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Sermon 15 on the Canticle of Canticles

St. Bernard, Abbot

Not in vain does the Holy Spirit compare the name of the Bridegroom with oil when He makes the bride say to the Bridegroom, "Your name is as oil poured out." For oil gives light, nourishment, and ointment. It feeds the flame, nourishes the flesh, eases pain; it is light and food and medicine. See, all this applies to the Bridegroom's name: when preached on, it enlightens; when thought on, it enlivens; when called on, it smoothes and soothes. Let us follow through each point. What do you think caused such a sudden shining of faith's light throughout the world, if not the preaching of the name of Jesus? Has not God called us into His own wonderful light by the radiance of this name? Thus are we illumined, and in this light we see light, so that St. Paul says to us with good reason, "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."

The same Apostle Paul was charged to carry this name among kings and nations and the children of Israel. And he did carry this name, carried it like a torch, and enlightened his homeland. Everywhere he proclaimed, "The night is far advanced; the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk becomingly as in the day." Paul set this lamp upon its stand for all to see, preaching everywhere Jesus, and Him crucified. How this light sparkled and drew the gaze of all beholding it when it came forth from St. Peter's mouth like lightning! It set a lame man soundly on his feet, and gave sight to many who were spiritually blind. For certainly Peter struck sparks when he declared, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk!"

The name of Jesus is not only light, it is also food. Are you not strengthened whenever you meditate on it? What is its equal for enriching the mind that thinks about it? What else can so renew your fatigued spiritual powers, bolster virtue, make good and upright habits grow, foster pure affections? All spiritual food is dry if this oil is not mixed in with it, tasteless if it is not seasoned with this salt. Anything you write is without savor for me unless I read the name of Jesus in it. Your disputations and your conferences remain flat to me unless they ring with the name of Jesus. "Jesus" is honey to the mouth, sweet song to the ear, joyful delight to the heart. But it is also a medicine. Is someone sad among us? Let "Jesus" come into his heart and from there leap to his lips. And behold, as the light of His name arises, all clouds pass, and cheerfulness returns. Has someone lapsed into sin? Worse, is despair pushing him headlong into a trap where death awaits his soul? Surely, if he invokes the name of Life, he will be revitalized at once.

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