Bernard of Clairvaux on the Madness of Love

Last week was the feast day of Bernard of Clairvaux. His is a decidedly mixed legacy for the church (whose legacy is not?), but his devotion to the power of love is one of his greatest contributions to Christian theology, especially his sermons on the Song of Songs. Here’s a snippet from a letter he wrote to the pope, a former monk of his, commending to him the power of love to overtake even the one who sits on the throne of St. Peter. 

“Love knows no master. It recognizes a son, even though he wears the tiara…Ascend to the heavens, descend to the depths (in abyssos), you will not get away from me; I will follow you wherever you go… I may seem more insane, but only to one who does not love, to one who does not feel the power of love.”

Bernard knew all too well that for those of us who find ourselves in high places, in positions of great responsibility and leadership, where our reputation, honor and dignity so often hold us aloft, love is a challenging teacher, inviting us to take off the tiara, step down from the professor’s podium or the CEO’s seat, and enter into the leveling world of love. 

 

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