« Prev Letter XXXVIII. To His Monks of Clairvaux. Next »

LETTER XXXVIII (circa A.D. 1135)

To His Monks of Clairvaux.

To his dearly-loved brethren the Monks of Clairvaux, the converts,5959    “Converts” ( conversi ) was the name formerly given to adults who had been converted to the religious life, and who were distinguished by this name from those who were offered as children. The lay brethren are here meant; cf. ep. 141 n. 1. They were present at the election of an abbot (ep. 36 n. 2), just as once the laity were joined with the clergy in the election of a bishop. Here they are named before the novices, but in Sermon 22 (de Diversis n. 2) they come after them; they were not admitted into the choir. Bernard, moreover, distinguishes them from the monks. For at that time they were not among the Cistercians reckoned among the monks, as is proved by the Exordium Cisterc. (c. 15); although they made some profession. Hence Innocent II, in some deed of privilege or in ep. 352, here says: “Let no one presume without your leave to receive or to retain any one of your converts who have made their profession, but are not monks, be he archbishop, bishop, or abbot.” In the Council of Rheims, held under Eugenius III., the converts are called “the professed” (Can. 7), and although they may have returned to the world, yet they are declared incapable of matrimony, like the monks, from whom, nevertheless, they are distinguished. For the early days of Clairvaux cf. notes to ep. 31. and the novices, their brother 141Bernard sends greeting, bidding them rejoice in the Lord always.

1. Judge by yourselves what I am suffering. If my absence is painful to you, let no one doubt that it is far more painful to me. The loss is not equal, the burden is not the same, for you are deprived of but one individual, while I am bereft of all of you. It cannot but be that I am weighed down by as many anxieties as you are in number; I grieve for the absence of each one of you, and fear the dangers which may attack you. This double grief will not leave me until I am restored to my children. I doubt not that you feel the same for me; but then I am but one. You have but a single ground for sadness; I have many, for I am sad on account of you all. Nor is it my only trouble that I am forced to live for a time apart from you, when without you I should regard even to reign as miserable slavery, but there is added to this that I am forced to live among things which altogether disturb the tranquillity of my soul, and perhaps are little in harmony with the end of the monastic life.

2. And since you know these things, you must not be angry at my long absence, which is not according to my will, but is due to the necessities of the Church; rather pity me. I hope that it will not be a long absence now; do you pray that it may not be unfruitful. Let any losses which may in the meantime happen to befall you be regarded as gains, for 142the cause is God’s. And since He is gracious and all-powerful, He will easily make any losses good, and even add greater riches. Therefore, let us be of good courage, since we have God with us, in whom I am present with you, though we may seem to be separated by a long distance. Let no one among you who shows himself attentive to his duties, humble, reverent, devoted to reading, watchful unto prayer, anxious for brotherly love, think that I am absent from him. For can I be anything but present with him in spirit when we are of one heart and one mind? But if, which God forbid, there be among you any whisperer, or any that is double-tongued, a murmurer, or rebellious, or impatient of discipline, or restless or truant, and who is not ashamed to eat the bread of idleness, from such I should be far absent in soul even though present in body, just because he would have already set himself far from God by a distance of character and not of space.

3. In the meanwhile, brethren, until I come, serve the Lord in fear, that in Him being delivered from the hand of your enemies you may serve Him without fear. Serve Him in hope, for He is faithful that promised; serve Him by good works, for He is bountiful to reward. To say nothing else, He rightly claims this life of ours as His own, because He laid down His own to obtain it. Let none, therefore, live to himself, but to Him who died for him. For whom can I more justly live than for Him whose death was my life? for whom with more profit to myself than for Him who promises eternal life? for whom under a greater necessity than for Him who threatens me with everlasting flames? But I serve 143Him willingly, because love gives liberty. To this I exhort my children. Serve Him in that love which casteth out fear, which feels no labours, seeks for no reward, thinks of no merit, and yet is more urgent than all. No terror is so powerful, no rewards so inviting, no righteousness so exacting. May it join me to you never to be divided, may it also bring me before you, especially at your hours of prayer, my brethren, dearly beloved and greatly longed for.

« Prev Letter XXXVIII. To His Monks of Clairvaux. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |