Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
Are you one of those persons who loves to write, or would you rather keep your thoughts to yourself? Bernard of Clairvaux, who helped to revive the monastic movement in his day, wrote this to Ailred, the abbot of the monastery at Rievaulx:
To Ailred of Rievaulx: The greatest virtue of the saints is humility, but a humility which is real because it is discreet. True humility has nothing to do with deceit; the sacrilege of disobedience destroys it.
I have asked your brotherly love; more, I have ordered you; more, I have commanded you in the name of God, to write me a little something to help those who are entangled in grievances and who are following the narrow way of self-indulgence.
I do not condemn or reprove you for excusing yourself, but I accuse you of obstinacy. It was humility to excuse yourself. But is it humility to disobey? . . .
But you claim that it would be too heavy a burden for your girlish shoulders to carry and that it would be wiser not to take it on, than to fall down under the weight when you have undertaken it. What I command is, indeed, heavy. It is difficult. It is impossible. But that gives you no excuse. I persist in my view. I repeat my command. What will you do? . . .
And so I order you in the name of Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God, that whatever thoughts about the excellence of love, its fruits, its ordering, have come to you in your daily meditations, you will not put off writing them down, so that we can see as in a mirror what love is and how sweet it is to possess; and how great an oppression there is in greed, which is its opposite; and that outward affliction does not diminish that sweetness of love as some think, but rather increases it; and lastly, with what discretion it should be exercised. Indeed, to spare your modesty, let this letter be copied at the beginning of the book, so that whatever may displease the reader in The Mirror of Love (for that is the title I give it) may be blamed not upon you who obey, but upon me, who forced you to write it against your will.
Farewell in Christ, beloved brother.
(Bernard of Clairvaux, Selected Works, 287-288)
The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek