Pius XII – Encyclical “Doctor Mellifluus”
The science of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
God is the purpose of research and contemplation
The timelessness of Saint Bernard’s thoughts
The peace of the soul is a real life
The humility of Saint Bernard
Love for the Blessed Virgin Mary
On Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
The “Doctor Mellifluus”, “the last of the Fathers, but certainly not inferior to the earlier ones”, (Mabillon, Bernardi Opera, Praef, generalis, n. 23; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 26) was remarkable for such qualities of nature and of mind, and so enriched by God with heavenly gifts, that in the changing and often stormy times in which he lived, he seemed to dominate by his holiness, wisdom, and most prudent counsel. Wherefore, he has been highly praised, not only by the sovereign Pontiffs and writers of the Catholic Church, but also, and not infrequently, by heretics. Thus, when in the midst of universal jubilation, Our predecessor, Alexander III, of happy memory, inscribed him among the canonized saints, he paid reverent tribute when he wrote: “We have passed in review the holy and venerable life of this same blessed man, not only in himself a shining example of holiness and religion, but also shone forth in the whole Church of God because of his faith and of his fruitful influence in the house of God by word and example; since he taught the precepts of our holy religion even to foreign and barbarian nations, and so recalled a countless multitude of sinners … to the right path of the spiritual life” (Litt. Apost. Contigit olim, XV Kal. Feb., 1174, Anagniae d). “He was,” as Cardinal Baronius writes, “a truly apostolic man, nay, a genuine apostle sent by God, mighty in work and word, everywhere and in all things adding luster to his apostolate through the signs that followed, so that he was in nothing inferior to the great apostles, … and should be called … at one and the same time an adornment and a mainstay of the Catholic Church” (Annal., t. XII, An. 1153, p. 385, D-E; Rome, ex Tipografia Vaticana, 1907).
The 800th anniversary of the death of Saint Bernard
To these encomiums of highest praise, to which almost countless others could be added, We turn Our thoughts at the end of this eighth century when the restorer and promoter of the holy Cistercian Order piously left this mortal life, which he had adorned with such great brilliance of doctrine and splendor of holiness. It is a source of gratification to think of his merits and to set them forth in writing, so that, not only the members of his own Order, but also all those who delight principally in whatever is true, beautiful, or holy, may feel themselves moved to imitate the shining example of his virtues.
The science of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
His teaching was drawn, almost exclusively, from the pages of Sacred Scripture and from the Fathers, which he had at hand day and night in his profound meditations: and not from the subtle reasonings of dialecticians and philosophers, which, on more than one occasion, he clearly held in low esteem (Cf. Serm. in Festo SS. Apost. Petri et Pauli n. 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 407, and Serm. 3, in Festo Pentec., n, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 332-b). It should be remarked that he does not reject that human philosophy which is genuine philosophy, namely, that which leads to God, to right living, and to Christian wisdom. Rather does he repudiate that philosophy which, by recourse to empty wordiness and clever quibbling, is overweening enough to climb to divine heights and to delve into all the secrets of God, with the result that, as often happened in those days, it did harm to the integrity of faith and, sad to say, fell into heresy.
“Do you see …” he wrote, “how St. Paul the Apostle (Cf. 1 Cor. 8, 2) makes the fruit and the utility of knowledge consist in the way we know? What is meant by ‘the way we know’? Is it not simply this, that you should recognize in what order, with what application, for what purpose and what things you should know? In what order – that you may first learn what is more conducive to salvation; with what zeal – that you may learn with deeper conviction what moves you to more ardent love; for what purpose – that you may not learn for vain glory, curiosity, or anything of the kind, but only for your own edification and that of your neighbor. For there are some who want knowledge for the sole purpose of knowing, and this is unseemly curiosity. And there are some who seek knowledge in order to be known themselves; and this is unseemly vanity … and there are also those who seek knowledge in order to sell their knowledge, for example, for money or for honors; and this is unseemly quest for gain. But there are also those who seek knowledge in order to edify, and this is charity. And there are those who seek knowledge in order to be edified, and this is prudence” (In Cantica, Serm. XXXVI, 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 968c,-d).
In the following words, he describes most appropriately the doctrine, or rather the wisdom, which he follows and ardently loves: “It is the spirit of wisdom and understanding which, like a bee bearing both wax and honey, is able to kindle the light of knowledge and to pour in the savor of grace. Hence, let nobody think he has received a kiss, neither he who understands the truth but does not love it, nor he who loves the truth but does not understand it” (In Cantica, Serm. VIII, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 813-a, b). “What would be the good of learning without love? It would puff up. And love without learning? It would go astray” (In Cantica, Serm. LXIX, 2; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1113-a). “Merely to shine is futile; merely to burn is not enough; to burn and to shine is perfect” (In Nat. S. Joan. Bapt., Serm. 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 399-b). Then he explains the source of true and genuine doctrine, and how it must be united with charity: “God is Wisdom, and wants to be loved not only affectionately, but also wisely … Otherwise, if you neglect knowledge, the spirit of error will most easily lay snares for your zeal; nor has the wily enemy a more efficacious means of driving love from the heart, than if he can make a man walk carelessly and imprudently in the path of love” (In Cantica, Serm. XIX, 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 866-d).
God is the purpose of research and contemplation
From these words it is clear that in his study and his contemplation, under the influence of love rather than through the subtlety of human reasoning, Bernard’s sole aim was to focus on the supreme Truth all the ways of truth which he had gathered from many different sources. From them he drew light for the mind, the fire of charity for the soul, and right standards of conduct. This is indeed true wisdom, which rides over all things human, and brings everything back to its source, that is, to God, in order to lead men to Him. The “Doctor Mellifluus” makes his way with care deliberately through the uncertain and unsafe winding paths of reasoning, not trusting in the keenness of his own mind nor depending upon the tedious and artful syllogisms which many of the dialecticians of his time often abused. No! Like an eagle, longing to fix his eyes on the sun, he presses on in swift flight to the summit of truth.
The charity which moves him, knows no barriers and, so to speak, gives wings to the mind. For him, learning is not the final goal, but rather a path leading to God; it is not something cold upon which the mind dwells aimlessly, as though amusing itself under the spell of shifting, brilliant light. Rather, it is moved, impelled, and governed by love. Wherefore, carried upwards by this wisdom and in meditation, contemplation, and love, Bernard climbs the peak of the mystical life and is joined to God Himself, so that at times he enjoyed almost infinite happiness even in this mortal life.
The value of the scriptures Bernard
His style, which is lively, rich, easy flowing, and marked by striking expressions, has such pleasing function that it attracts, delights and recalls the mind of the reader to heavenly things. It incites to, nourishes and strengthens piety; it draws the soul to the pursuit of those good things which are not fleeting, but true, certain, and everlasting. For this reason, his writings were always held in high honor. So from them the Church herself has inserted into the Sacred Liturgy not a few pages fragrant with heavenly things and aglow with piety (Cfr. Brev. Rom. in festo SS. Nom. Jesu; die III infra octavam Concept. immac. B.M.V.; in octava Assumpt. B.M.V.; in festo septem Dolor. B.M.V.; in festo sacrat. Rosarii B.M.V.; in festo S. Josephi Sp. B.M.V.; in festo S. Gabrielis Arch). They seem to have been nourished with the breath of the Divine Spirit, and to shine with a light so bright, that the course of the centuries cannot quench it; for it shines forth from the soul of a writer thirsting after truth and love, and yearning to nourish others and to make them like to himself (Cfr. Fenelon, Panégyrique de St. Bernard).
The most beautiful statements of Saint Bernard
It is a pleasure, Venerable Brethren, for the edification of us all, to quote from his books some beautiful extracts from this mystical teaching: “We have taught that every soul, even though weighed down with sins, ensnared in vice, caught in the allurements of the passions, held captive in exile, and imprisoned in the body … even, I say, though it be thus damned and in despair, can find within itself not only reasons for yearning for the hope of pardon and the hope of mercy, but also for making bold to aspire to the nuptials of the Word, not hesitating to establish a covenant of union with God, and not being ashamed to carry the sweet yoke of love along with the King of the Angels. What will the soul not dare with Him whose marvelous image it sees within itself, and whose striking likeness it recognizes in itself?” (In Cantica, Serm. LXXXIII, 1; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1181-c, d). “By this likeness of charity … the soul is wedded to the Word, when, namely, loving even as she is loved, she shows herself, in her will, likened to Him to Whom she is already likened in her nature. Therefore, if she loves Him perfectly, she has become His bride. What can be more sweet than such a likeness? What can be more desirable than this love, whereby thou art enabled of thyself to draw nigh with confidence to the Word, to cleave to Him steadfastly, to question Him familiarly, and to consult Him in all thy doubts, as daring in thy desires as thou art receptive in thy understanding? This is in truth the alliance of holy and spiritual wedlock. Nay, it is saying too little to call it an alliance: it is rather an embrace. Surely we have then a spiritual embrace when the same likes and the same dislikes make of two one spirit. Nor is there any occasion to fear lest the inequality of the persons should cause some defect in the harmony of wills, since love knows nothing of reverence. Love means an exercise of affection, not a showing of honor … Love is all sufficient for itself. Whithersoever love comes, it keeps under and holds captive to itself all the other affections. Consequently, the soul that loves, simply loves and knows nothing else except to love” (In Cantica, Serm. LXXXIII, 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1182-c, d).
After pointing out that God wants to be loved by men rather than feared and honored, he adds this wise and penetrating observation: “Love is sufficient of itself; it pleases of itself, and for the sake of loving. A great thing is love, if yet it returns to its Principle, if it is restored to its Origin, if it finds its way back again to its fountain-head, so that it may thus be enabled to flow on unfailingly. Amidst all the emotions, sentiments, and feelings of the soul, love is outstanding in this respect, namely, that it alone among created things, has the power to correspond with, and to make return to the creator in kind, though not in equality” (In Cantica, Serm. LXXXIII, 4; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1183-b).
Since in his prayer, and his contemplation he had frequently experienced this divine love, whereby we can be intimately united with God, there broke forth from his soul these inspired words: “Happy is the soul to whom it has been given to experience an embrace of such surpassing delight! This spiritual embrace is nothing else than a chaste and holy love, a love sweet and pleasant, a love perfectly serene and perfectly pure, a love that is mutual, intimate, and strong, a love that joins two, not in one flesh, but in one spirit, that makes two to be no longer two but one undivided spirit, as witness St. Paul (Cf. 1 Kor 6, 17) where he says, ‘He who cleaves to the Lord is one spirit with Him'” (In Cantica Serm. LXXXIII, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1184-c).
The mystical science of Doctor of Clairvaux
In our day this sublime teaching of the Doctor of Clairvaux on the mystical life, which surpasses and can satisfy all human desires, seems to be sometimes neglected and relegated to a secondary place, or forgotten by many who, completely taken up with the worries and business of daily life, seek and desire only what is useful and profitable for this mortal life, scarcely ever lift their eyes and minds to Heaven, or aspire after heavenly things and the goods that are everlasting.
Yet, although not all can reach the summit of that exalted contemplation of which Bernard speaks so eloquently, and although not all can bind themselves so closely to God as to feel linked in a mysterious manner with the Supreme Good through the bonds of heavenly marriage; nevertheless, all can and must, from time to time, lift their hearts from earthly things to those of heaven, and most earnestly love the Supreme Dispenser of all gifts.
The timelessness of Saint Bernard’s thoughts
Wherefore, since love for God is gradually growing cold today in the hearts of many, or is even completely quenched, We feel that these writings of the “Doctor Mellifluus” should be carefully pondered; because from their content, which in fact is taken from the Gospels, a new and heavenly strength can flow both into individual and on into social life, to give moral guidance, bring it into line with Christian precepts, and thus be able to provide timely remedies for the many grave ills which afflict mankind. For, when men do not have the proper love for their Creator, from Whom comes everything they have when they do not love one another, then, as often happens, they are separated from one another by hatred and deceit, and so quarrel bitterly among themselves. Now God is the most loving Father of us all, and we are all brethren in Christ, we whom he redeemed by shedding His precious Blood. Hence, as often as we fail to return God’s love or to recognize His divine fatherhood with all due reverence, the bonds of brotherly love are unfortunately shattered and – as, alas, is so often evident, – discord, strife and enmity unhappily are the result, so much so as to undermine and destroy the very foundations of human society.
Hence, that divine love with which the Doctor of Clairvaux was so ardently aflame must be re-enkindled in the hearts of all men, if we desire the restoration of Christian morality, if the Catholic religion is to carry out its mission successfully, and if, through the calming of dissension and the restoration of order, injustice and equity, serene peace is to shine forth on mankind so weary and bewildered.
May those who have embraced the Order of the “Doctor Mellifluus,” and all the members of the clergy, whose special task it is to exhort and urge others to a greater love of God, be aglow with that love with which we must always be most passionately united with God. In our own day, more than at any other time – as We have said, – men are in need of this divine love. Family life needs it, mankind needs it. Where it burns and leads souls to God, Who is the supreme goal of all mortals, all other virtues wax strong. When, on the other hand, it is absent or has died out, then quiet, peace, joy, and all other truly good things gradually disappear or are completely destroyed, since they flow from Him who is love itself (1 John 4, 8).
Of this divine charity, possibly nobody has spoken more excellently, more profoundly, or more earnestly than Bernard: “The reason for loving God,” as he says, “is God; the measure of this love is to love without measure” (De Diligendo Deo, c. L., Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 974-a). “Where there is love, there is no toil, but delight” (In Cantica, Serm. LXXXV, 8; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1191-d). He admits having experienced this love himself when he writes: “O holy and chaste love! O sweet and soothing affection! … It is the more soothing and more sweet, the more the whole of that which is experienced is divine. To have such love, means being made like God” (De Diligendo Deo, c. X, 28; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 991-a). And elsewhere: “It is good for me, O Lord, to embrace Thee all the more in tribulation, to have Thee with me in the furnace of trial rather than to be without Thee even in heaven” (In Ps. CLXXXX, Serm. XVII, 4; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 252-c).
The peace of the soul is a real life
But when he touches upon that supreme and perfect love whereby he is united with God Himself in intimate wedlock, then he enjoys a happiness and a peace, than which none other can be greater; “O place of true rest … For we do not here behold God either, as it were, excited with anger, or as though distracted with care; but His will is proved to be ‘good and acceptable and perfect’. This vision soothes. It does not frighten. It lulls to rest, instead of awakening our unquiet curiosity. It calms the mind instead of tiring it. Here is found perfect rest. God’s quiet quietens all about Him. To think of His rest is to give rest to the soul” (In Cantica, Serm. XXIII, 16; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 893-a, b).
However, this perfect quiet is not the death of the mind but its true life.” … Instead of bringing darkness and lethargy, the sleep of the Spouse is wakeful and life-giving; it enlightens the mind, expels the death of sin, and bestows immortality. Nevertheless, it is indeed a sleep, which transports rather than stupefies the faculties. It is a true death. This I affirm without the least hesitation, since the Apostle says, in commendation of some who were still living in the flesh, (Kol 3, 3) ‘You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God'” (In Cantica, Serm. LII, 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1031-a).
This perfect quiet of the mind, in which we enjoy the loving God by returning His love, and by which we turn and direct ourselves and all we have to Him, does not make us lazy and slothful. Rather it is a constant, effective and active zeal that spurs us on to look to our own salvation, and, with the help of God, to that of others also. For this lofty contemplation and meditation, which is brought about by divine love, “regulates the affections, directs the actions, cuts away all excesses, forms the character, orders and ennobles the life, and lastly … endows the understanding with a knowledge of things divine and human. It … undoes what is tangled, unites what is divided, gathers what is scattered, uncovers what is hidden, searches out what is false and deceptive. It … lays down beforehand what we have to do, and passes in review what has been accomplished, so that nothing disordered may remain in the mind, nothing uncorrected. Finally … it makes provision for trouble, and thus endures misfortune, so to say, without feeling it, of which the former is the part of prudence, and the latter the function of fortitude” (De Consid. I, c. 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 737-a, b).
Activity of the Doctor of Clairvaux
In fact, although he longs to remain fixed in this most exalted and sweet contemplation and meditation, nourished by the Spirit of God, the Doctor of Clairvaux does not remain enclosed within the walls of his cell that “waxes sweet by being dwelled in”, (De Imit. Christi, I, 20, 5) but is a hand with counsel, word and action wherever the interests of God and Church are at stake. For he was wont to observe that “no one ought to live for himself alone, but all for all” (In Cantica, serm. XLI, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 987-b). And moreover, he wrote about himself and his followers: “In like manner, the laws of brotherliness and of human society give our brethren, amongst whom we live, a claim upon us for counsel and help” (De adventu D., serm. III, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 45-d). When, with sorrowing mind, he beheld the holy faith endangered or troubled, he spared neither toil, nor journeyings, nor any manner of pains to come stoutly to its defense, or to bring it whatever assistance he could. “I do not regard any of the affairs of God,” he said, “as things with which I have no concern” (Epist. 20 (ad Card. Haimericum); Migne, P. L., CLXXXII 123-b). And to St. Louis of France he penned these spirited words: “We sons of the Church, cannot on any account overlook the injuries done to our mother, and the way in which she is despised and trodden under foot … We will certainly make a stand and fight even to death, if need be, for our mother, with the weapons allowed us; not with shield and sword, but with prayers and lamentations to God” (Epist. 221, 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 386-d, 387-a).
To Abbot Peter of Cluny he wrote: “And I glory in tribulations if I have been counted worthy to endure any for the sake of the Church. This, truly, is my glory and the lifting up of my head: the triumph of the Church. For if we have been sharers of her troubles, we shall be also of her consolation. We must work and suffer with our mother” (Epist. 147, 1; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 304-c, 305-a).
When the mystical body of Christ was torn by so grave a schism, that even good men on both sides became heated in dispute, he bent all his efforts to settling disagreements and happily restoring unity of mind. When princes, led by desire of earthly dominion, were divided by fearful quarrels, and the welfare of nations was thereby seriously threatened, he was ever the peacemaker and the architect of agreement. When, finally, the holy places of Palestine, hallowed by the blood of our Divine Savior, were threatened with gravest danger, and were hard pressed by foreign armies, at the command of the Supreme Pontiff, with loud voice and a still wider appeal of love, he roused Christian princes and peoples to undertake a new crusade; and if indeed it was not brought to a successful conclusion, the fault was surely not his.
And above all, when the integrity of Catholic faith and morals – the sacred heritage handed down by our forefathers – was jeopardized, especially by the activities of Abelard, Arnold of Brescia and Gilbert de la Poree, strong in the grace of God he spared no pains in writing works full of penetrating wisdom and making tiring journeys, so that errors might be dispelled and condemned, and the victims of error might as far as possible be recalled to the straight path and to virtuous living.
Yet, since he was well aware that in matters of this kind the authority of the Roman Pontiff prevails over the opinions of learned men, he took care to call attention to that authority which he recognized as supreme and infallible in settling such questions. To his former disciple, our predecessor of blessed memory Eugene III, he wrote these words which reflect at once his exceeding great love and reverence and that familiarity which becomes the saints: “Parental love knows nothing of lordship, it recognizes not a master but a child even in him who wears the tiara . . . Therefore shall I admonish thee now, not as a master, but as a mother, yea, as a most loving mother” (De Consid., II, c. 8; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 751-c, d).
Then he addresses to him these powerful words: “Who art thou.? Thou art the High Priest and the Sovereign Pontiff. Thou art the prince of pastors and the heir of the apostles . . . by thy jurisdiction, a Peter; and by thy unction, a Christ. Thou art he to whom the keys have been delivered and the sheep entrusted. There are indeed other gate-keepers of heaven, and there are other shepherds of the flock; but thou art in both respects more glorious than they in proportion as thou hast inherited a more excellent name. They have assigned to them particular portions of the flock, his own to each; whereas thou art given charge of all the sheep, as the one Chief Shepherd of the whole flock. Yea, not only of the sheep, but of the other pastors also art thou the sole supreme Shepherd” (De Consid., II, c. 8; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 751-c, d). And again: “He who wishes to discover something which does not belong to thy charge, will have to go outside the world” (De Consid., III, c. L; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 757-b).
The infallible magisterium of the Bishop of Rome
In clear and simple fashion he acknowledges the infallible magisterium of the Roman Pontiff in questions of faith and morals. For, recognizing the errors of Abelard, who when he “speaks of the Trinity savors of Arius; when of grace, of Pelagius; when of the person of Christ, of Nestorious”, (Epist. 192; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 358-d, 359-a); “who . . . predicated degrees in the Trinity, measure in majesty, numbers in eternity” (De error. Abaelardi, I, 2; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 1056-a); and in whom “human reason usurps for itself everything, leaving nothing for faith” (Epist. 188; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 353-a, b) he not only shatters, weakens and refutes his subtle, specious and fallacious tricks and sophisms, but also, on this subject, writes to Our predecessor of immortal memory, Innocent II, these words of utmost importance: “Your See should be informed of all dangers that may arise, especially those that touch faith. For I consider it meet that damage to the faith be repaired in the particular place where faith is perfectly whole. These indeed are the prerogatives of this See … It is time, most loving Father, that you recognized your pre-eminence. Then do you really take the place of Peter, whose See you hold, when by your admonitions you strengthen hearts weak in faith; when, by your authority, you break those who corrupt the faith” (De error. Abaelardi, Praef.; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 1053, 1054-d).
Love of God and fellowmen
How it was that this humble monk, with hardly any human means at his disposal, was able to draw the strength to overcome difficulties so thorny, to settle questions so intricate, and to solve the most troublesome cases, can only be understood when one considers the great holiness of life which distinguished him, and his great zeal for truth. For, as We have said, he was, above all, on fire with a most burning love of God and his neighbor (which as you know, Venerable Brethren, is the chief and, as it were, all embracing commandment of the gospel), so that he was, not only united to the heavenly father by an unfailing mystical bond, but he desired nothing more than to win men to Christ, to uphold the most sacred rights of the Church, and to defend as best he could the integrity of the Catholic faith.
The humility of Saint Bernard
Although he was held in great favor and esteem by Popes, princes and peoples, he was not puffed up, he did not grasp at the slippery and empty glory of men, but ever shone with that Christian humility which “acquires other virtues … having acquired them, keeps them … keeping them, perfects them”; (De error. Abaelardi, Praef.; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 1053, 1054-d) so that “without it the others do not even seem to be virtues.” Wherefore “proffered honor did not even seem to be virtues” (De monbus et off. Episc., seu Epist. 42, 5, 17; Migne, P.L., CLXXXII, 821-a). Wherefore “proffered honor did not tempt his soul, nor did he set his foot on the downward path of world glory; and the tiara and ring delighted him no more than the lecture platform and garden hoe” (Vita Prima, II. 25; Migne, P. L., CLXXXV, 283-b). And while he undertook so often such great labors for the glory of God and the benefit of the Christian name, he was wont to call himself “the useless servant of the servants of God,” (Epist., 37; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 143-b) “a vile worm,” (Epist., 215; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 379-b) “a barren tree,” (Vita prima, V. 12; Migne, P. L., CLXXXV, 358-d) “a sinner, ashes …” (In Cantica, Serm. LXXI, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1123-d). This Christian humility, together with the other virtues, he nourished by diligent contemplation of heavenly things, and by fervent prayer to God, by which he called down grace from on high on the labors undertaken by himself and his followers.
Love for Jesus Christ
So burning was his love, particularly of Jesus Christ Our Divine Savior, that, loved thereby, he penned the beautiful and lofty pages which still arouse the admiration and enkindle the devotion of all readers. “What can so enrich the soul that reflects upon it (the holy name of Jesus)? What can … strengthen the virtues, beget good and honorable dispositions, foster holy affections? Dry is every kind of spiritual food which this oil does not moisten. Tasteless, whatever this salt does not season. If thou writest, thy composition has no charms for me, unless I read there the name of Jesus. If thou dost debate or converse, I find no pleasure in thy words, unless I hear there the name of Jesus. Jesus is honey on the lips, melody in the ear, joy in the heart. Yet not alone is that name light and food. It is also a remedy. Is any one amongst you sad? Let the name of Jesus enter his heart; let it leap thence to his mouth; and lo! the light shining from that name shall scatter every cloud and restore peace. Has some one perpetrated a crime, and then misled, moved despairingly towards the snare of death? Let him but invoke this life-giving name, and straightway he shall find courage once more … Whoever, all a-tremble in the presence of danger, has not immediately felt his spirits revive and his fears depart as soon as he called upon this name of power? There is nothing so powerful as the name of Jesus to check anger, reduce the swelling of pride, heal the smarting wound of envy …” (In Cantica, Serm. XV, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 846-d, 847-a, b).
Love for the Blessed Virgin Mary
To this warm love of Jesus Christ was joined a most sweet and tender devotion towards His glorious Mother, whose motherly love he repaid with the affection of a child, and whom he jealously honored. So great was his confidence in her most powerful intercession, that he did not hesitate to write: “It is the will of God that we should have nothing which has not passed through the hands of Mary” (In vigil. Nat. Domini, Serm. III, 10; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 100-a). Likewise: “Such is the will of God, Who would have us obtain everything through the hands of Mary” (Serm. in Nat, Mariae, 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 441-b).
And here it is well, Venerable Brethren, to bid you all consider a page in praise of Mary than which there is perhaps none more beautiful, more moving, more apt to excite love for her, more useful to stir devotion and to inspire imitation of her virtuous example: “Mary … is interpreted to mean ‘Star of the Sea.’ This admirably befits the Virgin Mother. There is indeed a wonderful appropriateness in this comparison of her with a star, because as a star sends out its rays without harm to itself, so did the Virgin bring forth her Child without injury to her integrity. And as the ray does not diminish the rightness of the star, so neither did the Child born of her tarnish the beauty of Mary’s virginity. She is therefore that glorious star, which, as the prophet said, arose out of Jacob, whose ray enlightens the whole earth, whose splendor shines out for all to see in heaven and reaches even unto hell … She, I say, is that shining and brilliant star, so much needed, set in place above life’s great and spacious sea, glittering with merits, all aglow with examples for our imitation. Oh, whosoever thou art that perceiveth thyself during this mortal existence to be rather drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, than walking on firm ground, turn not away thine eyes from the splendor of this guiding star, unless thou wish to be submerged by the storm! When the storms to temptation burst upon thee, when thou seest thyself driven upon the rocks of tribulation, look at the star, call upon Mary. When buffeted by the billows of pride, or ambition, or hatred, or jealousy, look at the star, call upon Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of thy soul, look at the star, call upon Mary. If troubled on account of the heinousness of thy sins, distressed at the filthy state of thy conscience, and terrified at the thought of the awful judgment to come, thou art beginning to sink into the bottomless gulf of sadness and to be swallowed in the abyss of despair, then think of Mary. In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name leave thy lips, never suffer it to leave thy heart. And that thou mayest more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, see that thou dost walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, thou shalt never go astray; whilst invoking her, thou shalt never lose heart; so long as she is in thy mind, thou shalt not be deceived; whilst she holds thy hand, thou canst not fall; under her protection, thou hast nothing to fear; if she walks before thee, thou shalt not grow weary; if she shows thee favor, thou shalt reach the goal” (Hom. II super “Missus est,” 17; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 70-b, c, d, 71-a).
Raising love to God’s Mother
We can think of no better way to conclude this Encyclical Letter than in the words of the “Doctor Mellifluus” to invite all to be more and more devout to the loving Mother of God, and each in his respective state in life to strive to imitate her exalted virtues. If at the beginning of the twelfth century grave dangers threatened the Church and human society, the perils besetting our own age are hardly less formidable. The Catholic faith, supreme solace of mankind, often languishes in souls, and in many regions and countries is even subjected to the bitterest public attacks. With the Christian religion either neglected or cruelly destroyed, morals, both public and private, clearly stray from the straight way, and, following the tortuous path of error, end miserably in vice.
Charity, which is the bond of perfection, concord and peace, is replaced by hatred, enmities and discords.
A certain restlessness, anxiety and fear have invaded the minds of men. It is indeed to be greatly feared that if the light of the Gospel gradually fades and wanes in the minds of many, or if – what is even worse, – they utterly reject it, the very foundations of civil and domestic society will collapse, and more evil times will unhappily result.
Therefore, as the Doctor of Clairvaux sought and obtained from the Virgin Mother Mary help for the troubles of his times, let us all through the same great devotion and prayer so strive to move our divine Mother, that she will obtain from God timely relief from these grave evils which are either already upon us or may yet befall, and that she who is at once kind and most powerful, will, by the help of God, grant that the true, lasting, and fruitful peace of the Church may at last dawn on all nations and peoples.
Such, We hope, through the intercession of Bernard, may be the rich and wholesome effects of the centenary celebration of his most holy death. Do you, all, join Us in prayer for this intention, and as you study and ponder on the example of the “Doctor Mellifluus,” strive earnestly and eagerly to follow his footsteps.
Now as a pledge of these benefits We bestow with heartfelt affection upon you, Venerable Brothers, upon the flocks entrusted to you, and particularly on those who have embraced the Institute of St. Bernard, the Apostolic Blessing.