Bernard of Clairvaux
From An Aplogia for Abbot William
Distractions of ornamentation
But what can justify that array of grotesques in the cloister where the brothers do their reading, a fantastic conglomeration of beauty ! misbegotten and ugliness transmogrified? What place have obscene monkeys, savage lions, unnatural centaurs, manticores, striped tigers, battling knights or hunters sounding their horns? You can see a head with many bodies and a multi-bodied head. Here is a quadruped with a dragon's tail, there an animal's head stuck on a fish. That beast combines the forehand of a horse with the rear half of a goat, this one has the horns in front and the horse's quarters aft. With such a bewildering array of shapes and forms on show, one would sooner read the sculptures than the books, and spend the whole day gawking at this wonderland rather than meditating on the law of God. Ah, Lord! if the folly of it all does not shame us, surely the expense might stick in our throats?
From On Consideration
What is God?
So, what is God? With respect to creation, its end; to election, salvation; to himself, he alone knows. What is God? All-powerful will, all-benign power, eternal light, immutable reason, blessedness supreme. Creator of beings to partake of him, he quickens men to perceive him, disposes them to desire him, enlarges them to receive him, justifies them that they may deserve him, fires them with zeal, fertilizes them that they may bear fruit, directs them in the way of justice, moulds them to kindness, contempers them to wisdom, strengthens them to virtue, visits them with consolation, enlightens them with understanding, preserves them unto immortality, fills them with felicity and keeps them safe in his encircling arm.
To Brother G., greetings from Brother Bernard, styled Abbot of Clairvaux.
Correcting proofs
Regarding the interpretation I defended recently while talking about the text of the Gospel with the lord bishop and yourself: I don't want you to write it up until you have first talked it over with me once again. And if by chance you have already made a fair copy, don't give it to anyone to read until I have seen it. Pondering later on what we said at the time, I realized that, intent as we were on discovering the moral sense, we had in certain places strayed in error from the facts of the story, and I now consider myself to have pointed this out to you as well. The first mistake is that there are not, as we thought, fifty days between the Nativity of the Lord and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, but only forty. Then we said that Mary and Joseph were on their way to Jerusalem when the child was born, and this was incorrect. And lastly, as for the eight days leading up to the Circumcision for which we developed the moral sense: counting forward from the day on which the child was, as it were, born, that is to say the moment when the intention became firmly fixed in the heart, the circumcision took place not on the eighth but on the ninth day after. The other points, as far as I can judge, are correct and these can easily be put right.
As for the rest, you should know that we were very upset at your leaving us without the escort promised to you, though no one but yourselves could properly be held responsible for this. Farewell.