Daily Reading for August 20 • Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, 1153

When the Word departs it is a though you were to remove the fire from beneath a boiling pot. Immediately the water becomes lifeless and lukewarm and begins to cool. For me this is the sign of his departure and my soul necessarily feels sad until he comes back. The usual sign of his return is that my heart within me begins to warm.

Because this has been my experience with the Word, what wonder that I use the words of the bride in calling him back after he has gone away. I am moved by the same sort of desire as she, even though mine is imperfect and less intense. As long as I live, my habitual manner of recalling the Word will be that word of recall: “Return.” Whenever he slips away, I will not cease to call out, my cry following him as he goes. And with the cry is the burning desire of my heart that he return, that he come back to give me the joy of his saving help, to give me himself.

I say this much to you, children. As long as he is absent, who is the only source of my enjoyment, nothing else can bring me pleasure. I pray that he will not return empty-handed, but that he will come back in his usual way, full of grace and truth, just as he did yesterday and the day before. It seems to me that this is why he shows himself like a roe and a young hart: truth has the eyes of a roe and grace has the joyfulness of the young hart.

From How the Word Visits the Soul by Bernard of Clairvaux, quoted in The Benedictine Tradition: Spirituality in History, edited and introduced by Laura Swan, a volume in the Spirituality in History Series (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2007).

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