On the Love of God

Monday, August 20, 2012 — Week of Proper 15

Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, 1153

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 981)

Psalms 106:1-18 (morning) 106:19-28 (evening)

Judges 17:1-13

Acts 7:44 – 8:1a

John 5:19-29

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today is the feast day of Bernard, who wrote some of the most passionate sermons and treatises — some filled with his passionate love of God, some filled with passionate polemic against those whom he thought threatened the church or its faith. Though he has been criticized for his preaching which fueled the disastrous Second Crusade, he is appreciated for stopping a purge of Jews in the Rhineland, and many Jews from there named their sons for him.

Here is a lovely passage from Bernard’s On the Love of God as collected by Robert Atwell in his delightful resource Celebrating the Saints, (Canterbury Press, 2010).

God deserves of us all our love, a love which knows no bounds. This is the first thing to understand. The reason is because God was the first to love. God, who is so great, loves us so much; he loves us freely, poor, pathetic, worthless creatures though we be. This is why I insist that our love for God should know no bounds. And since love given to God is given to the One who is infinite and without boundary, what measure or boundary could we make anyway?

…God, infinite and eternal, who is love beyond our human capacity to comprehend, whose greatness knows no bounds, whose wisdom has no end, simply loves. Should we, for our part then, set limits on our love for God?

‘I will love you, O Lord my strength, my strong rock and my defense, my Saviour, my sole desire and love.’ My God, my helper, I will love you with all the power you have given me; not worthily, because that is impossible, but nevertheless to the best of my ability…

The reason, then, for our loving God is God. He is the initiator of our love and its final goal. He is himself the occasion of human love; he gives us the power to love, and brings our desire to consummation. God is lovable in himself, and gives himself to us as the object of our love. He desires that our love for him should bring us happiness, and not be arid or barren. His love for us opens up inside us the way to love, it is the reward of our own reaching out in love. How gently he leads us in love’s way, how generously he returns the love we give, how sweet he is to those who wait for him!

God is indeed rich to all who call to him, for he can give them nothing better than to give them himself. He gave himself to be our righteousness, and he keeps himself to be our great reward. He offers himself as refreshment to our souls, and spends himself to set free those in prison. You are good, Lord, to the soul that seeks you. What, then, are you to the soul that find you? The marvel is, no one can seek you who has not already found you. You want us to find you so that we may seek you, but we can never anticipate your coming, for though we say ‘Early shall be my prayer come before you,’ a chilly, loveless thing that prayer would be, were it not warmed by your own breath and born of your own Spirit.

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