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THE CHIMERA OF HIS AGE: ST. BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX

14
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02-16-2007
02:49 AM ET (US)
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  Messages 13-11 deleted by topic administrator between 07-22-2006 09:26 AM and 07-21-2006 08:56 AM
10
Christine ChungPerson was signed in when posted
04-14-2003
01:36 PM ET (US)
St. Bernard's 'In Paradise of the New Kinghthood' was interesting to me. It is exhortation to the crusaders, but it pretty much focused on the religiosu teaching of exhortation. St. Bernard had a good psychological skill that moves others' minds to what he wanted to be. Also, through this document,I thought that He might be affected by the St. Benedict's Rules because St. Bernard emphasized on the military troop with the God and not to make the soliders fear in the battele, he mentioned that: "To be sure, precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his holy ones, whether they die in battle or in the bed, but death in battle is more precious as it is the more glorious (410)".
9
Emily Rosenberry
04-14-2003
10:45 AM ET (US)
St. Bernard was one of the most powerful men of his age. Can you see ways in which he asserts himself? Consider how he tries to get Robert to return.

Bernard uses interesting tactics in order to get his nephew to return. He is especially good with the use of psychological attacks on Robert. He first lets Robert think that all is forgiven and takes the balme himself for Robert's departure, but he quickly turns around and tells Robert to realize that the action now resides with him(Robert), i.e. Bernard had done all that he can and now it is up to Robert. Then Bernard begins to pile guilt onto Robert, telling him that it will be his fault if he doesn't act appropriately. He even goes as far as to use the scripture and Robert's vows against him. The next tactic Bernard uses is to tell Robert that if he returns, the two will be equals, they will be companions. This is interesting because he is offering Robert status, almost as a bribe, in order for him to return. Throughout, Bernard reassures Robert that there is nothing to fear, and still treats him like a child or as a youth who was spooked away by a foolish reason. Bernard pretends to take the pressure of the decision from Robert, but in reality he is manipulating him into returning whether he wants to or not.
8
Marissa Bond
04-14-2003
10:15 AM ET (US)
St. Bernard’s letters fascinate me. He starts the letters given with (what to me seems feigned) humility, yet he seems to be rather the Pharisee in that his great show of humility and taking blame seems to be designed to add to the sense of shame that he is trying to convey to his recipients. He is also much given to personification of virtues, particularly Charity, and uses conceits to humble the conceited (get it? Hahahahah! … hooboy… I kill me…). He often contradicts what he argues to be the sense of right, such as in the letter to Fulk where he says that he doesn’t wish to blame the uncle… but… it really was all his fault… and then carries on with the subject for an extended period of time. He does the same with his letter to Brother Adam. He says he doesn’t wish to speak ill of the dead, but… (here we can imagine a dramatic sigh) if he must do so in order to return the flock to the fold… then the Abbot Arnold really was at fault. The idea of blame is common throughout these letters, and St. Bernard seems to like to make each individual both excused of it it one sentence and then worth of it in the next. I am curious as to how well his arguments worked. The only outcomes we are given are in the fragment of the letter to Fulk and the fragment of the letter to Bruno, and in both cases it appears that the wishes of St. Bernard were ignored. (no flames for the bad pun, I apologize.
7
Jessica E. Moore
04-14-2003
09:25 AM ET (US)
Briefly, The contradictions of Bernard of Clairveaux, the Saint who compels people to gird their flesh with iron as they gird their souls in the word of God, are less interesting than an examination of WHY those contradictions emerge during this period. Its closeness to the Crusades, Bernard's fascination with the earthly, humanistic Christ. Is this a doctrine of reparation, seeking to once more reconcile the secular and divine powers by leading them toward a common and unified spiritual and political end?
6
Sarah Pagni
04-14-2003
08:01 AM ET (US)
St. Bernard was one of the most powerful men of his age. Can you see ways in which he asserts himself? Consider how he tries to get Robert to return.

 Bernard probably realizes that Robert is going to have to be pretty well persuaded. However, Bernard knows what he wants and is willing to try every convention of convincing Robert to come back. Bernard immediately starts the letter by taking the blame for the falling out between them. But right after he takes the blame, it becomes Robert’s responsibility to come back. Most people would probably not be willing to take the blame. Bernard is not willing to just let Robert to make the decision to come back or not. Bernard also tells Robert that his vows should bring him back, or he will spend the rest eternity in hell. Bernard uses every tactic to convince Robert that he must come back. He takes the blame, he uses scripture, and he uses stories and hell even. Bernard knows what he wants and he’s willing to use all these methods to get it, however he also takes the pressure off of himself by coming to Robert in the letter and saying it was probably his fault that Robert left. He comes off as sound very self assured, but he also needed to, so he could convince Robert of the peril that his soul was in.
5
Julie Bednarski
04-14-2003
07:48 AM ET (US)
Bernard and his judgment of St. Peter:
Bernard finds Peter’s will completely culpable of the sin. Bernard argued that, even under the threat of death, the individual is sill entirely responsible for his own actions. Peter’s sin was, not rejection of Christ but (what Bernard describes as) excessive self-love, this could also be referred to as self-preservation. Bernard reasons that the will cannot be forced to do anything unnatural to it. In the case of Peter, Bernard states, “Nor did the fear of the moment force his will into this perverse self-love; it proved it to exist.” The point is that the dangerous situation Peter found himself in only proved that his will already contained self-love. However, Bernard finally admits that Peter may have been coerced into unwilling denial of Christ, and it follows that if Peter truly loved Christ than he was force to “dissemble his own will” and commit the sin of self-love, but not the true rejection of God.
Abelard would have been more merciful with Peter, relieving him of culpability, because the denial was made under the threat of death. Abelard would have claimed that Peter endured the pain of unwillingly denying Christ, because he did not wish to die. The difference between Bernard and Abelard in this regard is that Bernard sees “stress” as a test to reveal the nature of the individual, where as Abelard sees “stress” as a form of suffering that induces the individual to deviate from their will. Bernard does consent that Peter was forced to unwillingly deny Christ; however he emphasizes that Peter’s will of self-love was revealed by the threat of death.
4
Sarah Signor
04-13-2003
11:31 PM ET (US)
I was really interested by St. Bernards references to necessity and will in the begining of his writings on Free Will and Grace. He seems to be saying that the will is utterly voluntary, and that salvation is accepting, voluntarily, the commandments of god. Hence that salvation is available to all that would accept it by the mercy of god. Furthermore that reason cannot impose any necessity upon the will, for 'reason is given to the will for instruction not destruction. It would be destruction of the will were it to impose any necessity upon it taht would prevent it from moving freely in accordance with it's judgement'. Reason and the will are deeply intertwined. The will is moved by the judgement of the reason, but not necessitated by it. The will is also seen as a very integral part of, well, everything. He says that 'only the will then...makes a creature righteous or unrighteous, capable and deserving of happiness or of sorrow, insofar as it shall have consented to righteousness or unrighteousness.' This is such a far cry from,say, Augustine. The will here is strong and unfractured, sin is a choice of the will and not that which the will falls into without grace. It is utterly voluntary and able.
3
Anna Kwon
04-13-2003
07:58 PM ET (US)
Re: Contradictions in the writings of St. Bernard
One of the issues Bernard struggles with is how to defend his Cistercian order against other orders; namely, the Cluniac order. Seeing as that stability and obedience were the core of monastic life St. Bernard's condemnation of those who left the Cistercian order and his own acceptance of monks deserting their orders are in direct contradiction with one another. Bernard justifies the monks who defected to the Cistercian order by saying that reparation is made by these monks for the harm caused by their breaking of their "vow of stability" when they are better able to serve God at Bernard's monastery. Other points of ambiguity come up in his letters; what power does an abbot exert on his monks after he has passed on? Do his rules and vows become null and void upon death? Bernard seems to think so, and says to his nephew Robert that since his abbot is dead, he is freed from his vow to stay with the Cluniac order. But then one has to consider, how would Bernard feel if his own monks went back on their vows and tossed aside his rules when he died? Bernard's Apologia for the Second Crusade shows another gray area in his thinking. Although Bernard is sure of victory when the fight is for Christ, he does not seem to understand the miserable outcomes of the Second Crusade. Instead, he makes a half-hearted attempt to blame the Crusaders, who were "always looking backward as they walked" (418). Thus, Bernard himself was not sure why the Crusades failed, but he did not mind being berated (or so he wrote) "so long as God's glory is not attacked".
2
anne colyn
04-13-2003
05:28 PM ET (US)
Saint Bernard...

In reference to the reading, especially the letters by Saint Bernard to various addressees, I have become somewhat torn in my assessment of this clearly pious man. What I struggle with the most is his frankness and honesty, which vacilates on the edge of rudeness at times. In other words, in the example of his letter to Robert, his nephew, he does not embellish his words when claiming repeatedly that "you [Robert] alone will be to blame if you do not return." Saint Bernard almost appears as the firm fatherfigure. In other instances it is his demand for strict attention from his addressees that suggests this too when he uses the imperative form in his writing ("Listen!").
All in all, it seems to me that Saint Bernard must not have been an easy fellow to be around with or criticized by... This explains his strong adherence to Benedectinism and strictly pious life in utter self-denial. I guess it is his means of argumentation that bears an undertone of "fundamentalism" that makes me somewhat suspicious (right word?) of him.
1
Carole StrawPerson was signed in when posted
02-05-2003
03:07 PM ET (US)
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