Water and Fire

From “Second Sermon for the Ascension” (ca. 1150)

Lord Jesus Christ, to complete your seamless garment, to bring the integrity of our faith to its wholeness, you, Lord of the air, have only to ascend in open air, above all the heavens, while your disciples look on. This will prove that you are Lord of the universe, because you fulfilled everything in all things. Accordingly, now it shall be your due that at your name every knee shall bend, in heaven, on earth, and in the lower regions, every tongue shall confess that you are in glory and at the Father’s right hand. In his right hand are delights for evermore. That is why the apostle Paul admonishes us to seek what is above, where Christ is, “in whom all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden,” in whom all the fulness of divinity resides bodily…

Christ sits at God’s right hand, holding mercy in his own right hand, judgment in his left. Exceedingly great is his mercy, and exceedingly great is his judgment; immovably he holds water in his right hand and fire in his left hand. He has strengthened his mercy for those who fear him as heaven is high above earth, so that they can perceive the reaches of the Lord’s mercies as greater than the distance between heaven and earth. For God’s design for them remains immutable and his mercy is upon those who fear him from eternity to eternity.
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 version is from Sermons for the Summer Season, trans. B. M. Kienzle (Athens, OH: Cistercian Publications, 1991).


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