Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Devotion for today: "If you desire to live in this house, leave your body behind; only spirits can enter here." August 20th, the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Matthew 6:24: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast we celebrate today, uttered the quote which is the title of this devotion. “Leave your body behind.” Bring only your soul into the daily workings of your life. Imagine your joy in waking every morning to the thought that all else was inconsequential except your love for God, your prayers to God, your work devoted to God. Imagine not caring if you were recognized or applauded, if you were the best looking or the thinnest person in the room, if your food was for survival and not for gluttony! How marvelous to leave our body behind and let our spirits soar!
This, of course, is not easy to do in the world, and it was difficult for St. Bernard as well.

When St. Bernard entered the Cistercians at the age of twenty-two, he had only one desire:to live hidden and forgotten, concerned only with God.” How many of us have days where we wish we could just make the world go away and spend our time in prayer and contemplation? How many times do we feel overwhelmed with the needs of others and the demands they place on our time and energy? Sometimes I just read the passage  in the Bible where Jesus got in a boat and went to a secluded place. I picture myself rowing in a beautiful lagoon surrounded by blue skies and gorgeous clear water, the sound of birds chirping and fish splashing, and then the phone rings and the dryer buzzer goes off and the alarm on the stove blares me back to my real world. It is then I remember that God didn’t put me here to simply rest in His arms. That life He chose for someone else. For me, He uses His arms to gently push me out into the world. That is where I belong. That is the life I must live. So it was with St. Bernard.

St. Bernard’s life was filled with anxiety and worries, so much so that he developed severe stomach trouble, much like those of us who worry and fret internally yet never lose the faith. He was an eloquent preacher and writer, a gifted mediator and problem solver, an advisor to Popes and Bishops and kings alike, and the abbot of his monastery as well. Many miracles occurred when he would bless the sick or pray over people. He truly was a man of God, unwavering and unflinching in his defense of the Church’s teachings in the face of many heresies in the 12th century. No matter what opposition was preached at the time, Bernard always stayed on the side of the ancient doctors who trusted wholly to Scripture and faith and mystical experience. He is an excellent role model for those of us who refuse to believe what the societies of the world tell us to believe: that truth is relative, God is made in man’s image, and the pursuit of earthly happiness tops the sacrifices necessary to obtain eternal life. St. Bernard suffered great personal attacks and opposition, yet because he stayed true to God, it is said of him that he had "carried the twelfth century on his shoulders." May we, too, be looked upon as people who carried the love and mercy of Christ into our century, and may we have the strength and conviction of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, truly a saint for our times.  At one point, toward the end of his life, he even admitted that "The saints were moved to pray for death out of a longing to see Christ, but I am driven hence by scandals and evil." I think we can all identify with that statement!! Let us follow the words of Jesus, and choose to serve God and not man. St.  Bernard made that choice, and it served him well all the days of his life. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us.

Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts by St. Bernard
Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts, Thou fount of life, thou Light of men,
From the poor bliss that earth imparts, We turn unfilled to thee again.
Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood; Thou savest those who on thee call; To them that seek thee, thou art good, To them that find thee, all in all.
We taste thee, O thou living Bread,
And long to feast upon thee still; We drink of thee the Fountain-head, And thirst our souls from thee to fill.
Our restless spirits yearn for thee, Where'er our changeful lot is cast;
Glad, when thy gracious smile we see, Blest, when our faith can hold thee fast.
O Jesus, ever with us stay; Make all our moments calm and bright, Chase the dark night of sin away; Shed o'er the world thy holy light.
Information on St. Bernard’s life was obtained from http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/bernard2.htm

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