Homily…Let us Speak of Holiness this morning: Bernard of Clairvaux by Peter Menkin

Homily…Let us Speak of Holiness this morning: Bernard of Clairvaux by Peter Menkin

Let us Speak of Holiness this morning:

Bernard of Clairvaux
A homily,
Peter Menkin, Obl Cam OSB
Church of Our Saviour (Episcopal)
Mill Valley, CA USA
Wednesday Eucharist, August 19, 2009
Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 1994

Ecclesiasticus 39: 1-10

John 15: 7-11

Psalm 139: 1-9


In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Let us speak of Holiness this morning, God’s Holiness, as we learn of Bernard of Clairvaux. This is his Feast Day in our Episcopal Church.

From a hymn attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot, born in 1090, at Fontaines, near Dijon, France:

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

This is a request of God in Christ by a man who founded 162 monasteries, was a man who deeply admired Mary, Mother of God, and is considered a man of God’s wisdom and holiness.

Herewith this is a remark, a statement, part of Psalm 139…

You search out my path and my lying down, /and are acquainted with all my ways. /Even before a word is on my tongue,/ O Lord, you know it completely… /Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; /is is so high that I cannot attain it.

Friend of God, yes. Man of God’s wisdom, yes. Man of Holiness, yes.


Regarding Mary, history tells of Bernard:

He considered and admired the feminine in the holy, in the divine story, as Bernard played the leading role in the development of the Mary cult. One of the most important manifestations of the popular piety of the twelfth century, the Virgin Mary had played a minor role and it was only with the rise of emotional Christianity in the eleventh century that she became the prime intercessor for humanity with the deity. She is sometimes referred to as the “fourth part of the Trinity,” for Mary is a feminine figure much admired and even referred to in prayer to this day. We pray,

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death…”

A Cistercian Monk, Bernard, is considered in this manner by our readings today, reflecting the three-fold manner of his character and relationship with God and man. He died at Clairvaux, 21 August, 1153:

Bernard is wise, with the wisdom of God. Bernard is Holy, with a Holiness of God. Bernard is friend of God, as the New Testament tells us of friendship with God. This is the way to abide in God.

Our Gospel, says:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my job may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

So part of our reading from John for today, tells us of Bernard’s love in Christ, and his friendship with God in Christ.


In this way is Bernard found wise, so another of our readings tells us:

If the great Lord is willing,/ he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; /he will pour forth words of wisdom of his own/ and give thanks to the Lord in prayer./ The Lord will direct his counsel and knowledge, /as he meditates on his mysteries.

So goes part of our reading from Ecclesiasticus (the Apocrypha) for today, tell us of Bernard’s wisdom.


It is as a holy man we remember Bernard of Clairvaux today.


An internet search on Answer.com received this definition of holiness: “The New Testament Greek word that translates KADOSH is HAGIOS.  In the New Testament it is everywhere used of Christians.  Christians are said to be HAGIOI (plural.)  All the English translations here read ‘saints’.  Paul writes letters to congregations in a dozen different cities, always beginning his letter, “To the saints in…( Corinth , Philippi , wherever.)  To be holy, a saint, is simply to be different.” 


Holiness is that which allows us to be separate –as we are closer to and with God. It is that of separation as seen in hagios from hagos, which denotes “any matter of religious awe” (the Latin sacer); and that of sanctioned (sancitus). That which is hosios has received God’s seal.


Thomas Aquinas says, “All who worship God may be called ‘religious’, but they are specially called so, who dedicate their whole lives to the Divine worship, and withdraw themselves from worldly concerns, just as those are not termed ‘contemplatives’ who merely contemplate, but those who devote their whole lives to contemplation”. The saint adds: “And such men subject themselves to other men not for man’s sake but for God’s sake,” words which afford us the keynote of religious life–so it is called.


What we are speaking of is the inner dynamic within and between God and man. And it has the most dramatic effects, bringing uprightness, happiness, yearning, treasuring, and delight.


The late Anglican Reverend Professor Daniel Hardy, defines Holiness.


So holiness is not to be seen, but it is found in those whose hearts are formed by the inward laws given to Moses by the Lord. Moreover, it is found again in those whose hearts are formed by the consistent faithfulness of the Lord in the crucified and risen Christ. And the benefits go beyond what we saw in the passage from Nehemiah. Then there was uprightness, happiness, yearning, treasuring, delight, and their lives were filled with the unfathomable presence of the Lord, whose holiness and joy flooded their hearts. But now there is a ‘spiriting’ of human hearts that makes them responsive and responsible, a people affirmed by the Lord and marked by inner peace, meaning and purpose, faith, hope and love. All these rest on what we might call the three I’s.


Daniel Hardy explains more:

All these rest on what we might call three ‘I’s’:

(1) That the Lord is ‘I am, always with you’ — ever faithful and loving to us; (2) That this Lord gives and ‘spirits’ another ‘I’, responsive to the ‘I am’ and responsible for us, who abides with us; (3) That this ‘I am, always with you’ gives and ‘spirits’ the ‘I’ that each of us is, to be responsive and responsible.

Reverend Professor Daniel Hardy explains, also: When the ‘I’ that I am, or you are, is within the ‘I’ that Jesus is, and thereby with the ‘I’ that the Lord is, our hearts will burn within us as we remember him. There we will know holiness and peace, and give faith, hope and love to each other.



Bernard of Clairvaux writes in his paper on the Song of Songs:


… (M)etaphor shows that we cannot of ourselves come to Christ in our Lord, unless he draws us by his grace, which is laid up in his storerooms: that is, in the mysteries of Faith, which God in his goodness and love for mankind hath revealed, first by his servant Moses in the Old Law in figure only, and afterwards in reality by his only begotten Son Jesus Christ…




A Prayer attributed to Bernard goes:


Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blessed Name,
O Savior of mankind!

We know that Bernard of Clairvaux, the historic figure of the Middle Ages, was a defender of the twelfth century Church, known for his ardor he preached love of God, “without measure.”

A Holy Man, we thank God on this day for his life.

Bernard is wise, with the wisdom of God. Bernard is Holy, with a Holiness of God. Bernard is friend of God, as the Gospel tells us of friendship with God.


May the lord bless us and keep us. Amen. May the Lord make his face to shine up us and be gracious to us. Amen. May the Lord life up his countenance upon us and give us peace. Amen.


An audio recording of the Homily is here:


Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA (north of San Francisco).

My blog:

Can Naznet Find The Holiness Heritage?

Can Naznet Find The Holiness Heritage?

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Can the advertised Nazarene-friendly NazNet website discover once again its holiness heritage that sparked its start at Pilot Point, Texas in 1908?

Some would have it today that the biblical call to the holy life is too difficult to understand. That is unfortunate in that for decades preachers, teachers and evangelists have given forth on the holiness lifestyle over and over again.

There are still those faithful to the holiness truth set forth in Scripture. May NazNet and all those into biblical research uncover this marvelous divine provision, proclaiming it without apology or compromise.

The nearly l20 gathered in the Upper Room were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4)!

When the Holy Spirit comes upon a disciple, there are various occurrences which are primary and wonderful.

First, the infilling is a GIFT, not an achievement. All that God does in a believer’s life, from alpha to omega, is provided by divine grace. There is nothing which is trophied as an accomplishment by the human vessel.

When one receives salvation, it is by divine grace. Even the prevenient grace which precedes saving grace is emptied out upon the human heart by God Himself. So it is with the infilling. It is an act of grace executed by heaven’s powers so that the homo sapien may enter into the holy of holies provided here on earth.

Second, the infilling is bestowed by a PERSON, not an institution nor ritual nor ecclesiastical title. The origins of the sanctifying presence are from Him—the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, one may be filled by the Holy Spirit anywhere and at any time the Spirit deems it appropriate.

Consequently, no attention is focused upon churchly leaders nor rites nor liturgies nor assemblies. All of these are extraneous to the marvel of the infilling presence. God is a jealous God; therefore, He deserves all focus—totally so—for He is the fount of the sanctifying experience.

Third, the infilling is an introduction to the HOLINESS of God. It is a holy come-upon by the divine. Why? Because the Indweller is nothing but holiness. There is no sin nor carnality within the divine nature; consequently, when He sets up residence within the human life, that housing is evidenced in the holy life. “Be holy, even as I am holy.”

Therefore, the competing spirits of this existence are left to their unholiness. These spirits are the spirits of self, worldliness, Satan, carnality, bigotry, hypocrisy, and so on. No other spirit in planetary sphere can compare with the HOLY Spirit, for all others spirits are less than holy; in other words, they are of this fallen scope.

Fourth, the infilling is MULTI-DIMENSIONAL in splendor just as the Holy Spirit is infinitely creative in power, peace and purity. These many facets of the Holy Spirit’s personality have no allowance for evil; however, within the eternal awareness of His being, the Spirit is everlastingly imaginative—far beyond human speculations.

Consequently, when the Holy Spirit explores the human personality for kingdom fulfillment, there are endless doings which the Spirit will come upon. That is why it is faulty to circumscribe the Spirit’s work within the consecrated life. That is why it is unbiblical to narrowly define what and how the Spirit is to achievement His plans for and through the dedicated soul.

One must permit the Spirit His perfect freedom to do what He wants to do, how He wants to do it, and when He wants to perform it. Openness is the anticipatory key which opens up the infinite possibilities to the loving Spirit’s chartings for good.

Fifth, the infilling is DURABLE for the Holy Spirit is God! There is no start nor finish to God. There are no boundaries to God except those which would contradict His holy nature, such as wickedness. There are no “wearings thin” with God.

Therefore, when the holy work is begun in the consecrated heart, durability can see
through the experience to heaven’s gates. There is the possibility that one can remain true to the indwelling Spirit if one wills such tenacity to be lasting. It is true that the human still deals with foibles, shortcomings, eccentricities, mistakes in judgment and performance—but one does not have to backslide into sin if one determines holiness to be set. It is a matter of persevering with one will in control—that is, the DIVINE will only.

Sixth, the infilling is ADEQUATE for the Holy Spirit is all-sufficient. His chief historical proof of such is His raising Jesus from the dead. If there is a power who can raise the dead, then there is nothing which is impossible to that mighty presence. Yes, the Spirit of God is a match and more for any trial in this existence. There is nothing too difficult for Him to conquer—again, in His time and manner.

Consequently, in the indwelt soul, “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”. What is His purpose? It is holiness. That is the chief desire of a holy God for His children of grace. Therefore, there is no testing which God cannot overcome. It is then a matter of faith on the part of the indwelt. One simply believes in the adequacy of the divine, no matter what may arise to threaten, even martyrdom.

Seventh, the infilling is ATTRACTIVE in that the Holy Spirit is handsome in His nature and evidence. All the beauty of creation is from the workings of the Spirit who first brooded upon those creation waters. All that is good, clean, delightful and happy finds its source in the Holy Spirit.

It is the unholy spirits which are violent, ugly and repulsive. They promise fulfillment, peace, prosperity and all the other human desires for this world. But they cannot produce lastingly any of these offers. That is why Satan is a deceiver, the Father of Lies. Therefore, when one is indwelt with the spirits of worldliness, self, lust, avarice and so forth, one is overcome with the grip of emptiness, finally controlled by these spirits.

Eighth, the infilling is HUMBLE in that all focus is upon the Provider. That is why the sermons and testimonies following the Day of Pentecost all point to Jesus, the One whose death upon the cross made Pentecost presence possible.

“Wait…until you are overcome from on high,” Jesus commissioned His own when ascending into heaven. It was Jesus who purchased our salvation and sanctification upon Calvary. It was Jesus who breathed His last by taking our sins upon His sacrificial head, becoming scapegoat for rebellious humanity. It was Jesus who rose from the grave. It was Jesus who returned as our Intercessor to the right hand of the Father in glory. It was Jesus who predicted that the disciples would be indwelt by holiness. It was Jesus who then was lifted up by the Early Church as the Supplier of the Pentecost Spirit.

Consequently, all self-glory in the work of the holy kingdom is anathema to the truth of Christianity. It must be abhorred. It must be exposed and put away immediately. There is no room for pomp and circumstance when it comes to the fleshly leadership of any Christian institution. All of that will pass as dust. Therefore, only the adorable beholding of the Sanctifying Savior is tolerable in any labor for God.

Humility is the most rare gift to be found in any generation. Yet it is absolutely imperative that believers come upon that gift in order for all ego attention to be driven from our midst. It must be a conscious effort. It must be prayed over. It must be set forth more publicly from every pulpit. It must be written across our hearts daily. We are nothing; He is everything. “For without Me, you can do nothing.” And without Him, we indeed are nothing.