Full Indeed

From “Sermon One for Pentecost” (ca. 1153)

The Spirit came upon the disciples in tongues of fire. Let no one complain that the manifestation of the Spirit is not made to us, for “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for a good purpose” (1 Cor. 12:7)…

For what purpose was the togues of fire necessary for the apostles if not for the conversion of the nations?… The Spirit “clothed them with power from on high;” from great timidity of spirit they attained great steadfastness! This was not the time for fleeing, for hiding from fear… Now they are more constant in their preaching than they had previously been fearful in their skulking.

Furthermore, the earlier fright of the prince of the apostles [i.e. Peter] at the word of the maidservant and his later fortitude under the lashings of the chief men manifestly demonstrate this change made by the right hand of the Most High. “They went out from the presence of the council,” says scripture, “rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” Earlier, when Jesus was being led to the council, they had fled and left him alone. Who can doubt that a mighty Spirit had come who would enlighten their minds with an invisible power? In this way, even now, those things worked by the Holy Spirit within us bear witness to Christ.

Therefore, since we have received a commandment that, turning away from evil, we should do what is good, see how in both of these things the Holy Spirit assists our weakness. “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4). And so, for turning away from evil, the Spirit brings about compunction, petition, and forgiveness. The first step in returning to God is repentance, which is surely the Holy Spirit – God’s Spirit not our spirit — brings about…

But what benefit is it to repent of a fault and not petition for forgiveness? It is necessary that the Holy Spirit bring this about too, filling the mind with a certain sweet hope, through which you may ask in faith, having no doubt… The Spirit is the one in whom we cry, “Abba Father” (Rom. 8:15). He is the one who asks with unspeakable groanings on behalf of the saints (Rom. 8:26-27). And these things he brings about in our hearts…

The Holy Spirit admonishes our memory; he instructs our reason; he moves our will… Truly it is the Holy Spirit who speaks justice. In the Gospel, you find that “he will suggest to you all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). And notice what precedes, “He will teach you all things.”

Indeed we celebrate two seasons: one of forty days, the other of fifty days; one before the passion, the other after the resurrection; one in compunction of heart and wails of repentance, the other in dedication of spirit and the alleluia of festival. The first season is that of our present life; the second is the repose of the saints…

When the end of the fifty days has come, in the judgement and resurrection, with the days of Pentecost fulfilled, the fullness of the Holy Spirit will be present and will fill the entire house. Full indeed will be the whole earth with his majesty.

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. This translation is from B. M. Kienzle’s Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for the Summer Season (Athens, OH: Cistercian Publications, 1991).


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