Contemplative Profiles: Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux is best known for his books On Loving God and The Steps to Humility and Pride, as well as his many sermons. His writings are full of scripture references and move readers toward a deeper experience of God’s love.

This article in Christian History offers the following commentary of Bernard and his legacy:


Loving God for the sake of what he has done for us is, however, less than perfect. The next step is to love God for God’s sake alone. Simply because God is, we love him. Most of us would stop here; if we ever reached the point where we loved God for God’s sake alone, we would consider ourselves to have arrived at love of God. But Bernard does not stop here.

The final step is love of ourselves for God’s sake. While this is not the main point of the treatise, it is profoundly significant. One of the characteristics of Bernard’s spirituality is the movement from fear to confidence, from false self-esteem to healthy self-esteem.


We cannot take ourselves too seriously, since we took our first steps in this process by a candid, honest, genuine self-awareness and sorrow for our sins. Yet neither can we denigrate ourselves because the process of repentance and self-discovery is made possible by, and makes possible, the healing of the sin-ravaged image and likeness of God as it is bathed in the compassion and mercy of God. It is out of this mercy, love, and compassion of God that we can confidently know who we are, and offer back to God the love he has shown us. It overflows in love and service to those around us, who, like ourselves, carry that image of God indelibly imprinted on their innermost spirit.


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