My pastor, friend, colleague, and mentor, John Hawbaker sent me a fantastic 1st person narrative presentation based upon the life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. This narrative was performed dramatically during Sunday morning services at Manor Brethren in Christ Church. Soon, John will have his own blog where you will be able to find more of his personal musings, writings, and sermon excerpts. He will be a most welcome addition to the BIC wing of the Christian blogosphere. His knowledge of the BIC’s heritage (Anabaptism, Wesleyanism, and Pietism) is profound and his 25+ years of faithful Christian service as pastor and bishop are laden with practical experiences that will undoubtedly edify leaders for generations to come. So, Brother John is preparing to start a blog and begin recording. The socially networked and information affable time in which we all are living is incredible!
The following is John’s 1st person narrative of the life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux:
Bernard of Clairvaux - Written by John Hawbaker â€“ October 2007
Life here on earth has many duties and obligations, but to me the greatest one of all is to love God.
My name is Bernard. I lived in France in the 12th Century. I was born into a family of nobility - my father was a knight. As a young man I became a monk, entering the abbey of Citeaux â€“ the first abbey of a new order called the Cistercians. I was so convinced of the importance of the monastic life that when I joined the abbey, I brought 30 other men with me, including my two uncles and most of my brothers.
The Cistercians adopted a strict observance of the Rule of St. Benedict, including poverty and hard work. Many of the Benedictine monks had abandoned the monastic vision and settled down to a life of laziness and self-indulgence. I boldly rebuked them for this and urged them to submit to rigorous spiritual disciplines. I gave myself with such zeal to fasting, humiliation and prayer that I permanently damaged by health â€“ and lived with digestive problems for the rest of my life.
Three years after I entered the abbey, the abbot assigned me to begin a new monastery in a remote village. We called this the Abbey of Clairvaux. In subsequent years I founded more that 70 other monasteries.
My ministry took me beyond the walls of our monasteries. When two rival popes were elected in the year 1130, the church called on me to intervene, and by the grace of God I was able to bring about a resolution.
I was also called upon to combat heresy in the church. I traveled widely, wrote documents that defended the true faith, and preached energetically in this effort to expose heretics.
Like others in my day, I thought that the Holy Land should be reclaimed from the Islamic nations by force â€“ so I went throughout France and other countries, preaching sermons and calling people to join the Second Crusade. Even King Louis VII and his queen signed up to go on the Crusade. The results of the crusade, however, were not victory but disaster, and I struggled with the question of why God allowed the church to suffer such a defeat.
Though I was a faithful son of the Catholic Church â€“ and promoted a new emphasis on devotion to the Virgin Mary â€“ I also deplored the limitations of sacramental ritual alone, and called for a personally held faith. People tell me that four centuries after my death the Protestant reformers saw me as a medieval champion of their favorite doctrine of the supremacy of grace. People also tell me that my letters, sermons and other writings have been reprinted in countless editions.
I gave careful attention to my preaching and teaching, using Scripture in nearly every line. I sought to communicate in a way that was reverent toward God, elegant and moving. Many people know me for my sermons on the Song of Songs â€“ where I take the language of romantic love found in the Song and apply it to the church as the bride of Christ â€“ and celebrate our deep personal love for our Savior. I wrote 86 sermons on the opening chapters of the Song of Songs!
I placed a high value on humility. Therefore, I constantly warned my fellow monks about the dangers of spiritual pride. I told them, “There are people who go clad in their monk’s tunics and have nothing to do with fancy fur clothing. Surely humility dressed in furs is better than pride dressed in tunics.”
All my life the chief source of my inspiration was the Bible. I was saturated in its language, images and spirit. To me, all things are overshadowed by the grace of God and the moral splendor of Christ.
In my day people were not as careful about authorship as they seem to be in your day. So there are several songs that people attribute to me â€“ but historians are not quite sure that I wrote them. Let’s join in singing one of those songs. Did I actually write it? (Pauses; smiles.) Well, let’s just say that I agree with its sentiments wholeheartedly. So, if I didn’t write it, I should have.