ST BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX
Bernard (1090 - 1153), from Burgundy in France, was the dominant spiritual influence in Europe in the 12th century. This great Cistercian's writing is much admired; it is passionate and profound, and concerns essentially the human relationship to God. His was also a life of intense activity: he made sixty-eight monastic foundations in thirty-five years. The text below is part of the first chapter of his classic, On Loving God.
You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer, the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable love. Is this plain…? I set myself joyfully to explain more in detail what is meant above.
We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason: 1. nothing is more reasonable, 2. nothing is more profitable. When one asks, 'Why should I love God?' he may mean, 'What is lovely in God?' or 'What shall I gain by loving God?' In either case, the same sufficient cause of love exists, namely, God Himself.
As for God's title to our love: could any title be greater than this, that He gave Himself for us unworthy sinners? And being God, what better gift could He offer than Himself? Hence, if one seeks for God's claim upon our love here is the chief claim: Because He first loved us (I John 4:19). Ought He not to be loved in return, when we think 1. who loved, 2. whom He loved, and 3. how much He loved?
Who is He that loved? The same of whom every spirit testifies: 'You are my God: my goods are nothing to You' (Ps. 16:2, Vulg.). And is not His love that wonderful charity which 'seeks not her own'? (I Cor.13:5).
For whom was such unutterable love made manifest? The apostle tells us: 'When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son' (Rom. 5:10). So it was God who loved us, loved us freely, and loved us while yet we were enemies.
And how great was this love of His? St. John answers: 'God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life' (John 3:16). St. Paul adds: 'He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all' (Rom. 8:32); and the son says of Himself, 'Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends' (John 15:13).
This is the claim which God the holy, the supreme, the omnipotent, has upon us.