Wisdom 7: 7-10,15-16. 1 John 4: 7- 16. John 15: 9 – 17
St. Bernard is celebrated today as a great saint of the Church. And not only a great Abbot of our Order but a Doctor of the Church, who so wonderfully inspires folks on the spiritual journey.
Bernard’s first gift to the Order was his entrance to Citeaux. He brought almost all his brothers with him from his large family. Among Bernard’s exceptional gifts was a power to influence people, not just by eloquence, not just by force of character or moral strength, but by a combination of these qualities with a sense of urgency and spiritual adventure that proved almost irresistible.
His arrival at Citeaux doubled the community and transformed it’s prospects. He was a novice for a year, two years as a simple monk , then was sent out to be abbot of Clairvaux and remained abbot there until his death in 1153. When he died all of Europe mourned.
St. Bernard is a wonderful example of the grace of monastic life. You can read that the history books of monasticism characterize Bernard in his early days as tempestuous and ruthless. Willing to tell kings and Popes how to live their lives. But he was formed into that softened Abbot by St. Stephen Harding, one of our founders, who tempered Bernard’s personality by his loving approach and kindly nature. Which lead Bernard to a life of fidelity to our vow of conversatio. That truly transformed his life. So here we are today, called to transformation the way we need to be converted by our monastic life. We all have a story and know our need for God so to become as the scriptures teach us today – loving as God loves us. To give our lives for others as Christ gave his life for us. Of course, this is the Christian life we all are called to live. We monks have received the grace of a call to live out the gospel in the monastic way. A life of purification really.
Our community life offers us the space to be transformed into Christ by our fidelity to our charism of solitude and silence, fraternal charity and continuous prayer. What a gift we have been given. St. Bernard’s feast today underlines the timelessness of this call. Over a thousand years men and women have lived this unique charism of Citeaux and La Trappe. We offer the Church this profound gift of our Opus Dei – the Liturgy of the Hours, sung in praise of God every day. And indeed, this prayer offers us the way into our transformation by the very Word of God that pierces the heart.
As the Wisdom writer tells us, it’s through prayer and discernment that we come to rely on God as the focus of our lives. Then we can truly abide in God’s love, and come to love others as God loves us. The gospel invites us to bear fruit that will endure into eternal life. That’s why we have become monks. To be so faithful to God’s gift to us that we seek to please God in every way by this life. Oh, how our world today, need a new way of being, we can give that example by our vocation to this community life to show the power of Christ and the truth of the Gospel. We can give the world hope and a way forward.
Thinking of Bernard’s call brought me to remember my call – the way God invited me here. It was an invitation to be home. Fr. Benjamin many years ago suggested to me to see Mepkin as my home. And he was right, Mepkin has been my spiritual home for a very long time. But only in the last dozen years, has it become by permanent home and all I can say is Thanks Be to God. Because being home means to come to your true self, rejoicing in it and recognizing the gift of God has given you to belong to him,.
So, my brothers, think of your call and that grace that still fills you with joy. We celebrate St. Bernard and our Cistercian life, he so gallantly promoted in every way. Let us live with the same zeal that made him a great saint and inspired so many to embrace Christ.