Bernard of Clairvaux - influence on Christianity then and now.

Essay by brotherchrisUniversity, Master'sA-, November 2003

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Bernard of Clairvaux, considered by some to be the last of the church Fathers , is most notably known for his church reform through poverty and austerity. He encouraged reform of the entire church including the papacy. He was an astute scholar and a prolific writer. He had tremendous charisma that drew many people to follow him as evidence early in his life when he entered monastic life with 30 friends and relatives following behind. His influence extended far beyond the church to change even political and literary arenas of his time.

Bernard was born to nobility in 1090 at Fontaines-les-Dijon and died at Clairvaux in 1153. It appears that Bernard began his extraordinary spiritual life at an early age by the stories told of his youth about expelling from his room a lady who had come to cure his headaches with special incantation. His mysticism also is said to have begun when he had a mystical revelation of the mystery of Bethlehem after falling asleep in church at the Vigil of Christmas.

His reforming nature was undoubtedly influenced by the times which were marked by the imminent fall of Feudalism and the reforms of Pope Gregory VII. Bernard's mystical spiritual life, reforming mindset, high education afforded the nobility, and a strong foundation in the Bible combined to make Bernard a major religious and political reformer.

Bernard wrote at least 469 letters that are extant to various people from friends, to bishops, to kings and to popes, as well as to poor and insignificant people. Also among his extant works are 120 sermons several extended works such as Five Books on Consideration and The Steps of Humility and Pride, along with commentaries of various books of the Bible such as Letter to the Hebrews. These works have been studied...