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LETTER XXXVI (circa A.D. 1131)

To the Same Hildebert, Who Had Not Yet Acknowledged the Lord Innocent as Pope.

To the great prelate, most exalted in renown, Hildebert, by the grace of God Archbishop of Tours, Bernard, called Abbot of Clairvaux, sends greeting, and prays that he may walk in the Spirit, and spiritually discern all things.

1. To address you in the words of the prophet, Consolation is hid from their eyes, because death divideth between brethren (Hosea xiii. 14, Vulg.). For it seems as if according to the language of Isaiah they have made a covenant with death, and are at agreement with hell (Is. xxviii. 15). For behold, Innocent, that anointed5656     Christus. of the Lord, is set for the fall and rising again of many (cf. S. Luke ii. 34). Those who are of God, gladly join themselves to him; but he who is of the opposite part, is either of Antichrist, or Antichrist himself. The abomination is seen standing in the holy place; and that he may seize it, like a flame he is burning the sanctuary of God. He 136persecutes Innocent, and in him all innocence. Innocent, in sooth, flees from the face of Leo, as saith the prophet: The lion hath roared; who will not fear (Amos iii. 8). He flees according to the bidding of the Lord, which says, When they persecute you in one city flee ye into another (S. Matt. x. 23). He flees, and thereby proves himself an apostolic man, by ennobling himself with the apostle’s example. For Paul blushed not to be let down in a basket over a wall (Acts ix. 25), and so to escape the hands of those who were seeking his life. He escaped not to spare his life, but to give place unto wrath; not to avoid death, but to attain life. Rightly does the Church yield his place to Innocent, whom she sees walking in the same steps.

2. However, Innocent’s flight is not without fruit. He suffers, no doubt, but is honoured in the midst of his sufferings. Driven from the city, he is welcomed by the world. From the ends of the earth, men meet the fugitive with sustenance; although the rage of that Shimei, Gerard of Angoulême, has not yet entirely ceased to curse David. Whether it pleases or does not please that sinner who sees it with discontent, he cannot prevent Innocent being honoured in the presence of kings, and bearing a crown of glory. Have not all princes acknowledged that he is in truth the elect of God? The Kings of France, England, and Spain, and finally the King of the Romans, receive Innocent as Pope, and recognise him alone as bishop of their souls (2 Sam. xvii.). Only Ahitophel is now unaware that his counsels have been exposed and brought to nought. In vain the wretch labours to devise evil counsel against the 137people of God, and to plot against the saints who stoutly adhere to their saintly Pontiff, scorning to bow the knee to Baal. By no guile shall he avail to procure for his parricide the kingdom over Israel and the holy city, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. A threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes iv. 12). The threefold cord of the choice of the better sort, the assent of the majority, arid, what is more effective yet in these matters, the witness of a pure life, commend Innocent to all, and establish him as chief Pontiff.

3. And so, very Reverend Father, we await your vote, late though it be, as rain upon a fleece of wool. We do not disapprove of a certain slowness, for it savours of gravity, and banishes all sign of levity. For Mary did not at once answer the angel’s salutation, but first considered in her mind what manner of salutation this should be (S. Luke i. 29); and Timothy was commanded to lay hands suddenly on no man (1 Tim. v. 22). Yet I, who am known to the Prelate I am addressing, venture to say “nought in excess;” I, his acquaintance and friend, say, Let not a man thank more highly of himself than he ought to think (Rom. xii. 3). It is a shame, I must confess, that the old serpent, letting silly women alone, has, with a new boldness, even assayed the valour of your heart, and dared to shake to its base so mighty a pillar of the Church. I trust, however, that though shaken it is not tottering to its fall. For the friend of the bridegroom standeth and rejoiceth at the bridegroom’s voice (S. John iii. 29); the voice of joy and health, the voice of unity and peace.


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