Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Paschasius Radbertus

Stay awake, you must be ready.

 “Watch, for you do not know the day or the hour.” Like many other scriptural texts, this admonition is addressed to all of us, though it is formulated in such a way that it would seem to concern only Christ’s immediate audience.

We can all apply it to ourselves because the Last Day and the end of the world will come for each of us on the day we depart this present life. This means we must make sure we die in the state in which we wish to appear on the Day of Judgment.

Bearing this in mind each of us should guard against being led astray and failing to keep watch, otherwise the day of the Lord’s return may take us unawares. If the last day of our life finds us unprepared, then we shall be unprepared on that day also.

I do not for a moment believe the apostles expected the Lord to return in judgment during their own lifetime. All the same there can be no doubt that they took every care not to be drawn from the right path. They kept watch, observing the universal precepts their master had given to his disciples so as to be ready when he came again.

Consequently we must always be on the lookout for Christ’s twofold coming, the one when we shall have to give an account of everything we have done, and the other when he comes day after day to stir our consciences. He comes to us now in order that his future coming may find us prepared.

If my conscience is burdened with sin what good will it do me to know when the Day of Judgment will be? Unless the Lord comes to my soul beforehand and makes his home with me, unless Christ lives in me and speaks his word in my heart, it is useless for me to know if and when his coming will take place.

Only if Christ is already living in me and I in him will it go well with me when he comes in judgment. If I have already died to the world and am able to say, “The world is crucified to me, and I to the world,” then, in a sense, his final coming is already present to me.

Consider also our Lord’s warning: “Many will come in my name.” It is only the Antichrist and his members who, albeit falsely, claim the name of Christ, though they lack his works and his true doctrine and wisdom.

You will never find the Lord in Scripture actually declaring, “I am the Christ.” His teaching and miracles revealed it clearly enough, for the Father was at work in him. Louder than a thousand acclamations his teaching and mighty works proclaimed: “I am the Christ.”

And so whether or not you find him describing himself in so many words, the works of the Father and his own message of love declared what he was, whereas the false christs who possessed neither godly deeds not holy doctrine loudly claimed to be what they were not.

(Hom. IV super Missus est, 1-2: PL 183, 78-80)

Bernard (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 infuential 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 Porrée, 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

Kristin Clauson