+ST BERNARD AND THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST 19 June, 2022
As this Solemnity of Corpus Christi approached, I found myself continued to be moved by the Sermons of St Bernard that I have been going through with the juniors. There are aspects of them that speak of the close relationship between the soul, the Bride with Christ the Bridegroom that portray the meaning of this Solemnity like little else I’ve ever come across.
“So let us too, following scriptural usage, say that the Word of God, God himself, the Bridegroom of the soul, both comes to the soul and departs again at his pleasure, provided we realize that what is described is an inward perception of the soul and not an actual movement of the Word. For example, when the soul feels an inflowing of grace, it recognizes his presence, when it does not, it complains of his absence and seeks his return, saying with the Psalmist: ‘My face has sought you; your face, Lord, will I seek.’”
The Bridegroom both comes and departs again at his pleasure. We have all known of those times when a sense of God’s presence in our lives has been very real, empowering us to pursue a course of life or action that gives us a deeper meaning and purpose in life. After all, we have come into this world so as to become sharers in God’s very own divine life and reflect it by all that we say or do. And isn’t this the whole purpose of why Jesus gives us his Body and Blood as food for our journeys?
“Show me now a soul [St Bernard goes on to say] that the Word—the Bridegroom—habitually visits, a soul that familiarity has rendered bold, that has tasted just enough to acquire a hunger… and I will unhesitatingly assign to it the voice and name of Bride… For she who is introduced as speaking is certainly like that. The fact that she recalls the Bridegroom is proof that she has merited his presence, although not the fullness of his grace.. It may be that was why he withdrew himself, to be called back more eagerly and clasped with greater urgency.”
As we become daily more aware of the comings of the Bridegroom into our lives, one of which is our being given his very own Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we acquire a certain familiarity with God. We should not be surprised that as a result that we come to dislike whatever fails to convey an opening to this loving presence. Calling him back when he seems to be absent is normal, especially once we realize how deeply meaningful this presence is for our lives. With all the disillusionment with wealth and power in our world today, you would think our churches and monasteries would be filled with those seeking authentic meaning and satisfaction in their lives. But there are countless distractions around us through the power of the media, that many do not take the time to be attentive to their own deepest longings and needs. It often takes a crisis before they can begin to realize their true selves in Christ.
Might this be one of the greatest advantages of our own way of life as it allows us time and space to become truly aware of our most authentic desires and human longings? Let me finish with one final quote from St Bernard:
“The soul that loves the Lord is carried away by its longing. Borne forward by the pull of its desire; choosing to forget its small deserving, it shuts its eyes to God’s majesty and opens itself to bliss, sure of its salvation and dealing confidently with him. Without fear or shame it recalls the Word and trustingly asks for its former delights, calling him, with its accustomed liberty, not Lord but Beloved. ‘Return, my beloved, be like a roe or a young stag upon the mountains of Bethel.’”