The Wonder of the Incarnation
from a sermon by Bernard of Clairvaux,12th century
We have come to know a threefold coming of the Lord. The third coming takes place between the other two. They are clearly manifest but the third is not. In the first coming the Lord was seen on earth and lived among men in the days when, as he himself bears witness, they saw him and hated him. In his last coming ‘all flesh shall see the salvation of our God’, and ‘they shall look on him whom they have pierced’. The other coming is hidden. In it, only the chosen see him within themselves and their souls are saved. In brief, his first coming was in the flesh and in weakness, the intermediary coming is in the spirit and in power, the last coming will be in glory and majesty.
This intermediary coming is like a road leading from the first to the last coming. In the first coming Christ was our redemption, in the last he will appear as our life, in this intermediary coming he is our rest and consolation.
Do not imagine that what we are saying about the intermediary coming is simply our own fabrication. Listen to Christ himself, ‘If a man loves me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him’. I have read elsewhere, ‘The man who fears the Lord will do good’, but it is my opinion that more was said of the one who loves, namely that he will keep the words. Where, then, are they to be kept? Without any doubt they are to be kept in the heart, as the prophet says, ‘I have kept your words, in my heart, lest I sin against you’.
Keep the word of God in that way for ‘blessed are they who keep it’. Let it pierce deep into your inmost soul and penetrate your feelings and actions. Eat well and your soul will delight and grow. Do not forget to eat your bread or your heart will wither, but let your soul feast richly.
If you keep the word of God in this way without
a doubt you will be kept by it. The Son with the Father will come
to you. The great prophet who will renew Jerusalem will come and
he will make everything new. The effect of this coming will be that
just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the
image of the heavenly man. Just as the old Adam was poured out throughout
the whole man and filled him completely, so now let Christ take possession
of the whole man, for he created the whole man, he redeemed the whole man
and he will glorify the whole man.
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(c) 2000, 2001 Don Schwager
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