Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bernard of Clairvaux, Hymnwriter and Theologian - 2012

Sunday, August 19
12th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15)
Commemoration of Bernard of Clairvaux, Hymnwriter and Theologian

The Lord be with you,

On August 19, in the LC-MS, we remember Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). Most liturgical calendars that include him, set aside August 20 for him as that is the day he died. However, on our calendar, August 20 is reserved for the judge/prophet Samuel.

Bernard was a leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the twelfth century. He is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy, at age twenty-two Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the recently founded Benedictine monastery and motherhouse of the Citeaux Order. After two years, he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. He undertook the work as the new abbot with twelve others. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some sixty-eight daughter houses. He was key in forming the Knights Templar, which soon became the ideal of Medieval Christian nobility. Bernard is remembered not only for his charity and political abilities (he was critical in healing a split in the Roman Church, which had two popes for a while, which required meeting with the kings of England, France, Germany, and others) but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful,” “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” “Jesus, The Very Thought of Thee,” and “Light of the Anxious Heart,” are part of the heritage of the faith left by Saint Bernard. He is remembered also for his tireless attacks on the luxury of the clergy, the persecution of the Jews, and the abuses of the Roman curia.

Bernard’s theology is characterized by a desire to deepen the inner experience of prayer and contemplation. He was instrumental in re-emphasizing the importance of Lectio Divina and contemplation on Scripture within the Cistercian order. (Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “holy reading” and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights. The practice dates back to the 200s.) Bernard had observed that when the practice was neglected monasticism suffered. He considered Lectio Divina, and contemplation guided by the Holy Spirit, the keys to nourishing Christian spirituality. I should point out that this method is most profitably employed by those with a rich Christian corporate worship life. He was also responsible for the exaltation of the Virgin Mary in Christian theology. Prior to him, Mary held a very minor role.

Prayer: O God, enkindled with the fire of Your love, Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux became a burning and shining light in Your Church. By Your mercy, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline and may ever walk in Your presence as children of light; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Other appropriate prayers include:
  • For the strengthening of the Church everywhere
  • For the clergy, that they may live what they preach
  • For a stronger prayer life
  • For a deeper understanding of the connection between our life as a Christian and the life, death, resurrection, ascension, ruling, and returning Christ.
  • For a thankful heart for Mary, and all the saints, and their role in salvation history.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Below is a video of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” with the words.

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