Bernard of Clairvoux (1090-1153) was considered a great religious leader of his day. His preserved writings were influential in the lives and spiritual training of such later great leaders as Martin Luther and John Calvin. This week's devotional classic is taken from one of his best-known works, a treatise titled On the Love of God. In this work Bernard outlines "four degrees of love."
Bernard wrote some 86 sermons on the Song of Solomon as an allegory of divine/human love. He was also the author of the hymn Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee.
In this devotional Bernard reminds the reader of the centrality of love in the work of Christians and the church as a whole. He calls the reader to love God in purity of heart, in sincerity of soul and in holiness of life. One good quote (pondering whether the fourth degree of love can be attained in this life):
We live in a world of sorrow and tears and we experience the mercy and comfort of God only in that context...Where there is no place for misery or occasion for pity, surely there can be no feeling of compassion.