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Smitten by Jesus

"You have the words of eternal life." John 6.68

In his commendation of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Jim Houston (founder-principal of Regent College, Vancouver) suggests that, in their day, medieval saints were like Hollywood stars. Their reputations dazzled, their legacy was revered, their idiosyncrasies became cherished character traits and their habits invited imitation. The result was, of course, that it quickly became difficult, some might say impossible, to distinguish the man/ woman from the myth. Referring to Bernard, Houston speaks of his "many identities": reformer, theologian, influencer - to name but a few.

By all accounts he was a magnetic personality. His own conversion to Christ and call to monasticism spread to several of the members of his noble family. Their impact on early religious life appears to have been transformative. Indeed Bernard himself is hailed as the last of the Church Fathers and the first of the Ecclesiastical Reformers. As such, he risks being pigeon-holed for his political and social achievements. Yet this would leave him as a somewhat cold and two-dimensional figure, failing to do justice to the warm regard in which he was held by his contemporaries - and in which he lives on in the minds of his admirers - as a human being.

Though inclined to be head-strong, possessed of many talents and physically attractive, Bernard balanced such advantages with humility, self-deprecation and humour. Yet it was his intense love of Jesus which people noticed and which shines forth as the motivating influence of his life, precipitating all of his activities, writings and reflections. It is the key to understanding this extraordinary man and the centrifugal impact he continues to exert...



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