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Excerpts from 'Devotional Classics' edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) Introduction to the Author Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Church. He was an eloquent speaker and considered by many to be one of the holiest individuals who ever lived. He grew up in Dijon, France, and at the age of 22 entered as a novice in the monastery of Citeaux. Three years later he was appointed to supervise a group of his fellow monks in the newly founded monastery at Clairvaux. Though he was offered high positions in the Church, he stayed at Clairvaux until his death. Many of Bernard Clairvaux's writings have been preserved and have had a great influence on both martin Luther and John Calvin. Excerpts from 'On the Love of God' 1. Why God should be loved The reason for loving God is God Himself. Because no one could be more justly loved than God, no one deserves our love more. God is entitled to our love. Why? Because He gave Himself to us despite the fact that we are so undeserving. We ought to love God because He first loved us. 2. The first degree of love: Love of self for self's sake. Love is a natural human affection. It comes from God. Hence the first and greatest commandment is 'Thou shall love the Lord thy God'. But human nature is weak and compelled to love itself and to serve itself..first. In the human realm we love ourselves for our own sake. Love of self, not held in check by 'thou shall love thy neighbor', becomes lust. We hold lust at bay by giving of ourselves to others. The problem comes when we feel our own needs are not being met. Yet, God Himself, promises to meet our needs who first seek His kingdom and His righteousness. Seeking first the kingdom of God means to prefer to bear the yoke of modesty and restraint rather than allow sin to reign in your mortal bodies. God must be loved first in order that we may love our neighbor in God. 3. The second degree of love: love of God for self's sake. God blesses us with protection But when we live free from trouble we may conclude that we are responsible. Then when we suffer come calamity we turn to God for help. This is how we who only know love of self begin to love God. We will begin to love God if only for our own sake. We love God because we have learned that through Him we can do all things and without Him we can do nothing. 4. The third degree of love: love of God for God's sake. In the first degree of love we love ourselves for our own sake. In the second degree of love we love God for our own sake. Because he rescues us from danger and provides for us in tomes of need. As this happens more frequently, our hearts become softened because of the grace of our rescuer. Then, we begin to love God not merely for our own sake but for Himself as well. In order to get to this point we must continually go to God with our needs and pray. In those prayers God's grace is tasted and by frequent tasting it is proved to us how sweet the Lord is. Once God's sweetness has been tasted it draws us to the pure love of God more than our needs compel us to love Him. Thus we now begin to say 'We now love God, not for our necessity, for we have tasted how sweet the Lord is. This love is pure because it is not offered in order to obtain something. It is pure because it is not found merely in our words but also in our actions. We have obtained this degree when we can say 'Give praise to God for He is good, not because he is good to me, but because He is good.' The third degree of love is love in which God is loved by us for His very self. 5. The fifth degree of love: love of self for God's sake. This is rare and come only for a moment. We lose ourselves as though we did not exist, utterly unconscious of ourselves and emptied of ourselves. If we even for a moment experience this kind of love, we will know the pain of having to return to this world. We feel as if we are suffering as we return to the mortal state we were called to live. But during these moments, we will be of one mind with God and our wills in one accord with God. The prayer, 'thy will be done' will be our prayer and our delight. This perfect love of heart, soul, mind and strength will not happen until we are no longer compelled to think about ourselves. Only then can the soul attend to God. 6. Can we attain the fourth degree of love? I am not certain this kind of love can be perfectly attained in our life. But when it does happen to any degree, we will know and experience the joy of the Lord and be forgetful of ourselves in a wonderful way. I believe this is what the prophet meant when he said 'I will enter into the power of the Lord: O Lord, I will be mindful of thy justice alone.' Read: 1 John 4:7-21 Reflection 1. Which of the 4 degrees of love have you experienced in your spiritual journey? 2. What are the motivating factors that move us from one degree to another? 3. The writer of 1 John proclaims that we are able to love because God first loved us. How does the love that God has for you enable you to love God? Love yourself? Love others? 4. Meditate on Psalm 139. this song of the glory of creation, of God's miraculous love and our miraculous existence, will help you focus on the God whose love reaches into the farthest regions of our hearts.

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