Hope to Possess Their Happiness

From “Sermon 5 on the Festival of All Saints”(ca. 1150)

Why should our praise and glorification, or even our celebration of this feast day, mean anything to the saint? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of his Son? What does our commemoration mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is already theirs. Clearly, when we venerate their memory, it is serving us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous longing to be with them.

Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company which is desirable in itself. We long to shar ein the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors, and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them,

Come, let us spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) was one of the most influential preachers and spiritual writers of the Middle Ages. An important leader in the Cistercian reform, he was abbot at Clairvaux and an important advisor to other church leaders. St. Bernard’s feast day is August 20.

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