"Obedience is a short cut to perfection."

St Philip Neri

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Lord, here burn, here cut, and dry up in me all that hinders me from going to You, that You may spare me in eternity."

St Louis Bertrand

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 St Bernard of Clairvaux   (1090-1153)  Father and Doctor of the Church
Encyclical of Pope Pius XII on St Bernard


By St Bernard of Clairvaux


Ch 5. Of the Christian's debt of love, how great it is.

From the contemplation of what has been said, we see plainly that God is to be loved, and that He has a just claim upon our love. But the infidel does not acknowledge the Son of God, and so he can know neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit; for he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which sent Him, nor the Spirit whom He hath sent (John 5.23). He knows less of God than we; no wonder that he loves God less. This much he understands at least--that he owes all he is to his Creator.

But how will it be with me? For I know that my God is not merely the bounteous Bestower of my life, the generous Provider for all my needs, the pitiful Consoler of all my sorrows, the wise Guide of my course: but that He is far more than all that. He saves me with an abundant deliverance: He is my eternal Preserver, the portion of my inheritance, my glory. Even so it is written, 'With Him is plenteous redemption' (Ps. 130.7); and again, 'He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us' (Heb. 9.12). Of His salvation it is written, 'He forsaketh not His that be godly; but they are preserved for ever' (Ps. 37.28); and of His bounty, 'Good measure, pressed down and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom' (Luke 6.38); and in another place, 'Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, those things which God hath prepared for them that love Him' (I Cor. 2.9).

He will glorify us, even as the apostle beareth witness, saying, 'We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body' (Phil. 3.20f); and again, 'I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us' (Rom. 8.18); and once more, 'Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen (II Cor. 4.17f).

'What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?' (Ps. 116.12). Reason and natural justice alike move me to give up myself wholly to loving Him to whom I owe all that I have and am. But faith shows me that I should love Him far more than I love myself, as I come to realize that He hath given me not my own life only, but even Himself. Yet, before the time of full revelation had come, before the Word was made flesh, died on the Cross, came forth from the grave, and returned to His Father; before God had shown us how much He loved us by all this plenitude of grace, the commandment had been uttered, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy might' (Deut. 6.5), that is, with all thy being, all thy knowledge, all thy powers.

And it was not unjust for God to claim this from His own work and gifts. Why should not the creature love his Creator, who gave him the power to love? Why should he not love Him with all his being, since it is by His gift alone that he can do anything that is good? It was God's creative grace that out of nothingness raised us to the dignity of manhood; and from this appears our duty to love Him, and the justice of His claim to that love.

But how infinitely is the benefit increased when we bethink ourselves of His fulfillment of the promise, 'thou, Lord, shalt save both man and beast: how excellent is Thy mercy, O Lord! ' (Ps. 36.6f). For we, who 'turned our glory into the similitude of a calf that eateth hay' (Ps. 106.20), by our evil deeds debased ourselves so that we might be compared unto the beasts that perish. I owe all that I am to Him who made me: but how can I pay my debt to Him who redeemed me, and in such wondrous wise?

Creation was not so vast a work as redemption; for it is written of man and of all things that were made, 'He spake the word, and they were made' (Ps. 148.5). But to redeem that creation which sprang into being at His word, how much He spake, what wonders He wrought, what hardships He endured, what shames He suffered! Therefore what reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits which He hath done unto me?

In the first creation He gave me myself; but in His new creation He gave me Himself, and by that gift restored to me the self that I had lost. Created first and then restored, I owe Him myself twice over in return for myself. But what have I to offer Him for the gift of Himself? Could I multiply myself a thousand-fold and then give Him all, what would that be in comparison with God?