvaux in France. Soon one of the most influential religious forces in Europe, Bernard was instrumental in founding the Knights Templar and in the election of Pope Innocent I in 1130. He was a strenuous opponent of writers such as Abelard, Gilbert de la Porree, and Henry of Lausanne. Above all, Bernard was a monk; his sermons and theological writings show an intimate knowledge of scripture, a fine eloquence, and an extraordinarily sublime mysticism.
**From Saint Louis University