Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the founding abbot of Clairvaux Abbey in Burgundy, was one of the most commanding Church leaders in the first half of the twelfth century as well as one of the greatest spiritual masters of all times and the most powerful propagator of the Cistercian reform. He was born in Fontaines-les-Dijon in 1090 and entered the Abbey of Citeaux in 1112, bringing thirty of his relatives with him, including five of his brothers– his youngest brother and his widowed father followed later. After receiving a monastic formation from St. Stephen Harding, he was sent in 1115 to begin a new monastery near Aube: Clairvaux, the Valley of Light. As a young abbot he published a series of sermons on the Annunciation. These marked him not only as a most gifted spiritual writer but also as the “cithara of Mary,” especially noted for his development of Mary’s mediatorial role.
Bernard’s spiritual writing as well as his extraordinary personal magnetism began to attract many to Clairvaux and the other Cistercian monasteries, leading to many new foundations. He was drawn into the controversy developing between the new monastic movement which he preeminently represented and the established Cluniac order, a branch of the Benedictines. This led to one of his most controversial and most popular works, his Apologia. Bernard’s dynamism soon reached far beyond monastic circles. He was sought as an advisor and mediator by the ruling powers of his age. More than any other he helped to bring about the healing of the papal schism which arose in 1130 with the election of the antipope Anacletus II. It cost Bernard eight years of laborious travel and skillful mediation. At the same time he labored for peace and reconciliation between England and France and among many lesser nobles.
His influence mounted when his spiritual son was elected pope in 1145. At Eugene III’s command he preached the Second Crusade and sent vast armies on the road toward Jerusalem. In his last years he rose from his sickbed and went into the Rhineland to defend the Jews against a savage persecution. He also helped to found the celebrated order of the Knights Templars and wrote the rules for the order.
Although he suffered from constant physical debility and had to govern a monastery that soon housed several hundred monks and was sending forth groups regularly to begin new monasteries (he personally saw to the establishment of sixty-five of the three hundred Cistercian monasteries founded during his thirty-eight years as abbot), he yet found time to compose many and varied spiritual works that still speak to us today. He laid out a solid foundation for the spiritual life in his works on grace and free will, humility and love. His gifts as a theologian were called upon to respond to the dangerous teachings of the scintillating Peter Abelard, of Gilbert de la Porree and of Arnold of Brescia. His masterpiece, his Sermons on the Song of Songs, was begun in 1136 and was still in composition at the time of his death. With great simplicity and poetic grace Bernard writes of the deepest experiences of the mystical life in ways that became normative for all succeeding writers. For Pope Eugene he wrote Five Books on Consideration, the bedside reading of Pope John XXIII and many other pontiffs through the centuries.
Bernard died at Clairvaux on 20 August 1153. He was canonized by Pope Alexander III on 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1830.
Thank you Lord, for St. Bernard. Thank you for the good example shown to us by his life and works.
JESUS in the QURAN
The Islamic view of Jesus lies between two extremes. The Jews , who rejected Jesus as a Prophet of God, called him an impostor. The Christians, on the other hand, considered him to be the son of God and worship him as such. Islam considers Jesus to be one of the great prophets of God and respects him as much as Ibrahim (Abraham), Moses, and Mohammed. (Peace Be Upon Them) This is conformity with the Islamic view of the oneness of God, the oneness of Divine guidance, and the complementary role of the subsequent mission of God’s messengers.
The essence of Islam – willing submission to the will of God – was revealed to Adam, who was passed it on to his children. All following revelations to Noah, Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus, and finally Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Them) were conformity with that message, with some elaboration to define the revelation between man and God, man and man, man and instructions. Thus, any contradictions among revealed religions is viewed by Islam as a man-made element introduced into these religions. The position of Jesus in the three major religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – should not be an exception.
Although the Quran does not present a detailed life-story of Jesus, it highlights the important aspects of his birth, his mission, his ascension to heaven, and passes judgements on the Christian beliefs concerning him. The Quranic account of Jesus starts with the conception of his mother, Mary, whose mother, the wife of Imran, vowed to dedicate her child to the service of God in the temple. When Mary became a woman, the Holy Spirit (the Archangel Gabriel) appeared to her as a man bringing her news of a son. We read the following dialogue in the Quran between Mary and the Angel:
“When the angel said, “Mary, god gives you a good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, -high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. He shall speak to men in the cradle, and of age, and righteous he shall be, “lord” said Mary “How shall I have a son, seeing no mortal has touched me? “Even so, he said “God creates what He will”.
When he decrees a thing He but say to it, “Be”, and it is. (Al-Imran 3:45-47)
In a chapter (Surah) entitled “Maryam” (Mary), the Quran tells us how Mary gave birth to her son, and how the Jesus accused her when she brought the child home:
“Then she brought the child to her folk, carrying him, and they said, “Mary, you have surely committed a monstrous thing. Sister of Aaron, your father was not a wicked man, nor your mother a woman unchaste. Mary pointed to the child; but they said, ‘Hoe shall we speak to one who still in the cradle, a little child. And he said, ‘Lo, I am God’s servant, God has given me the Book and made me a Prophet Blessed He has made me ,wherever/may be; and hi has enjoined me to prayer, and to give the alms so long as I live, and likewise to cherish my mother; He has not made me arrogant and wicked. Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised up a live. “Maryam 19:29-33)
in the same chapter, following the above quotation, God assures Mohammed (PBUH) and through him the whole world, that what is told above is the TRUTH about Jesus (PBUH), although Christians might not accept it. Jesus is NOT the son of God: He was obviously enough, the son of Mary. The verses continue: “That is Jesus, son of Mary, in word of truth, concerning which they are doubting. It is not for God to take a son unto Him. Glory be to Him, He nut says to it, ‘Be, and it is. (Maryam 19:34-35)
After this strong statement about the nature of Jesus, God directed Mohammed (PBUH) to call the Christians to worship the one God: “Surely God is my God, and your God, so surely serve him. This is the straight path”. (Maryam 19:36)
The rejection of the very idea of God having a son is restated later in the same chapter with even stronger words: “And they say, The All-merciful has taken unto Himself a son. You have indeed advanced something hideous. As if the skies are about to burst, the earth to split asunder and its mountain to fall down in the utter ruin for that they have attributed to the All-merciful a son; and behaves not the All-merciful to take a son. None there in the heavens and earth but comes to the All-merciful as a servant” (Maryam 19:88-93)
The Quran recognizes the fact that Jesus had no human father, but this does not make him the son of God, or God himself. By this criterion, Adam would have been more entitled more entitled to be the son of God, because he had neither a father nor a mother, so the Quran draws attention to the miraculous creation of both in the following verses; ” truly the likeness of Jesus, in God’s sight is as Adam’s likeness; He created him of dust, then He said upon him, ‘Be’ and hi was. (Al-Imran 3:59)
The Quran rejects the concept of Trinity God the Father, God the son, God the Holy Spirit – as strongly as it rejects the concept of Jesus as the son of God. This is because GOD IS ONE. Three cannot be one. The Quran addresses Christians in the following verses from the Surrah entitled “An-Nisaa” (The Women)
People of the Book, do not go beyond the bounds in your religion, and say nought as to God but the Truth. The messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only the messenger of God, and his word (Fulfilment of his word (Fulfilment of His command, through the word “Be”, for the creation of Jesus) that he committed to Mary, and a spirit originating from Him (was given life by God). So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not ‘Three’. Refrain, better is for you. God is only one God. Glory be to him-that He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the Heavens and in the Earth; God suffices for a guardian.
The Messiah will not disdain to be a servant of God, neither the Angels who are close to Him. Whosoever disdains to serve Him and walks proud, He will assuredly muster them to Him, all of them.
As for the believers, who do deeds of righteousness, we will pay them their rewards in full, and He will give them more, of His bounty; as for them who disdain and walks proud, then He will punish with a severe punishment, and they shall not find for them, apart from God, a friend or helper.” (An-Nissa 4:171-173)
The denial of Jesus’s divinity (and. For the matter, of Mary’s divinity) is presented in the Quran in the form of a dialogue, at the Day of Judgement, between the Almighty Jesus. All the Messengers and their nations will gather before God and He will ask the Messengers how they were received by their people and what they said to them. Among those who will be questioned is Jesus:
“And when God said, ‘O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say unto men, “Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God”? He said, ‘To you be glory! It is not mine to say what I have no right to. If I indeed said it, you would have known it, knowing what is within my heart, though I do not know your knowledge; you know the things unseen. I only said to them what you did commands me: “Serve God, my God and your God.” (Al-Maida 5-116)
Given that the Quran denies the Trinity and the son ship of Jesus, what, according to the Quran, was the real mission of Jesus? The answer is that Jesus was a link in a long chain of Prophets and Messengers sent by God to various nations and societies whenever they needed guidance or deviated from his teachings of Moses and other Messengers. As he was miraculously supported by numerous miracles to prove that he was a Messengers from God. However, the majority of the Jews rejected his ministry.
In another verse of the Quran, Jesus confirmed the validity of the Torah which was revealed to Moses, and also conveyed he glad tidings of a final Messenger who follow him: “And when Jesus son of Mary said, ‘Children of Israel, I am indeed the Messenger to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tiding of a Messenger who shall be the praised one.”(As-Saff 61:6)
Note that “praised one” is a translation of “Ahmad” – The Prophet Mohammed’s name. Careful study of the New Testament shows that Jesus refers to the same Prophet in John 14:16-17: “And I will give you another Counsellor (ThProphet Mohammed). To be with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth.”
The usual explanation of this Prophecy is that the counsellor referred to is the Holy Spirit, but this explanation is excluded by a previous verse in John: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you.”
The characteristics of this counsellor, as can be derived from the prophecy, are that he will stay forever with the believers, he will glorify Jesus; and he will speak that he hears form God. All four characteristics apply to the Prophet Mohammed. He came six centuries after Jesus. He came six centuries after Jesus. He came with a universal and everlasting message, fulfilling the prophecy that the counsellor will stay forever with the faithful. He glorified Jesus as a great Prophet. The Quran attributes to Jesus miracles not mentioned in the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, as well as specific verses in the Quran show how the Prophet Mohammad is rejected by Jews and Christians out of prejudice and misunderstanding, rather that carefully study the Bible.
It is a sad fact of history that not many are following the “straight path” to which people were called by Jesus. He was only followed by a few disciples inspired by God to support him. The non-believers plotted – as they would against Mohammed, six centuries later – to kill Jesus. But God had better plan for him and his followers, as the Quran tells us:
“And when Jesus perceived their unbelief, he said ‘Who will be my helpers in the cause of God? The apostles said, ‘we are Gods helpers. We believe in God; so bear witness of our submission God, we believe in that you have sent down, and we follow the Messenger. Inscribe us therefore with those who bear witness. ‘And they devised, and God devised, and God devised, and God is the best of divisors. When God said, ‘Jesus, I will take you to Me and will raise you to Me, and I will purify you (of the falsehoods) of those who do not believe. I will make your followers above the unbelievers till the Resurrection Day.”(Al-Imran 3:52-55)
As the above verses indicate, Jesus was taken and raised to heaven. He was not crucified. It was certainly the plan of the enemies of Jesus to put him to death on the cross, but God saved him and someone else was crucified:
“And for their unbelief, and their uttering against Mary a grave false charge, and for their saying, ‘We killed the messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messiah of God”…yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them. Those who are at variance concerning him are surely in doubt the following of conjecture; and they did not kill him of certainty…no indeed; God raised him up to Him; God is Almighty, Allwise. There is not one of the people of the book but will assuredly believe him before his death, and on the Resurrection Day he will be a witness against them.” (An-Nissa 4:156-159)
The Quran does not explain who was the person crucified instead of Jesus, nor elaborate on the Second Coming of Jesus. However, explanators of the Quran have always interpreted the last verse of the above quotation to mean that Jesus will believe in him before he dies. This understanding is supported by authentic sayings (Hadith) of the Prophet Mohammed may the peace and blessings of Allah him and upon all His Messengers.
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Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us!
St. Bernard, pray for us.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us!
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for the Doctors of the Church.
Saint Bernard, pray for us amen.