UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

Fear and Love

Fear and Love thumbnail

St Bernard to the monk Oger

If that horrible fear ever knocks at the door of your soul to terrify it, and to suggest that your service to God cannot be accepted, and that your penitence is unfruitful because that in which God has been offended by you cannot be amended; do not receive it even for a moment, but reply with confidence: I have done wrong indeed, but it is done and cannot be undone. Who knows if God has foreseen that good should come to me out of it, and that He who is good has willed to do me good even from my evil? Let Him then punish the evil which I have done, but let the good which He had provided for remain. The goodness of God knew how to use our ill-governed wills and actions to the beauty of the order which He established, and often, in His goodness, even to our benefit. O indulgent bounty of Divine love towards the sons of Adam! which does not cease to load us with benefits, not only where no merit was found, but often even where entire demerit was seen. But let us return to you. According to the two kinds of fear which are distinguished above, I wish you to fear, and yet not to fear; to presume, and yet not to presume. To feel that you may repent, not to feel that you may have confidence; and again, to have confidence that you may not distrust, and not to be confident that you may not grow inactive…

For, in truth, what do we appear to people of the world to do except indulge in folly, since what they seek with eagerness in this world we, on the contrary, shun, and what they avoid we eagerly seek? Upon the eyes of all we produce the effect of jugglers and tumblers, who stand or walk on their hands, contrary to human nature, with their heads downwards and feet in the air. But our foolish game has nothing boyish in it, nothing of the spectacle at the theatre, which represents low actions, and with effeminate and corrupt gestures and bendings provoke the passions, but it is cheerful, honourable, grave, decent, and capable of delighting even the celestial beings who gaze upon it. This it was he was engaged in, who said, We are made a spectacle to Angels and to men (1 Cor. iv. 9). May it be ours also in this meantime, that we may be ridiculed, confounded, humiliated, until He shall come who puts down the powerful and exalts the humble, to fill us with joy and glory, and to raise us up for ever and ever….

It is a labour for each of us to scribble to the other, and for our messengers a fatigue to carry our letters from the one to the other, but the heart feels neither labour nor fatigue in loving. Let those things cease, then, which without labour cannot be carried on, and let us practise only that which, the more earnestly it is done, seems to cost the less labour. Let our minds, I say, rest from dictating, our lips from conversing, our fingers from writing, our messengers from running to and fro. But let not our hearts rest from meditating day and night on the law of the Lord, which is the law of love. The more we cease to be occupied in doing this the less quiet shall we enjoy, and the more engrossed we are in it, so much the more calm and repose we shall feel from it. Let us love and be loved, striving to benefit ourselves in the other, and the other in ourselves. For those whom we love, on those do we rely, as those who love us rely in turn on us. Thus to love in God is to love charity, and therefore it is to labour for charity, to strive to be loved for the sake of God.