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LETTER XXXIX (A.D. 1137)
To the Same.
He expresses his regret at his very long absence from his beloved Clairvaux, and his desire to return to his dear sons. He tells them of the consolations that he feels nevertheless in his great labours for the Church.
1. My soul is sorrowful until I return, and it refuses to be comforted till it see you. For what is my consolation in the hour of evil, and in the place of my pilgrimage? Are not you in the Lord? Wherever I go, the sweet memory of you never leaves me; but the sweeter the memory the more I feel the absence. Ah, me! that the time of my sojourning here is not only prolonged, but its burden increased, and truly, as the Prophet says, they who for a time separate me from you have added to the pain of my wounds (Ps. lxix. 26). Life is an exile, and one that is dreary enough, for while we are in the body we are absent from the Lord. To this is added the special grief which almost makes me impatient, that I am forced to live without you. It is a protracted sickness, a wearisome waiting, to be so long subject to the vanity which possesses everything here, to be imprisoned within the horrid dungeon of a noisome body, to be still bound with the chains of death, and the ropes of sin, and all this time to be away from Christ. But against all these things one solace was given me from above, instead of His glorious countenance which has not yet been revealed, and that is the sight of the holy temple of God, which is you. From this temple it used to seem to me an easy passage to that glorious temple, after which the Prophet sighed when he said: One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will require, even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord and to visit His temple (Ps. xxvi. 4).
2. What shall I say? how often has that solace been taken from me? Lo, this is now the third time, if I mistake not, that my children have been taken from me. The babes have been too early weaned, and I am not allowed to bring up those whom I begot through the Gospel. In short, I am forced to abandon my own children and look after those of others, and I hardly know which is the more distressing, to be taken from the former, or to have to do with the latter. O, good Jesu! is my whole life thus to waste away in grief, and my years in mourning? It is good for me, O Lord, rather to die than to live, only let it be amongst my brethren, those of my own household, those who are dearest to my heart. That, as all know, is sweeter and safer, and more natural. Nay, it would be a loving act to grant to me that I might be refreshed before I go away, and be no more seen. If it please my Lord that the eyes of a father, who is not worthy to be called a father, should be closed by the hands of his sons, that they may witness his last moments, soothe his end, and raise his spirit by their loving prayers to the blissful fellowship, if you think him worthy to have his body buried with the bodies of those who are blessed because poor, if I have found favour in Thy sight, this I most earnestly ask that I may obtain by the prayers and merits of these my brethren. Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done. Not for my own sake do I wish for either life or death.
3. But it is only right, that as you have heard of my grief, you should also know what consolation I have. The first solace for all the trouble and misfortune that I undergo is the thought that the cause I strive for is that of Him to whom all things live. Whether I will or no, I must live for Him who bought my life at the price of His own, and who is able, as a merciful and righteous judge, to recompense us in that day whatever we may suffer for Him. But if I have served as His soldier against my will, it will be only that a dispensation has been entrusted unto me, and I shall be an unprofitable servant; but if I serve willingly I shall have glory. In this consideration, then, I breathe again for a little. My second consolation is that often, without any merit of mine, grace from above has crowned me in my labours, and that grace in me was not in vain, as I have many times found, and as you have seen to some extent. But how necessary just now the presence of my feebleness is to the Church of God, I would say for your consolation were it not that it would sound like boasting. But as it is, it is better that you should learn it from others.
4. Moved by the pressing request of the Emperor, by the Apostolic command, as well as by the prayers of the Church and the princes, whether with my will or against my will, weak and ill, and, to say truth, carrying about with me the pallid image of the King of terrors, I am borne away into Apulia. Pray for the things which make for the Church’s peace and our salvation, that I may again see you, live with you, and die with you, and so live that ye may obtain. In my weakness and time of distress, with tears and groanings, I have dictated these words, as our dear brother Baldwin6060 Baldwin, first Cardinal of the Cistercian Order, was created by Innocent, A.D. 1130, at a Council held at Claremont. He was afterwards made Archbishop of Pisa; cf. Life of S. Bernard (lib. ii. n. 49): “In Pisa was Baldwin born, the glory of his native land, and a burning light to the Church.” So great a man did not think it beneath him to act as Bernard’s secretary, and his praises are sung in ep. 245, cf. ep. 201. can testify, who has taken them down from my mouth, and who has been called by the Church to another office and elevated to a new dignity. Pray, too, for him, as my one comfort now, and in whom my spirit is greatly refreshed. Pray, too, for our lord the Pope, who regards me and all of you equally with the tenderest affection. Pray, too, for my lord the Chancellor, who is to me as a mother; and for those who are with him—my lord Luke, my lord Chrysogonus, and Master Ivo6161 All these were Cardinals. Luke, of the title of SS. John and Paul, was created A.D. 1132; Chrysogonus, of the title of S. Maria de Porticu, A.D. 1134; Ivo, a regular Canon of S. Victor of Paris, A.D. 1130, of the title of S. Laurence in Damascus; to him ep. 193 was written. —who show themselves as brothers. They who are with me—Brother Bruno and Brother Gerard6262 Bruno is called (ep. 209) the father of many disciples in Sicily. Gerard seems to be Bernard’s brother. For Bruno see also ep. 165 n. 4. —salute you and ask for your prayers.
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