St. Bernard of Clairvaux would have made an excellent 21st century psychologist He understood human nature and nurture. He understood the workings of the soul, the psyche. He understood the need for the seeking of perfection.
Some people have asked me why the need for perfection.
I have finally found a priest who understands this journey and desire for purification.
He told me today that the imperfections of my soul must be rooted out by prayer and Trust.
Confidence in Divine Providence is a great gift and the more one allows the Love of God into one's heart, the more the confidence grows.
Confidence allows one to be humble and honest with one's self.
Confidence is based on honesty, as is humility.
When one can be honest about one's past and present, when one can be honest about one's limitations, then one is one the road to perfection.
When one is honest with one's self, one is no longer alone.
One is joined to humanity. Pride separates, humility unifies.
So, why perfection?
We have no power to bring about the Kingdom of God unless we allow God to cleanse us of pride and other sins.
Without purification, there is little power.
Power is from the Holy Spirit, Who wants to renew the face of the earth, as the prayer indicates.
That renewal cannot happen in mediocrity.
It cannot happen in lukewarmness.
St.Bernard of Clairvaux gives us three levels of self-knowledge and stages on the way to perfection.
The first is VIRTUE We learn how to be good, how to live the life of the virtues.
If we learn this as children, we are most fortunate. The life of the virtues only comes after purification.
Second, is NATURE. Bernard says that the practice of virtue becomes so habitual that we do not have to think about being good. One lives out the virtues naturally. There is joy in this, much joy.
To live in virtue naturally brings about change in the world around us.
Third is the stage of GRACE and GRATITUDE. One lives in delight.
But, here is an important point.
Without freedom, without free will, there is NO merit.
If one is still living in states of sin, there is no merit. One is merely reacting to stimuli.
Freedom means love and liberty from sin. This is one good reason to seek perfection--the will becomes free.
Here is Bernard:
It is the will alone therefore which,
seeing that by reason of its innate freedom it is
compelled by no necessity either to disagree with itself or to
consent in any matter in spite of itself, rightly maketh a
man, as being under no compulsion to be either righteous or
unrighteous, fittingly capable of blessedness or of misery;
provided, that is to say, that it hath given its consent
whether to righteousness or to unrighteousness. Accordingly I thinkthat this free consent of the will, upon which
(as aforesaid) every act of judgement is founded, is not unsuitablywont to be called, as we have already defined it, free choice, the word " free " having reference to the will, and the word " choice " to the reason. Yet is it not necessarily free with that liberty of which the Apostle speaketh : "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." This is that freedom from sin of which he saith elsewhere : " When ye were the servants of sin ye were free from righteousness. . . . But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end ever- lasting life." But who is there in the sinful flesh that can claim for himself freedom from sin ? .....
It is, therefore, simply from this freedom, by which the will is free to judge itself, whether as good, if it have con- sented to well-doing, or as evil, if to evil-doing (forsooth it perceiveth plainly that it is only by an act of will that it hath consented to either of the two), that we believe free determination to be so called. For freedom from sin might, perhaps, more fittingly be called free counsel, and freedom from misery free pleasure, rather than free determination.'' As a fact determination is judgement.To be continued...