From “Concerning the Flight of Elijah from Jezebel” (ca. 1128-1153)

By Elijah is understood any just person who suffers persecution for the sake of justice. In the same vein, that other verse, “blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, Matt. 5:10. Those who fear Jezebel, that is, the world’s wickedness or the devil’s tyranny, rise from the temptation of sins and go away to wherever the will conferred on them by the Lord might take them. And they come into Beersheba of Judah, into the holy church, which is called Beersheba — that is, the seventh well — on account of the overflowing grace of the seven-fold Spirit, the grace is that there divided for the faithful. It is also called the well of fullness on account of the depth of God’s mysteries and he refreshment of Holy Scripture…

And so, coming to Beersheba, into holy Church, as was said, he runs to confession, which is recorded as by way of Judah, and there he dismisses his servant, that is, childish perception of the weakness of former acts, and he proceeds into the desert; this is contempt for the world. After he comes there, he sits; that is, he rests from the commotion of the world, singing with the prophet, “this is my rest forever and ever” (Psalm 131). He throws himself down, that is, he considers himself worthless, renouncing his desires, according to that gospel, “Anyone who wishes to come after me, let him deny himself,” (Matt 16:24) …

Then the angelic vision touches him, rousing him to do good works and aspire to higher realities. He looks to his head, that is, to Christ, who is the head of the church. And behold a hearth cake, that is, sustenance of divine teaching, rough indeed on the outside but on the inside ineffably sweet and strengthening. And a vessel of water, that is, a spring of tears with compunction of heart. And he proceeds in strength to God’s mountain, that is to say, to the height of blessing.

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. “Concerning the Flight of Elijah from Jezebel” is one of his monastic sermons, a series of short, practical homilies he delivered daily to the community at Clairvaux. St. Bernard’s feast day is August 20. This translation is from Bernard of Clairvaux: Monastic Sermons trans by Daniel Griggs (Athens, OH: Cistercian Publications, 2016).


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