Bernard of Clairvaux on Basic Love and the Poor!

Bernard is describing 4 loves that humans can experience.

What was most interesting to me was that when Bernard was describing the four loves possible by humans, the very basic one that he thought all people should be characterized by was a love that involved Justice. He describes it as loving ourselves for our own sake but he says, "Should a man feel overburdened at satisfying not only his brethren's just needs but also their pleasures... He can be indulgent as he likes for himself providing he remembers his neighbor has the same rights... Then your love will be sober and just if you do not refuse your brother that which he needs of what you have denied yourself in pleasure. Thus carnal love becomes social when it is extended to others" (On Loving God 8.23) (This is quoted from Tamburello, 95)

This is the basic of all love. It is the first stage. It is the most selfish. It is most marred by a life of sin and yet Bernard still believes that it is characterized by denying ourselves so that our neighbors can have their needs met. He doesn't specify whether or not this neighbor is believer or non-believer. I would venture to guess that it is all people as scripture usually interpret neighbor as anyone. He did warn that it could lead to self-indulgent sin, but mostly thought that it was the first step towards a greater love, even more unselfish love.

If only the church loved like this!

Notes: Bernard is writing this as a monk writing in the years 1120 - 1130.


  1. Hi Jaymes:
    I havent' been over to Dear Theophilus in a while, but I'm glad to see that you're plinking away with the blog! Interesting and provocative as usual--and I will admit to just barely resisting the temptation to unfriend you on Facebook to see what would happen.
    I read a good novel on love over the summer while in Thailand--here is a link to my review. Your blog here about Bernard of Clairvaux made me think again of the subject--your review is a reminder that I need to get back to it.
    I hope that all is going well up in Seattle with you. When are you back in Oroville?


  2. Thank you, Dr. Waters for reading. I am honored.

    Sorry to respond so late. Studies have been killing me.

    I am home for a short time, until Jan. 2-ish and then back to the grind (we are quarter system).

    We love Seattle. Things are going well! I mostly see the library, but my wife says that city is fantastic!

    Hope you holidays were well! I will plug your blog into my reading list to be updated. Good to hear from you!



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