Thursday, August 20, 2009


“St. Bernard” (detail)
by Georg Andreas Wasshuber, 1700s


Biographical Information about St. Bernard [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Bernard

Readings and Commentary:

Sirach 15:1-6

He who fears the LORD will do this;
he who is practiced in the law will come to wisdom.
Motherlike she will meet him,
like a young bride she will embrace him,
Nourish him with the bread of understanding,
and give him the water of learning to drink.
He will lean upon her and not fall,
he will trust in her and not be put to shame.
She will exalt him above his fellows;
and in the midst of the assembly she will open his mouth
and fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
and clothe him with the robe of glory.
Joy and gladness he will find,
an everlasting name he will inherit.
Commentary on
Sir 15:1-6

In this passage the son of Sirach (author of the work) extols the search for Wisdom and the blessings that come from it. He personifies wisdom as the bride who will support and guide the one who wins her. In prior verses Wisdom is connected with adherence to the Law; here that pursuit will provide him with honor in the eyes of God.

Psalm 119:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

R. (12) Lord, teach me your statutes.

How shall a young man be faultless in his way?
By keeping to your words.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

With all my heart I seek you;
let me not stray from your commands.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

Within my heart I treasure your promise,
that I may not sin against you.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

In the way of your decrees I rejoice,
as much as in all riches.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Commentary on
Ps 119:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

An acrostic poem; each of the eight verses of the first strophe (aleph) begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; each verse of the second strophe (beth) begins with the second letter; and so on for all 22 letters of the alphabet.

The entire work is in praise of the Law, and the joys to be found in keeping it. It is not "legalism" but a love and desire for the word of God in Israel's Law, which is the expression of the Lord's revelation of himself and his will for man.

John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
"Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them."
Commentary on Jn 17:20-26

Here is the final part of the “High Priestly Prayer” from the Lord’s final discourse. In this selection we are linked with the disciples as Jesus prays: …also for those who will believe in me through their word”. Again the theme of unity between the Father, and the Son, and his followers is emphasized and brought to a conclusion with “…that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.

CCC: Jn 17 2604, 2746, 2758; Jn 17:21-23 260, 877; Jn 17:21 820; Jn 17:22 690; Jn 17:23-26 2750; Jn 17:24 2749, 2750, 2750; Jn 17:25 2751; Jn 17:26 589, 729, 2750

The story of St. Bernard is one of call and response. From a very young age he was guided by the Holy Spirit in an age where such guidance was difficult (he lived at the end of the 11th century). His passion for service of the Lord led him to the Cistercian Order, one dedicated to living an austere rule in dedication to Christ. He had a special devotion to Mary which is found in many of his extensive writings, and his piety and brilliant mind placed him in positions of leadership for most of his life. Reading his life and story is inspirational and recommended.

His life exemplifies what St. John’s Gospel says clearly. St. Bernard is one of those who believed in Jesus through the word passed down from the Apostles through their successors. He served that word his entire life. Sirach praises that holy state, wedded to the Word of God, and shows us the truth of that grace-filled state as the great saint was able to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to advance the cause of the Lord.

His dedication to the word of God is one that should inspire us as well. Like him we hear the word of God and have faith. That faith calls us to act and through our actions the world will know us for who we are – children of Christ, obedient to his love.


[1] The picture used is “St. Bernard” (detail) by Georg Andreas Wasshuber, 1700s
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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