BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX: Essential Writings
Edited by Dennis E. Tamburello
(Crossroad, 2000, 157 pp, $29.95 Available from AD Books)
St Bernard of Clairvaux, the 12th century Abbot of Clairvaux, was one of the great spiritual and theological writers of his age. He also exercised considerable influence on Church affairs.
Denis Tamburello, Professor of Religious Studies at Siena College, provides an easy to read, useful introduction to the life, writings and thought of the "mellifluous doctor" that has been written to make the thought of Bernard accessible to the average reader.
After a brief introduction to the historical background and a biography of St Bernard, Tamburello summarises his major writings, e.g., On Grace and Free Choice, The Steps of Humility and Pride, On Loving God, Sermons on the Song of Songs and Five Books on Consideration, focusing on themes and ideas that Tamburello believes are useful for modern readers.
He focuses particularly on those that contrast with many of the values of contemporary society, e.g., the only way to know God truly is to love Him, intellectual knowledge being subordinate to love of God and true love is a selfless love that flows from the love of God; the seriousness of sin, and our need for God's mercy and forgiveness; Bernard's belief that true freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want, but freedom from sin and for service to God and neighbour; there is no such thing as "instant" or "fast food" holiness, but rather the Christian life is a pilgrimage and a process; and the need for a balance between action and contemplation.
Michael E. Daniel teaches at a Melbourne independent school.