Bernard of Clairvaux quotes

“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity.

There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity.

There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.”
― Bernard of Clairvaux

“hell is full of good wishes and desires.”
― Bernard of Clairvaux
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
― Bernard of Clairvaux
“Many of those who are humiliated are not humble. Some react to humiliation with anger, others with patience, and others with freedom. The first are culpable, the next harmless, the last just.”
― Bernard of Clairvaux
“Neither fear nor self-interest can convert the soul. They may change the appearance, perhaps even the conduct, but never the object of supreme desire… Fear is the motive which constrains the slave; greed binds the selfish man, by which he is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (James 1:14). But neither fear nor self-interest is undefiled, nor can they convert the soul. Only charity can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives.”
― Bernard of Clairvaux
“What we love we shall grow to resemble.”
― Bernard of Clairvaux
“The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself … Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare … You too must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”
― Bernard of Clairvaux

LOVING GOD by St. Bernard of Clairvaux –

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CHAPTER 1
  Why we should love God and the measure of that love

   You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer,
   the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due
   to Him is immeasurable love. Is this plain? Doubtless, to a thoughtful
   man; but I am debtor to the unwise also. A word to the wise is
   sufficient; but I must consider simple folk too. Therefore I set myself
   joyfully to explain more in detail what is meant above.

   We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is
   more reasonable, nothing more profitable. When one asks, Why should I
   love God? he may mean, What is lovely in God? or What shall I gain by
   loving God? In either case, the same sufficient cause of love exists,
   namely, God Himself.

   And first, of His title to our love. Could any title be greater than
   this, that He gave Himself for us unworthy wretches? And being God,
   what better gift could He offer than Himself? Hence, if one seeks for
   God's claim upon our love here is the chiefest: Because He first loved
   us (I John 4.19).

   Ought He not to be loved in return, when we think who loved, whom He
   loved, and how much He loved? For who is He that loved? The same of
   whom every spirit testifies: Thou art my God: my goods are nothing unto
   Thee' (Ps. 16.2, Vulg.). And is not His love that wonderful charity
   which seeketh not her own'? (I Cor.13.5). But for whom was such
   unutterable love made manifest? The apostle tells us: When we were
   enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son' (Rom.
   5.10). So it was God who loved us, loved us freely, and loved us while
   yet we were enemies. And how great was this love of His? St. John
   answers: God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,
   that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting
   life' (John 3.16). St. Paul adds: He spared not His own Son, but
   delivered Him up for us all' (Rom. 8.32); and the Son says of Himself,
   Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for
   his friends' (John 15.13).

   This is the claim which God the holy, the supreme, the omnipotent, has
   upon men, defiled and base and weak. Some one may urge that this is
   true of mankind, but not of angels. True, since for angels it was not
   needful. He who succored men in their time of need, preserved angels
   from such need; and even as His love for sinful men wrought wondrously
   in them so that they should not remain sinful, so that same love which
   in equal measure He poured out upon angels kept them altogether free
   from sin.

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  Chapter II.

  On loving God. How much God deserves love from man in recognition of His
  gifts, both material and spiritual: and how these gifts should be cherished
  without neglect of the Giver

   Those who admit the truth of what I have said know, I am sure, why we
   are bound to love God. But if unbelievers will not grant it, their
   ingratitude is at once confounded by His innumerable benefits, lavished
   on our race, and plainly discerned by the senses. Who is it that gives
   food to all flesh, light to every eye, air to all that breathe? It
   would be foolish to begin a catalogue, since I have just called them
   innumerable: but I name, as notable instances, food, sunlight and air;
   not because they are God's best gifts, but because they are essential
   to bodily life. Man must seek in his own higher nature for the highest
   gifts; and these are dignity, wisdom and virtue. By dignity I mean
   free-will, whereby he not only excels all other earthly creatures, but
   has dominion over them. Wisdom is the power whereby he recognizes this
   dignity, and perceives also that it is no accomplishment of his own.
   And virtue impels man to seek eagerly for Him who is man's Source, and
   to lay fast hold on Him when He has been found.

   Now, these three best gifts have each a twofold character. Dignity
   appears not only as the prerogative of human nature, but also as the
   cause of that fear and dread of man which is upon every beast of the
   earth. Wisdom perceives this distinction, but owns that though in us,
   it is, like all good qualities, not of us. And lastly, virtue moves us
   to search eagerly for an Author, and, when we have found Him, teaches
   us to cling to Him yet more eagerly. Consider too that dignity without
   wisdom is nothing worth; and wisdom is harmful without virtue, as this
   argument following shows: There is no glory in having a gift without
   knowing it. But to know only that you have it, without knowing that it
   is not of yourself that you have it, means self-glorying, but no true
   glory in God. And so the apostle says to men in such cases, What hast
   thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why
   dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? (I Cor. 4.7). He
   asks, Why dost thou glory? but goes on, as if thou hadst not received
   it, showing that the guilt is not in glorying over a possession, but in
   glorying as though it had not been received. And rightly such glorying
   is called vain-glory, since it has not the solid foundation of truth.
   The apostle shows how to discern the true glory from the false, when he
   says, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, that is, in the
   Truth, since our Lord is Truth (I Cor. 1.31; John 14.6).

   We must know, then, what we are, and that it is not of ourselves that
   we are what we are. Unless we know this thoroughly, either we shall not
   glory at all, or our glorying will be vain. Finally, it is written, If
   thou know not, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock' (Cant.
   1.8). And this is right. For man, being in honor, if he know not his
   own honor, may fitly be compared, because of such ignorance, to the
   beasts that perish. Not knowing himself as the creature that is
   distinguished from the irrational brutes by the possession of reason,
   he commences to be confounded with them because, ignorant of his own
   true glory which is within, he is led captive by his curiosity, and
   concerns himself with external, sensual things. So he is made to
   resemble the lower orders by not knowing that he has been more highly
   endowed than they.

   We must be on our guard against this ignorance. We must not rank
   ourselves too low; and with still greater care we must see that we do
   not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, as happens
   when we foolishly impute to ourselves whatever good may be in us. But
   far more than either of these kinds of ignorance, we must hate and shun
   that presumption which would lead us to glory in goods not our own,
   knowing that they are not of ourselves but of God, and yet not fearing
   to rob God of the honor due unto Him. For mere ignorance, as in the
   first instance, does not glory at all; and mere wisdom, as in the
   second, while it has a kind of glory, yet does not glory in the Lord.
   In the third evil case, however, man sins not in ignorance but
   deliberately, usurping the glory which belongs to God. And this
   arrogance is a more grievous and deadly fault than the ignorance of the
   second, since it contemns God, while the other knows Him not. Ignorance
   is brutal, arrogance is devilish. Pride only, the chief of all
   iniquities, can make us treat gifts as if they were rightful attributes
   of our nature, and, while receiving benefits, rob our Benefactor of His
   due glory.

   Wherefore to dignity and wisdom we must add virtue, the proper fruit of
   them both. Virtue seeks and finds Him who is the Author and Giver of
   all good, and who must be in all things glorified; otherwise, one who
   knows what is right yet fails to perform it, will be beaten with many
   stripes (Luke 12.47). Why? you may ask. Because he has failed to put
   his knowledge to good effect, but rather has imagined mischief upon his
   bed (PS. 36.4); like a wicked servant, he has turned aside to seize the
   glory which, his own knowledge assured him, belonged only to his good
   Lord and Master. It is plain, therefore, that dignity without wisdom is
   useless and that wisdom without virtue is accursed. But when one
   possesses virtue, then wisdom and dignity are not dangerous but
   blessed. Such a man calls on God and lauds Him, confessing from a full
   heart, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory'
   (PS. 115.1). Which is to say, O Lord, we claim no knowledge, no
   distinction for ourselves; all is Thine, since from Thee all things do
   come.'

   But we have digressed too far in the wish to prove that even those who
   know not Christ are sufficiently admonished by the natural law, and by
   their own endowments of soul and body, to love God for God's own sake.
   To sum up: what infidel does not know that he has received light, air,
   food--all things necessary for his own body's life--from Him alone who
   giveth food to all flesh (Ps. 136.25), who maketh His sun to rise on
   the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the
   unjust (Matt. 5.45). Who is so impious as to attribute the peculiar
   eminence of humanity to any other except to Him who saith, in Genesis,
   Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness'? (Gen. 1.26). Who
   else could be the Bestower of wisdom, but He that teacheth man
   knowledge? (Ps. 94.10). Who else could bestow virtue except the Lord of
   virtue? Therefore even the infidel who knows not Christ but does at
   least know himself, is bound to love God for God's own sake. He is
   unpardonable if he does not love the Lord his God with all his heart,
   and with all his soul, and with all his mind; for his own innate
   justice and common sense cry out from within that he is bound wholly to
   love God, from whom he has received all things. But it is hard, nay
   rather, impossible, for a man by his own strength or in the power of
   free-will to render all things to God from whom they came, without
   rather turning them aside, each to his own account, even as it is
   written, For all seek their own' (Phil. 2.21); and again, The
   imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth' (Gen. 8.21).

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