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This is the first stage of contemplation, according to St. Bernard

Saint Bernard de Clairvaux


Philip Kosloski - published on 09/07/22

If we desire to progress in the spiritual life, we must first ask the question, "What does God want?"

A vital aspect of prayer in the Christian tradition is contemplating God. It consists of a simple inner gaze, fixed on God.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux expands on this tradition of contemplation in one of his homilies featured in the Office of Readings, explaining how the first step of contemplation is a considering of God’s will.

The first stage of contemplation, my dear brothers, is to consider constantly what God wants, what is pleasing to him, and what is acceptable in his eyes. We all offend in many things; our strength cannot match the rightness of God’s will and cannot be joined to it or made to fit with it.

At times this can be a difficult step, as we may be tempted to seek our own will and to ask God to facilitate our plans.

The key to this step is humility, as St. Bernard explains in his sermon.

So let us humble ourselves under the powerful hand of the most high God and make an effort to show ourselves unworthy before his merciful gaze … Once the eye of the soul has been purified by such considerations, we no longer abide within our spirit in a sense of sorrow, but abide rather in the Spirit of God with great delight. No longer do we consider what is the will of God for us, but rather what it is in itself.

Furthermore, St. Bernard believes that our entire spiritual life must revolve around fulfilling God’s will, not our own.

For our life is in his will. Thus we are convinced that what is according to his will is in every way better for us, and more fitting. And so, if we are concerned to preserve the life of our soul, we must be equally concerned to deviate as little as possible from his will.

As we seek to deepen our relationship with God, may we look to his will and recognize how God’s ways are always better than our own.

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