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Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, made a significant impact on twelfth-century Europe and the church. As a result of the proliferation of Cistercian monasteries under his guidance, his numerous theological writings, and the miracles he performed, Bernard was canonised soon after his death. Conversely, there was no lack of criticism levied for his involvement in matters that some considered inappropriate. When Pope Eugenius III called the Second Crusade and requested that Bernard preach it, the infirm abbot could have justifiably declined but instead embarked upon the arduous task. However, he did so in the belief that this task, if successful, might propel humankind into the next age of time. After the crusade failed and as he neared death himself, Bernard's writings reflect a change from his previous assertions surrounding eschatology and the role of angels in the lives of the faithful. These alterations in Bernard's theology may also have encompassed a reaffirmation of his commitment to the contemplative life. It took the disaster of the Second Crusade to return him to his core convictions and ignore the arrogant speculations of those who claimed that they knew what Christ said they never would: the day or the hour.

Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux (b. 1090), made a significant impact on twelfth-century Europe and the church. As a result of the intense proliferation of Cistercian monasteries under his guidance, his large corpus of theological teachings and writings, and the many miracles attributed to him, Bernard was canonised by the church a mere twenty years after his death. Conversely, there was no lack of criticism levied against him for his involvement in matters that some considered inappropriate for a monk. Bernard's hagiographers had struggled with this issue in their quest for his canonisation,1 and subsequent scholars must contend with a paradigm in which historical analysis of him is fragmented, difficult, and even unjust. 2

There is no disagreement that Bernard's accomplishments were many. In his first fifty years, he actively participated in the resolution of the papal schism of the 1130s, substantially expanded the number of Cistercian monasteries, confronted and dispelled heresies, and vehemently opposed any activity or teaching that he viewed as a threat to the church. Bernard also corresponded with a number of kings and military leaders, never hesitating to bestow advice or criticism when he felt it was warranted even though such matters were often perceived as outside his domain. By 1145, when Pope Eugenius III, a fellow Cistercian and Bernard's protégé, called the Second Crusade and requested that Bernard preach it to the people, the infirm abbot could have justifiably declined. Instead, he undertook long and difficult journeys throughout Europe in order to exhort the faithful to take up the cross and rescue the Holy Land from “the Lord's enemies.” 3

Why would Bernard embark upon such an arduous task? On numerous occasions, he had written of his preference to remain at Clairvaux and had expressed no desire to journey to the Holy Land. Indeed, to him, the monastery was the spiritual equivalent of Jerusalem. In a letter to Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, dated 1129, 4 Bernard wrote, “And this, if you want to know, is Clairvaux. She is the Jerusalem united to the one in heaven by whole-hearted devotion, by conformity of life and by a certain spiritual affinity.” 5 Bernard strongly believed that experience of God could occur in any place through prayer and contemplation of scripture, especially the Song of Songs. As he explained to his brothers:

I admit that the Word has come to me — I speak as one without wisdom (insipientia) — and has come many times … So when the Bridegroom, the Word, came to me, he never made known his coming by any signs, not by sight, not by sound, not by touch. It was not by any movement of his that I recognized his coming; it was not by any of my senses that I perceived he had penetrated to the depths of my being. Only by the movement of my heart (ex motu cordis), as I have told you, did I perceive his presence. 6

Bernard treasured his contemplative time at Clairvaux and missed it terribly when he was away. During the height of the papal schism while he was traveling in Italy, he lamented to his brothers, “Sorrowfully and reluctantly … I have bowed before the urgent request of the Emperor … and suffered myself to be dragged to Apulia … my words are broken with tears and sobs.” 7 Later, in 1146, as crusade fever in Europe was building, in large part due to Bernard's own efforts, he informed Pope Eugenius, “If any suggestion be made to you of adding to my present labors, I would have you know that my strength is not equal to those which devolve on me already. My intention of not leaving the monastery, I believe, is not a secret to you.” 8

This is not to suggest that Bernard was unconcerned about the possible loss of the Holy Land to the “enemies of the cross of Christ,” 9 or that he did not ardently endorse the new Christian mission to the East. As a small boy, Bernard had witnessed the triumphal return of the crusaders, many of whom were members of his family, after they had recaptured Jerusalem in 1099. In about 1130, Bernard made his support of crusading clear in his treatise entitled In Praise of the New Knighthood, 10 where he reconciled the apparent contradiction between the violent actions of the soldier and the irenic prayers of the monk. Bernard explained that when one kills a pagan as a defender of Christians, that death wins glory for Christ. For Bernard, the true knight of Christ was “not a man-killer (homicida), but … an evil-killer (malecida),” 11 or, in other words, “the extermination of injustice rather than the unjust.” 12 Therefore, when ‘Imad-ad-Din Zengi, a Muslim ruler, captured Edessa in 1144, Bernard, as well as many Christian leaders in both the West and the East, decided that military action was warranted.

Did the abbot have motivations to preach the Crusade other than concern for the Holy Land? One recent historical analysis of Bernard's preaching of the Second Crusade examines the notion that his opinions about the end of days, that is, his view of the history of humankind and his eschatological expectations, also weighed heavily in his decision. 13 The analysis in question also suggests that Bernard's reaction to the failure of the Second Crusade strongly and negatively affected his eschatological beliefs. This article seeks to consider these contentions further and offer additional insights into the latter thesis by examining Bernard's revised views of angels and their roles in assisting humankind.

Although “eschatology” was not a term employed in the medieval period, it usefully explains the interest in the Last Judgment and apocalypse that most medieval theologians and exegetes maintained. Ideas about “last things” were (and remain) quite complex, “oscillat[ing] along several spectra: from collective to individual, from temporal to beyond time or atemporal, from a stress on spirit to a sense of embodied or reimbodied self.” 14 Thus, concerns about one's individual death and its immediate consequences were mingled with predictions about the timing of the millennial reign of the saints, worry over the impending arrival of Antichrist, also called the noonday devil (daemonium meridianum), expectations that Jesus would come again to judge all of humanity, and most critically, hope for the soul's eternal rest with God. 15

None of these questions was new to the twelfth century. Apocalyptic concerns had been present since the earliest days of the church as it became increasingly apparent that the parousia (Second Coming of Jesus) was not as close at hand as many had hoped. Naturally, Christian leaders looked to the New Testament, particularly the Gospels and the Book of Revelation, for explanations that would comfort the disappointed faithful. Thus, intense dissections of the narrative of visions contained in the Book of Revelation, attempts to identify the Antichrist in historical figures, and periodisations of history that offered longer timelines were offered and revised as needed.

The earliest Christian writings, while varying in details, offer scenarios in which at a certain time, signs of the end including strife, corruption, war, and disease will commence. Natural disasters will strike and the motion of the universe will cease. Into this chaos will come Antichrist, a human figure guided by evil and one who will persecute Christians until Christ appears in glory and defeats him. At this point, the gates of hell will open and souls of the dead will be reunited with their bodies in a state of incorruptibility. In their omnipotence, Christ and the Father will judge each individual so that the good will be welcomed to enter Paradise while the wicked will perish in eternal fire and torture. 16 Origen (d. 253/54), “perhaps, the first fully professional Christian thinker,” added to this milieu a lengthier timeline as well as a revised eschatological perspective. For him, earthly issues were superseded by the larger goal of full union with God, a notion that appealed to mystics and was criticised by those who favoured literal interpretations of Scripture. 17 Later, Augustine (d. 430), “the theologian who has most influenced the development of Latin eschatology,” 18 altered Christian doctrine by reinterpreting time before and after the end of the world. In his view, eternity was not measured in units of time as measured on earth, but was instead, “the utterly simple, unchanging present of God's being.” 19 Although he retained the general characteristics and events described by earlier Christian thinkers in his own historical observations, Augustine preferred not to speculate on the identity of Antichrist or to calculate the date of the Last Judgment. Nonetheless, he did offer a seven-age periodisation of history that aligned with the seven days of creation in Genesis and became a touchstone for future eschatological speculation.

Subsequent theologians created an array of periodisations, including seven-age schemes that differed from Augustine's, four-age plans that linked to the four principal virtues or the four watches of the night from the Gospel of Matthew, as well as Trinitarian three-age schemes. 20 Like a number of others, Bernard of Clairvaux subscribed to a four-age theory. However, his plan was unique in that it linked periods of human history to the four temptations described in Psalm 91:5–6: “You will not fear the terror of the night (timor nocturnis), or the arrow that flies by day (sagitta volans in die), or the pestilence that stalks in darkness (negotium perambulans in tenebris), or the destruction that wastes at noonday (daemonium meridianum).” 21 In a sermon from 1139, Bernard names these four time periods as the age of martyrs, when the church was primitive and martyrdom was common; the age of heretics, when false dogma spread throughout the land; the age of corruption and hypocrisy, in which Bernard places his own generation; and the worst age, that of the noonday devil or Antichrist, when deception will prevail. In another treatise, also written in 1139, he describes his own time period in more detail: “Today the stinking corruption (putida tabes) slowly spreads throughout the whole body of the Church … they [i.e. the hypocrites] are ministers of Christ and serve (serviunt) the Antichrist.” 22

Another current of historicising eschatological thought to which Bernard may have subscribed involved the legend of the Last World Emperor, which had been transmitted to the medieval West through at least three sources. The first and oldest of the sources was the Sibylline prophecies of Roman religion, which had been reinterpreted to encompass aspects of Judaism and eventually, Christianity. 23 The second was the Pseudo-Methodius, an apocalyptic text of Syriac origin that was written in the late seventh century and attributed to the early fourth-century martyr Bishop Methodius. 24 Lastly, the most recent text available to Bernard was Adso of Montier-en-Der's “reverse hagiography” of the Antichrist, written in the middle of the tenth century and translated widely throughout Europe. 25 While the details in each vary, they all claimed that before the Last Judgment of God could take place, a “warlike ruler” would “defeat all Rome's (and now God's) enemies, vindicate the goodness of the just in a messianic time of plenty and achieve supreme imitation of Christ by handing over world dominion to God.” 26 Only then would the Antichrist (Final Enemy of God) arrive, conquer the world, and eventually be vanquished by Jesus in a second coming.

While issues of historical theology were “of undoubted interest” 27 to Bernard, it is clear from his writing that he favoured the spiritual over the temporal. As noted above, his explication of the Song of Songs reveals an intense yearning for his own soul's union with God, which he claimed to have experienced briefly through contemplation. Thus, for Bernard, historicising eschatology represented just one possible path to God. “Bernard and his friends no longer needed to scrutinize the secret of the Apocalypse for answers about Christ's coming as many of their contemporaries did, rather they found their delight in the explanation of the Song of Songs.” 28 In Sermo 74 on the Song of Songs, Bernard discusses his own interactions with God using language found in that psalm:

I have experienced the goodness of his mercy … I perceived the excellence of his glorious beauty, and when I contemplate all these things I am filled with awe of his manifold greatness. But when the Word has left me, and all these things become dim and weak and cold … my soul cannot help being sorrowful until he returns. 29

Such prioritisation is also evident in Bernard's preaching on the states of the soul as it progresses from life to death to glorified resurrection at the Last Day. Although each individual is subject to temptations and sin during life, one can nonetheless seek hints of one's soul's eventual union with God through contemplation. After death, the joyful soul waits impatiently without its body in the company of the saints and martyrs for the Last Day, when it will finally be reunited with a glorified body and be admitted into God's presence. 30

In a recent dissertation, James Kroemer argues that although Bernard's eschatological theory did not figure in subsequently approved Catholic doctrine, it was “the culmination of his spiritual thought.” 31 Furthermore, the abbot's principal motivation in preaching the Second Crusade and his reactions to its ultimate failure were grounded in his eschatological beliefs. As a result, late in Bernard's life, “the optimistic enthusiasm which marked his crusade preaching was gone, replaced with a bitter, almost morbid attitude.” Yet, the abbot was “not apologetic” because he had promoted the Second Crusade “for those souls that he was about to join, hoping that his efforts would hurry along the coming of the Last Day.” 32 Bernard had “rushed in … compromising everything he had stood for as a Cistercian … his great longing for the happy end of the Last Day outweighed all other considerations.” 33

As further evidence for this preoccupation of Bernard's, Kroemer indicates a discussion of the New Testament figures of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus presented in Sermo 57 on the Song of Songs, written in 1147. 34 Explicating verse 2:10 of the psalm, 35 Bernard described Lazarus in a manner that Kroemer interprets to mean that, for Bernard, Lazarus represented eschatological hope, one of the three endowments of the soul along with the active life, represented by Martha, and contemplation, represented by Mary. Thus, Bernard could shift away from his earlier reliance on the metaphor of Rachel and Leah that he had used to explain his own participation in secular affairs, and toward a more complete scriptural paradigm. 36

When one examines the passage in Sermo 57 in its full context, however, this interpretation appears problematic. It is true that Bernard described Lazarus as “entreating the grace of resurrection,” and shortly thereafter remarked that although we often fail in our desire to please God, we “have among us … Lazarus, the mourning dove, in our novices who, until recently, were dead in sin and still go in fear of judgement till (sic) the assurance of Christ's pardon rolls away the stone and they can breathe again.” 37 Nonetheless, this is not the primary message that Bernard was attempting to convey. Rather, he was linking the three words of the psalm, my “love,” my “dove,” and my “fair one,” directly to “preaching, prayer and contemplations,” which he viewed as manifest in the three figures of Martha, Lazarus, and Mary. The full text is worth quoting:

The Bridegroom calls the Bride “My love, My dove, My fair one”; and I think these titles answer to preaching, prayer and contemplations. For she is fitly called His love, who labours faithfully, by exhorting and counseling and serving others … and fitly also is she called His dove, who does not cease to mourn her sins and to entreat His mercy in her prayer. Fitly, again, does He call her His fair one; for the supernal contemplation, to which she gives herself as often as she may, makes her bright and beautiful with heavenly desire. Any one soul may gain this threefold good; but I think its three parts are represented by the three close friends who lived together in one house. For Martha served, Lazarus groaned as it were beneath the stone that sealed his tomb, entreating the grace of resurrection; and Mary did nothing but attend to Christ. 38

Bernard formulated a similar comparison in his last chapter of In Praise of the New Knighthood. In reference to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus respectively, the saint described them as typifying “zeal for good works (studium bonae actionis), … holy contemplation (otium sanctae contemplationis)” and “tears of penance (lacrima paenitentis).” 39 In both of these portrayals of Lazarus, eschatological hope is merely implied.

As for the legend of the Last World Emperor, Kroemer argues that, by encouraging the recapture of Jerusalem and hoping for this figure to be revealed as either King Louis VII of France (r. 1131–1180) or Emperor Conrad III of Germany (r. 1138–1152), Bernard had been attempting to propel the world from the third age of time (the age of hypocrisy) into the last age of time (that of the Antichrist), thereby bringing himself closer to eventual, full union with God. 40

Both of Bernard's royal candidates for the role of Last World Emperor departed for the East in 1147. Although Louis's specific motives for participating and the exact goals of the Second Crusade are the subject of historiographical debate, 41 in the end, Edessa was not recaptured and a subsequent Western attack at Damascus, attempted as a desperate effort to gain some territory, also failed. The primary reasons for this debacle included a lack of coordination of the European leaders, opposing priorities of Raymond of Antioch and the Westerners, and surprise manoeuvres by the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus, who was fearful of an attack by Western armies. The Crusaders returned home, disheartened and quarrelling among themselves. 42

Notwithstanding that Pope Eugenius considered the idea of returning to the Holy Land a dubious enterprise at best, 43 Bernard and Abbot Suger, King Louis's primary advisor, together requested a gathering be held at Chartres in 1150 to discuss another expedition to regain Edessa. Both men solicited the presence of another contemporary, Peter the Venerable of Cluny, since the matter “need[ed] the counsel of all the eminent men in the kingdom,” 44 and because Peter had previously been supportive of the mission. Although the abbot of Cluny was regrettably unable to attend, 45 interestingly, at this meeting, Bernard himself was selected as the next campaign's leader, a role he quickly refused. 46 Still dissatisfied with the state of things, Bernard called for a second meeting to be held at Compiègne several months later, and again requested the presence of Peter the Venerable. 47 However, no religious or military leaders were apparently willing to commit additional resources and, as the extant sources are so laconic, it is possible a second meeting never actually occurred. Upon the death of Abbot Suger in 1151, it seems the entire matter was quietly dropped.

As word spread of the general collapse of the Crusade, many Christians quickly expressed dismay and anger, much of which was aimed at Bernard as the key spokesman for the effort. 48 The abbot, however, refused to accept blame for the debacle and pointed to the Crusade's leaders. In a letter to his uncle André de Montbard, a founder of the order of Knights Templar, he complained, “Woe to our princes! They accomplished no good in the land of the Lord and in their own lands, to which they hastened back, they are doing unbelievable evil. They use their power for evil and know not how to do good.” 49 In Five Books on Consideration, a treatise of advice composed for Pope Eugenius, he lamented:

For we have entered a difficult period, as you well know, which appears to herald an end almost to our very existence, not to mention our endeavors. Clearly, the Lord, provoked by our sins, seems in some way to have judged the earth before the appointed time, justly, of course, but unmindful of his mercy … Strife has spread among the princes and the Lord makes them wander in trackless wastes. Destruction and misery are in their paths; fear and grief and confusion are in the inner chambers of the kings. 50

According to Kroemer, the disappointment reflected in this apologia caused Bernard to question his previous assertion about being in the third age of history, and to recognise that no prince was able to successfully meet the expectations of the legend of the Last World Emperor. As a result, Bernard abandoned this legend and neatly “move[d] his world's present place in history from the age of hypocrisy … to the final age of the Antichrist.” 51 He also adopted a “bitter, almost morbid attitude” in place of his previous optimism. 52 Kroemer supports the first contention with a comment that Bernard made in 1152, the year after Suger's death, found in the preface to his hagiography of the Irish Cistercian abbot, Saint Malachy:

And I suspect that he is already at hand or at least close by (aut praesto, aut prope est), of whom it is written: Want shall go before his face. Unless I am mistaken this is Antichrist, whom famine and absence of all good precedes and accompanies. Then whether he is the messenger of one already here or a presage of one still to come, the need is all too evident. I say nothing of the mob or of the vile crowd of the sons of this world … they are the ones who seek in the Lord's inheritance not the things of the Lord but their own. 53

This statement by the abbot directly opposes an earlier refutation (dated between 1124 and 1128) of Norbert of Xanten's claim that the Antichrist was to arrive in the current generation. McGinn is more cautious in his assessment of this passage and remarks that “Bernard seems to have made the transition from the generalised eschatology common to all Medieval authors to a more intense eschatology at least partly as a result of his involvement in and reflection upon major contemporary crises in the life of the Church.” 54 A third historian, however, rightly disagrees with both Kroemer and McGinn. She believes that Bernard's warning about the Antichrist was made in the context of “rhetorical exaggeration” that is common to hagiography. 55 In making such a dramatic pronouncement, the abbot had intentionally created a sharp contrast between the men around him whom he viewed as lacking spiritual enlightenment, and Saint Malachy, who, through his successful expansion of Cistercian monasteries to Ireland, had been “a burning and a shining light,” an epitome of holiness. 56

Kroemer's second contention, that Bernard was overcome with pessimism after the Second Crusade, is not supported by a more complete review of the primary sources. While Bernard's writings indicate disappointment and frustration with the state of affairs around him, they do not express hopelessness. Indeed, several paragraphs later in the Apologia mentioned above, Bernard called for yet another attempt to save the Holy Land. In offering this option for the pope's consideration, he averred, “I prefer that the murmuring of men be against us rather than against God.” 57

Nonetheless, one can discern that Bernard had possibly reconsidered some of his prior beliefs in response to the failure of the Second Crusade. In order to better understand this possible shift in Bernard's thought, this paper will analyse his views on angels and their involvement in the affairs of humankind as expressed in his writings. Since most Christian thinkers had interpreted Scripture to indicate that angels would play a direct role in announcing the onset of the final age and participating in the Last Judgment of humankind, 58 Bernard's comments on these important heavenly beings offer a valuable window into his broader eschatological suppositions.

Angelology has been present in Christianity from its earliest days and helped establish a necessary link between Jewish tradition and the advent of the parousia. Early angelic doctrine also had the advantage of blending with rising Neoplatonism and providing a means to absorb Roman notions of pantheism by presenting a hierarchy of lesser and greater beings. 59 Throughout Scripture, angels are generally presented as having three primary functions: to serve as messengers of God, to accompany God as a heavenly retinue, and to act as ministers of God in the Last Judgment. Additionally, they are said to watch over each individual, 60 protect the church as a whole, 61 and even punish those who have sinned. 62

Early Christian exegetes expanded this list of duties. According to Clement of Alexandria (d. 215), the first theologian to combine Greek philosophical tradition with Christianity, at Christ's second coming, “all the good [people] will be brought to heaven into a life of contemplation with the angels and the angels will be relieved of their earthly duties, and can rest in contemplation.” 63 On earth, according to Clement, the angels watch over the nations, which had been “apportioned” among them “according to an ancient and divine decree.” 64 Later, Origen asserted that angels had transmitted divine law in the form of the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites, 65 and spoke of custodia, the angels' ongoing spiritual protection of divine law. Hilary of Poitiers (d. 368), a former pagan who had converted to Christianity, linked the angels' presence with the Israelites during their forty years of Exodus to their later assistance of Christ after his forty days of temptation in the desert. Others believed that angels not only join with humans to praise God through prayer and song, as portrayed in the Sanctus of the liturgy, but that they act as mediators as well by conducting prayers from humans to God. Lastly, angels were often included in burial rites and sculpted or inscribed on tombs, since they were believed to bear souls to God and comfort those who remained. 66

During the fourth century, a time of relative peace and acceptance for Christians, “great numbers” of ardent believers withdrew from society in order to “purify their commitment to Christ by ‘voluntary martyrdom’ in the desert” and to re-imagine the “spiritual drama of death.” 67 Although a number of the more dramatic aspects of the desert ascetics' eschatological writings were later condemned, a few of their fantastic and innovative ideas about angels and the end of days nonetheless influenced Western thought. For example, Egyptian ascetics wrote of angels who battled with demons over souls of the departed. After these militant angels had advocated for the just, they would “carry them at their side into the pure eternity, and so lead them to the Lord.” 68

Apocalyptic writing experienced a revival in the beginning of the fifth century, most likely due to upheaval associated with an influx of foreigners into the heart of Europe. One work of this period, the Apocalypse of Paul (Visio Sancti Pauli) claims to have recorded the experiences of the saint as he toured the realms of eternal reward and punishment with the assistance of an angelic guide. While on the tour, Paul observes angels in heaven taking an active role at each person's earthly death. Good angels attempt to protect the soul while others challenge it. Also, when Paul visits hell, he finds merciful angels who grant “a day and a night of ease” once each year to the condemned on the day Christ rose from the dead. 69

By the twelfth century, angels had acquired such a wide range of activities in human affairs that medieval people constantly believed themselves to be in conspectu angelorum, 70 and therefore, in the presence of God. Such a view aligned with Bernard's mystical approach to Scripture, which had been influenced by both Origen and Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite, a late-fifth-century exegete whose work was recovered and circulated widely in the twelfth century. In the tradition of these two scholars, Bernard too could employ allegorical and anagogical techniques to perceive angelic influence and the ineffability of God's presence in the most intelligible and concrete biblical passages, while simultaneously devising a hierarchy of angels that reinforced the reality of human relations on earth. 71

Bernard had knowledge of two nine-tiered hierarchical systems from which he could select details for his own angelic arrangement. In the first, described by Pseudo-Dionysius, the angels interact in rigidly fixed levels through which instructions and guidance are passed downward from God. Therefore, only the lowest rank, named the Angels, have opportunities for contact with humans. The second system, devised by Gregory the Great (d. 604), reflected a diversified hierarchy in which each group of angels was assigned a different duty. Thus, the first rank of angels, which included the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones, served to worship God. The second rank, the dominions, principalities, and powers, kept order in the universe. Finally, the third rank, which included the virtues, archangels, and angels, served as protectors and messengers to humankind.

Bernard's hierarchy followed the latter schema, and can be found in Book 5 of Five Books on Consideration, written in 1145. While the names of Bernard's angelic groups matched Gregory's, their responsibilities did not. Instead, each group was assigned roles specific to humankind. Thus, Bernard explains that the lowest rank, the Angels, are “believed appointed one to each man, and are sent to serve those who are to obtain salvation, as Paul teaches.” Modern theology refers to these as guardian angels. Above them are the Archangels, “who, as confidants of the divine mysteries, are not sent except for matters of extreme importance. Indeed, one of these, the great Archangel Gabriel, was sent to Mary, on a matter which was, indeed, of the greatest importance.” Above the archangels are the Virtues, “by whose will or instigation signs and wonders appear in the elements … for the instruction of men.”

In the middle rank are found the Powers, “by whose strength the power of darkness is checked”; the Principalities, through “whose moderation and wisdom all the principalities on earth are established, ruled, limited, transferred, diminished and altered”; and the Dominions, who supervise all those below them. In the highest rank are the Thrones, who “are seated because God is seated upon them,” and who offer a restful place from which God can “judg[e] all things with tranquility.” Above them are the Cherubim, who “drink from the very font of wisdom, the mouth of the Most High, and pour forth a stream of knowledge to all the citizens of heaven.” The highest ranking angels of all, the Seraphim, are “totally enkindled with divine fire,” and so “enkindle all so that each citizen is a lamp burning and shining: burning with love, shining with knowledge.” 72

Since these descriptions of angels were written after 1148, 73 that is, just after the Second Crusade was deemed a failure, they may reflect an evolution from the abbot's earlier beliefs about these mystical beings and their ability to assist humankind. By comparing these statements to Bernard's earlier commentaries on angels, it becomes clear that indeed a change is evident. In 1135, well before the Muslims had captured Edessa, Bernard had begun an explication of the Song of Songs that presented his then-current ideas on angelology. 74 Considered to be one of his most mystical treatises for its beautiful imagery and creativity, this work, like many of his writings, also incorporates pragmatic advice. For example, in Sermo 19, Bernard held up the angelic hierarchy as a mirror for right behaviour to his monastic charges. Just like monks in a monastery, angels have diversified functions, yet live harmoniously and obediently out of love for God. 75 For Christ had said to his apostles, the “sons of God” who remain sexually continent “when they rise from the dead … are like angels in heaven.” 76 Further on, in Sermo 41 on the Song of Songs, Bernard explicated the verse “we will make you golden earrings worked with silver.” 77 Following the commonly held theological view that angels assist in transmitting humans' prayers to God, 78 he explained that “we” represented angels and “gold” symbolised “signs of divinity that the angels insert in the ‘internal ears of the soul’.” This is an example of Bernard's usage of the human senses to explain mystical communion with God and his understanding of how Pure Truth, or what one historian describes as “a rare vision of divine splendor,” can become active in an individual. 79

Angels also appear in Bernard's Epistolae. Although these references were most often merely passing in nature, occasionally Bernard introduced angels in order to encourage the letter's recipient to act in a more pious manner. In Letter 1, written in about 1119 to his nephew Robert, a Cistercian novice who was finding the shift to monastic life rather difficult, Bernard asked, “What have you to fear at whose side angels stand (cui Angeli assistent a latere) and whom Christ leads into battle encouraging his friends … ?” 80 Similarly, in another early letter, again penned to one who strayed from the monastery, Bernard asserted, “We have angels for witnesses and allies (spectatores et protectores). The Lord himself is at hand to sustain us, to teach our hand to make war and the fingers of our hands to fight.” 81 While these remarks have been taken out of context by some historians looking to call attention to the abbot's purportedly bellicose nature, 82 Bernard more likely employed such language in order to relate more easily to his worldly correspondents.

In his Sermons on Psalm 90, 83 likely completed by 1139, 84 Bernard again addressed the heavenly nature of angels and explained the various ways in which they assist humans in loving God. In explicating Verse 11 of the psalm, “For God has given the angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways,” Bernard noted that the means by which angels accomplish their protective duties are both ascending and descending. While they ascend to contemplation of God, also “they descend, or rather they condescend, because of us … out of compassion for you, so that they may guard (custodiant) you in all your ways.” 85 Further on, Bernard stated that,

God has charged his angels not with turning you from (amoveant) your ways, but with keeping you in them, and directing (dirigant) you as it were by their ways into his ways … They who keep watch (custodire) over us deign to admit (admittere) us with them into the ways of the Lord, or better, that they do not disdain to direct (immittere) us into them. 86

In all of these pre-Crusade writings, when Bernard described angelic duties toward humankind, he employed forceful verbs: to guard, to watch, to direct, to protect, to stand. These verbs are quite different from those chosen for his later descriptions of the nine angelic groups in Five Books on Consideration. This contrast becomes more evident toward that work's conclusion, where Bernard seems to diminish the role of angels in the lives of humankind. Rather than guarding and directing humans, Bernard informed his readers that compared to God, angels have no real impact on human lives at all. Although they exist on multiple planes and do indeed aid humankind in a variety of ways, angels can only do so through God's love. For example, Bernard explained that “the Virtues in accordance with their ministry engage in arousing (excitare) the sluggish hearts of men … but in comparison with [God's] virtue they do nothing … Angels and Archangels are present, but [God] is closer to us who is not only present but within us.” 87

Furthermore, God's will supersedes all while angels merely assist. In a passage from Five Books on Consideration, Bernard noted that, “the Seraphim, spirits totally enkindled with divine fire, enkindle (succundere) all so that each citizen is a lamp burning and shining: burning with love, shining with knowledge.” 88 Moreover, “the Angel is within a man suggesting (suggerens) the good, not effecting (ingerens) it; he is in us urging (hortans) us toward the good, not creating (creans) it … Therefore, the Angel is with the soul; God is in the soul. The Angel is in the soul as its companion, God as its life.” 89 In his summary, Bernard characterised the relationship between God and the angels in the following way:

But God loves as charity, he knows as truth, he sits in judgment as justice, he rules as majesty, he governs as a principle, he protects as salvation, he operates as strength, he reveals as light, he assists as piety. And all of this the Angels also do, and so do we, but in a far inferior manner; not indeed because of the good which we are but by the good in which we share. 90

In this writing, Bernard chose significantly milder words to describe angelic activities than he did earlier, and he was quite deliberate in minimising angels' control over human lives. At the same time, Bernard seemed to be revising, or perhaps renewing, his perceptions of God and God's interactions with humanity. In these post-Crusade writings, God appears to be increasingly accessible to humans through right intentions, prayer and deep contemplation. For example, in the above-mentioned letter to his Uncle Andrew, after lamenting the failure of the princes, Bernard went on to proclaim, “The hand of the Lord will triumph and his arm shall give his people courage, so that all men shall know that they would do better to hope in the Lord than to put their trust in princes.” 91

In Sermo 57 on the Song of Songs, likely written during or after the time of the Second Crusade, Bernard again stressed the power of God alone in creating love in humankind:

The Fire which God is consumes indeed, but without causing pain; sweet is the burning, blissful devastation that its flames effect … it acts like fire on our faults, only in order that it may act as unction to the soul. Recognise, then, in the power that changes your heart and the love that inflames you in the Presence of the Lord. 92

Later, in Sermo 84, Bernard attempted to describe the ineffable delight of seeking and knowing God: “When the soul achieves the bliss (gaudii) of finding [God], her longing is not quenched but kindled, as fire flames the more when oil is poured upon it. That is how it is. Joy (laetitia) will be filled to the brim; but the desire and the ensuing quest will not come to an end.” Bernard's eschatological hope is evident throughout this passage and especially in a subsequent reminder to his readers that God has always been searching for them, whether they are devout or have gone astray. 93

Optimism is also found in his later writings to Pope Eugenius. In Five Books on Consideration, Bernard wrote of his trust in the heavenly salvation that love of God offers. As he described his own soul's longing to be free of the weight of his body, Bernard informed his pupil that God's

heart of mercy lies open, [God's] thoughts of peace lie revealed, the riches of [God's] salvation, the mysteries of [God's] good will, the secrets of [God's] kindness, which are hidden from mortals and beyond the comprehension of even the elect. This, indeed, is for the good of their salvation, so they do not cease fearing before they are found suited for loving worthily.

Interestingly, Bernard chose the ranks of angels to explain the multifaceted love and limitless powers of God. He wrote:

In the Seraphim we can perceive how [God] loves who has nothing to elicit [God's] love but who does not hate anything which [God] has made … We can see in the Cherubim, who are called the fullness of knowledge, that the Lord is a God of knowledge … who is totally light and in whom there is no darkness … We can see how [God] sits on the Thrones as a judge who causes no fear among the innocent … In the Dominions we can see how great is the majesty of the Lord at whose nod an empire is established with boundaries that are universal and eternal. In the Principalities we can see the principle from which all things derive … In the Powers it is seen how mightily this same Prince protects those whom [God] rules … In the Virtues we can see that there is everywhere equally present one noble force through which all things have their being, which is vivifying, efficacious, invisible and immobile yet beneficially moving all things and firmly sustaining them … Finally we can see and admire in the Angels and Archangels the truth and the proof of that saying, “For [God] cares about us.” [God] does not cease to delight us with visits from such great beings, to instruct us by their revelations, to admonish us by their suggestions and to comfort us by their zeal. 94

After reviewing this evidence, one can perceive that Bernard's eschatological approach did indeed change after the disappointment of the Second Crusade. At this late stage in his life, knowing that death was imminent, the abbot reassessed his reliance on the princes of his day and renounced the idea of a Last World Emperor. At the same time, he reaffirmed his belief in the omnipotence of God. This is not to infer that Bernard had not always considered God to be above all, but rather that intercession by others, be they human or angelic, no longer weighed heavily in his theology. This process also compelled Bernard to modify his previous angelology. As intercessory beings in a unique realm between humanity and God, their level of control over humanity was reduced in his later writings. Indeed, as seen in the above citation, angels depended on God for their assignments and duties, rather than being capable of autonomous choice.

This modification of Bernard's theology may also have encompassed a reaffirmation of his commitment to the contemplative life. As he well knew from his own experiences, interaction between God and a truly humble believer was not mediated through human warfare or divine messengers. However, it took the disaster of the Second Crusade to return him to his core convictions and remind him to ignore the arrogant speculations of those who thought they knew what Christ said that they would never know: the day or the hour. 95

  1. 1

    A. H. Bredero, Bernard of Clairvaux: Between Cult and History (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 56 , 9, 81–89.

  2. 2

    To cite just a few examples, see Bredero, Bernard of Clairvaux, 279281 : “This duality in Bernard's life has reemerged as a historiographical problem [and] a compromise has been invented that would supposedly do justice to both views regarding Bernard's personality … based on the presupposition that Bernard must have been internally torn.” See also T. Merton, The Last of the Fathers: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and the Encyclical Letter, Doctor Mellifluus (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1954), 9 , where he notes that after his death, Bernard “suffered a rapid and disconcerting fragmentation at the hands of his own fame.” See also B. P. McGuire, The Difficult Saint: Bernard of Clairvaux and His Tradition (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1991), 17 : “Bernard of Clairvaux is not an easy person with whom to deal … one can easily end up with two Bernards, the abbot who is forever lost to us in the silence of the cloister, and the ecclesiastical politician whose voice is almost too strident.”

  3. 3

    Bernard of Clairvaux, The Letters of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, trans. Bruno S. James (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953 ), Letter 400, 472.

  4. 4

    S. Robson, “With the Spirit and Power of Elijah”: The Prophetic-Reforming Spirituality of Bernard of Clairvaux as Evidenced Particularly in his Letters (Rome: Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 2004), 115 .

  5. 5

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters , trans. James, Letter 67, 91. See also Bernard of Clairvaux, Sancti Bernardi Opera, vol. VII (Romae: Editiones Cistercienses, 1957 ), Epistola 64, 158. “Et si vultis scire, Claravallis est. Ipsa est Ierusalem, et quae in caelis est, tota mentis de devotione, et conversationis imitatione, et cognatione quadam spiritus sociata.” Hereafter, this source will be referred to as SBO with a volume number in Roman numerals. McGuire describes Bernard's understanding of the Holy Land as “more a state of mind and spiritual exaltation than a concrete place … an allegory rather than a worldly city.” See B. P. McGuire , ed., A Companion to Bernard of Clairvaux (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), 38 .

  6. 6

    The English translation offered here is my slight rewording of the translation from Bernard of Clairvaux on the Song of Songs III, trans. K. Walsh and I. Edmonds (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1979), 8991 referenced by Robson, “With the Spirit and Power of Elijah,” 117118 . See SBO II, Sermo 74 super Cantica canticorum, verses 56 , 242. My revision is noted in bold lettering.

  7. 7

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters , trans. James, Letter 146, 215. SBO VII Epistola 144.

  8. 8

    J. C. Morison, The Life and Times of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux (London: Chapman and Hall, 1863), 417 . SBO VIII Epistola 245, 136. “Propositium meum monasterium non egrediendi credo non latere vos.”

  9. 9

    Eugenius III, “Der Text der Kreuzzugbulle Eugens III,” edoted by P. Rassow , Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde, vol. 45 (1924), 302305 . Translation from L. and J .S. C. Riley-Smith, The Crusades, 57–58, quoted in J. Phillips, Defenders of the Holy Land: Relations between the Latin East and the West, 1119–1187 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 76 .

  10. 10

    Bernard of Clairvaux, In Praise of the New Knighthood, trans. M. C. Greenia, OSCO (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2000[1977]), 9 . The dating of this work is the subject of some debate among scholars. At the latest, it was completed in 1137. See Kennan's introduction, 13 n. 10.

  11. 11

    Bernard of Clairvaux, In Praise of the New Knighthood , Chapter 3, 39.

  12. 12

    D. Seward, The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1972), 26 .

  13. 13

    Others have suggested different motivations, including loyalty to the pope who was also a Cistercian, Bernard's own egotistical desires to control events of his day, and his desire to see Christendom expand territorially.

  14. 14

    C. W. Bynum and P. Freedman , eds., Last Things: Death and the Apocalypse in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2000), 5 .

  15. 15

    See B. McGinn, “St. Bernard and Eschatology,” in Bernard of Clairvaux: Studies presented to Dom Jean Leclercq, ed. J. Leclerq (Washington, DC: Cistercian Publications Consortium Press, 1973), 161163 for a discussion of the two tendencies of medieval eschatological thought, spiritual (vertical) and historicising (horizontal).

  16. 16

    See B. E. Daley, SJ, The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 79 . He references the Apocalypse of Peter, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Fifth and Sixth books of Ezra, and the Sibylline Oracles. Many of these writings were adapted from Jewish apocrypha.

  17. 17

    Daley, The Hope of the Early Church, 5960 .

  18. 18

    Daley, The Hope of the Early Church, 131 .

  19. 19

    Daley, The Hope of the Early Church, 132 .

  20. 20

    See J. G. Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” PhD diss. (Marquette University, 2000), 147157 and McGinn, “St. Bernard and Eschatology,” 172173 for details of these various schemes and the proliferation of them in the twelfth century.

  21. 21

    Ps. 90:5–6. See SBO IV, 119 for this sermon and McGinn, “St. Bernard and Eschatology,” 173 for discussion of the unique nature of Bernard's scheme and the original Latin.

  22. 22

    SBO I, Sermo 33 super Cantica canticorum verses 16 , 244. “Serpit hodie putida tabes per omne corpus Ecclesiae … Ministri Christi sunt, et serviunt Antichristo.” Bernard had earlier presented, in Sermo 23 on verse 3 of the Song of Songs, a three-age division of history. It included the time of Creation, the time of Reconciliation, i.e. the time of Jesus, and the time of Restoration, which is still to come and will usher in a “new heaven and new earth, and the good shall be gathered from among the wicked, as fruits from a garden, to be laid up safely in the barns of God.” See PL183:886AB. McGinn does not address this particular version of Bernard's historical ages, but does mention a passage in the Brevis Commentatio (PL 184:431D–32A) that includes similar phrasing and content. See McGinn, “St. Bernard and Eschatology,” 189 , n. 61.

  23. 23

    This process of adaptation and transmission is described in B. McGinn, “Teste David cum Sibylla: The Significance of the Sibylline Tradition in the Middle Ages,” in Women of the Medieval World, Essays in Honor of John H. Mundy, eds. J. Kirshner and S. F. Wemple (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), 1011 .

  24. 24

    B. McGinn, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994), 90 .

  25. 25

    McGinn, Antichrist, 100103. McGinn's translation of Adso's letter can be found at

  26. 26

    McGinn, Antichrist, 8889 .

  27. 27

    McGinn, “St. Bernard and Eschatology,178 .

  28. 28

    Robson, “With the Spirit and Power of Elijah,” 118 .

  29. 29

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, trans. G. R. Evans (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 256 .

  30. 30

    See Bernard's third sermon on the Feast of All Saints, SBO V, 349–350, Sermon 16 of “He Who Dwells,” in Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on Conversion: On Conversion, A Sermon to Clerics and Lenten Sermons on the Psalm “He Who Dwells,” trans. M.-B. Saïd, OSB (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1981 ), 248 (SBO IV, 282–83), and Sermon 38 in Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of Songs, 114. “While you are in the body, you have not strength to look up on the marvellous noon-day light wherein I dwell. You must wait till the very last for that, when I shall have made you glorious before Me.”

  31. 31

    Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” v and 8687 . This statement refers to Bernard's teachings about the literal resurrection of the body as required for union with God at the Last Day. Per Kroemer, in 1336, Pope Benedict XII settled the matter in Benedictus Deus, which stated that the soul will experience the divine essence before the general judgment, i.e. it does not have to wait for resurrection of the body in order to unite with God.

  32. 32

    Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” 209 .

  33. 33

    Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” 213 .

  34. 34

    Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” 1417 . Although sermo is most often translated as “sermon” in English, it is more usefully translated as “discourse.” In Cistercian tradition, such sermones were not opportunities for preaching, but rather for discussing theological matters. They were delivered daily in the chapter room after Prime. See M. Casey, “Reading Saint Bernard: The Man, the Medium, the Message,” in A Companion to Bernard of Clairvaux, ed. B. P. McGuire (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), 8591 . “When Cistercian abbots preached, they were not delivering an academic address but sharing the fruit of their own reading, meditation and prayer.”

  35. 35

    Per Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bernard on the Song of Songs: Sermones in Cantica Canticorum, trans. and ed. A Religious of the CSMV (London: A. R. Mowbray, 1952), 180 , the verse is “Lo, my Beloved saith to me, Arise, make haste, My love, My dove, My fair one, and come. For lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” Per the NRSV, it is “My beloved speaks and says to me:‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.’” This translation omits the phrase “my dove” that Bernard had referenced.

  36. 36

    Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” 25 , 12–16. This metaphor related to the two wives of Jacob of the Old Testament in the Book of Genesis. Leah, with whom Jacob had many children, represented activity in the world and Rachel, whom Jacob loved but with whom he failed to conceive children, represented contemplation and love.

  37. 37

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bernard on the Song of Songs, 184185 .

  38. 38

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bernard on the Song of Songs, 185 . Kroemer explains Bernard's divergence from a neat three-way comparison of the three individuals as an example of Bernard having no compunction to be consistent in his exegesis of Scripture. See Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” 15. While this is often true, it does not apply in this case.

  39. 39

    Bernard of Clairvaux, In Praise of the New Knighthood , Chapter 13, 79. SBO III, De Laude Novae Militiae , Chapter XIII, 239.

  40. 40

    Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” 1719 . McGinn does not believe that Bernard and the Cistercians were particularly influenced by the legend. See McGinn, Antichrist, 126 .

  41. 41

    See J. Phillips, Defenders of the Holy Land: Relations between the Latin East and the West, 1119–1187 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 7984 .

  42. 42

    For more on the Second Crusade, see J. Phillips, The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007 ).

  43. 43

    B. M. Bolton, “The Cistercians and the Aftermath of the Second Crusade,” in The Second Crusade and the Cistercians, ed. M. Gervers (New York: St Martin's Press, 1992), 136 .

  44. 44

    SBO VIII, Epistola 364, 318319 . Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters , trans. James, Letter 398, 470. Suger also requested Peter's presence. Per Bolton, “The Cistercians,” 132, see Suger, Epistolae, letter 107 in Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, ed. M. Bouquet et al. (Paris: Corpus Bibliographique Étampois, 17381904), vol. 15, 325 .

  45. 45

    Bolton, “The Cistercians,” 134 .

  46. 46

    SBO VIII, Epistola 256, 163165 . Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters , trans. James, Letter 399, 472. In this letter to Pope Eugenius, Bernard asked, “Who am I to arrange armies in battle order, to lead forth armed men? I could think of nothing more remote from my calling.”

  47. 47

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters, trans. James, Letter 400, 472473 .

  48. 48

    P. J. Cole, “Religious Pollution in Crusade Documents,” in Crusaders and Muslims in Twelfth-Century Syria, ed. M. Shatzmiller (New York: E. J. Brill, 1993), 104 . The pope and Bernard were referred to as “pseudo-prophets, sons of the devil and witnesses of Antichrist” by an annalist of Würzburg. See Annales Herbipolenses MGHS 16, 3.

  49. 49

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters , trans. James, Letter 410, 479. SBO VIII, Epistola 288, 203. “Vae principibus nostris! In terra Domini nihil boni fecerunt: in suis, ad quas velociter redierunt, incredibiliem exercent malitiam … Potentes sunt ut faciant mala, bonum autem facere nequent.” James omits the phrase “et non compatiuntur super contritione Ioseph” in his translation of this letter. It may be translated as “but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.”

  50. 50

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Five Books on Consideration: Advice to a Pope, trans. J. D. Anderson and E. T. Kennan (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1976 ), Book 2, An Apologia on the Plight of Jerusalem, 47–48.

  51. 51

    Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” 208 .

  52. 52

    Kroemer, “The Eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux,” 209 .

  53. 53

    McGinn, “St Bernard and Eschatology,” 161185 , citing Vita Sancti Malachiae in SBO III, 307: “Et, ut sispicor ego, aut praesto, aut prope est, de quo scriptum est: Faciem eius praecedet egestas. Ni fallor, Antichristus est iste, quem fames ac sterilitas totius boni et praeit, et comitatur. Sive igitur nuntia iam preasentis, sive iamiamque ad futuri praenuntia, egestas in evidenti est.” The English translation offered here is my slight rewording of that found in Bernard of Clairvaux, The Life and Death of Saint Malachy the Irishman, trans. R. T. Meyer (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1978), 1112 . My revisions are noted in bold lettering.

  54. 54

    McGinn, “St Bernard and Eschatology,” 184185 .

  55. 55

    S. Flanigan, “Twelfth-Century Apocalyptic Imaginations and the Coming of the Antichrist,” Journal of Religious History 24, no. 1 (2000), 62 .

  56. 56

    Bernard of Clairvaux, The Life and Death of Saint Malachy the Irishman, 1213 .

  57. 57

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Five Books on Consideration, 51 .

  58. 58

    Rev. 8:2–11:15 in which seven angels blow seven trumpets to announce the end of days.

  59. 59

    J. Daniélou, The Angels and their Mission, trans. David Heimann (Westminster and Maryland: Newman Press, 1957 ), ix.

  60. 60

    Ps. 91.

  61. 61

    Michael the Archangel is most commonly referenced in this context. See Jude 1: 9 and Rev. 12:7.

  62. 62

    2 Sam. 24:16. Per NRSV, “But when the angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented concerning the evil, and said to the angel who was bringing destruction among the people, ‘It is enough; now stay your hand.’”

  63. 63

    Daley, The Hope of the Early Church, 45 .

  64. 64

    Daniélou, The Angels and their Mission, 15 , citing Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 6, 17. “For regiments of angels are distributed over the nations and cities. And, perchance, some are assigned to individuals.” See

  65. 65

    Daniélou, The Angels and their Mission, 89 . In subsequent pages, Danielou describes Origen's exegesis of “we will make thee chains of gold, inlaid with silver” from Song of Songs 1:10. Per Origen, just as the Old Law was a herald of the Gospel, angels were “provisional” in that they represented Judaism, a harbinger of Jesus, the true “gold.”

  66. 66

    D. Keck, Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 204 .

  67. 67

    Daley, The Hope of the Early Church, 69 .

  68. 68

    Daley, The Hope of the Early Church , 70 and 118. He cites the writings of Antony and Ammonas, as well as the fifth-century Apophthegmata Patrum, a compendium of eastern monastic writings and oral tradition. The quote is from a translation of the Apocalypse of Thomas.

  69. 69

    Daley, The Hope of the Early Church, 121122 . This is an adaptation of Jewish “Sabbath rest” for the damned. Daley notes that the Visio left a “vivid mark” on the Latin West for centuries to come. One cannot help but wonder, given its story line, if this work inspired Dante's Commedia.

  70. 70

    Keck, Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages , 39. Ps. 137:1 (Vulgate 138:1.) Per the Vulgate, the Latin text is “ipsi David confitebor tibi Domine in toto corde meo quoniam audisti verba oris mei in conspectu angelorum psallam tibi,” which translates to English as, “For David himself. I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: for thou hast heard the words of my mouth. I will sing praise to thee in the sight of the angels.” See Per the NRSV, “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise.”

  71. 71

    This refers to the four senses of Scripture: the historical, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical. See H. de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, vol. 1, The Four Senses of Scripture, trans. M. Sebanc (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998 [1959]).

  72. 72

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Five Books on Consideration, 5.4.8, 147149 . See also SBO III, 472 .

  73. 73

    Bredero, Bernard of Clairvaux, 148 , and McGuire, A Companion, 58 . McGuire and Robson state that it was written between 1149 and 1153.

  74. 74

    McGinn, The Growth of Mysticism, 210 . The most pervasive theme in this work, however, is love — love of God and of each other. See Casey, “Reading Saint Bernard,” 99102 , McGinn, The Growth of Mysticism, 193224 , Keck, Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages, 120 , and Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Love of God and Other Selected Writings, ed. Msgr. C. J. Dollen (New York: Alba House, 1996), 1926 . Bernard describes four stages of love: Love of oneself for one's own sake, of God for one's own benefit, of God for God's sake, and of God for God's sake alone. SBO III, 138–44.

  75. 75

    Keck, Angels & Angelology in the Middle Ages, 119 . See Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bernard on the Song of Songs, 4849 .

  76. 76

    P. Brown, “The Notion of Virginity in the Early Church,” in Christian Spirituality: Origins to the Twelfth Century, eds. B. McGinn and J. Meyendorff (New York: Crossroad, 1997), 429430 . See Mark 12:25, Matt. 22:29–30, and Luke 20:34–36.

  77. 77

    Song 1:10.

  78. 78

    Keck, Angels & Angelology in the Middle Ages, 169 . Rev. 8:3: “Another angel came and stood at the altar, — holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne.”

  79. 79

    B. McGinn, The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism, vol. 2 , The Development of Mysticism (New York: Crossroad, 1994), 209 . McGinn uses the phrase “Pure Truth” to designate divine wisdom. Bernard explicated the psalm's earrings, which were fashioned by angels, as representing this wisdom.

  80. 80

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters , trans. James, Letter 1, 9.

  81. 81

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters , trans. James, Letter 2, 18. See PL 182.87A: “Adsunt angeli spectators et protectores: adest ipse dominus adiutor et susceptor, qui doceat ‘manus tuae ad proelium (praelium in PL) et digitos tuos ad bellum.’” Bernard is referencing Ps. 143:1: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

  82. 82

    G. R. Evans, Bernard of Clairvaux (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 168 . Evans reads this sentence to suggest that Bernard is encouraging a holy war, possibly the Second Crusade. However, reading the letter thoroughly and in context demonstrates that, like Letter 1, the war to which Bernard refers is figurative. Furthermore, this letter was written decades before the Second Crusade.

  83. 83

    Ps. 91 (Vulgate Ps. 90).

  84. 84

    S. Chase, Angelic Spirituality: Medieval Perspectives on the Ways of Angels (New York: Paulist Press, 2002), 108 .

  85. 85

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on Conversion, 206 . Also SBO IV, 452 and PL 183. In Psalmium “Qui Habitat,” sermon 11, verse 6.

  86. 86

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on Conversion, 211 . Also SBO IV, 456. In Psalmium “Qui Habitat,” sermon 11, verse 6. “… in vias Domini secum nos admittere, imo et immittere non dedignentur, qui custodire dignantur in nostris.” This is just one example of Bernard's effective manipulation of Latin, whether via rhymes, alliterations or oppositions to emphasise his messages. See B. M. Kienzle, “Verbum Dei et Verba Bernardi: The Function of Language in Bernard's Second Sermon for Peter and Paul, in Bernardus Magister: Papers Presented at the Nonacentenary Celebration of the Birth of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, ed. J. R. Sommerfeldt (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1992), 149158 . She concludes, “Bernard's intense love of the word of God drove him to perfect the beauty of his own words … to fix in his audience's memory the word of God conveyed by the words of Bernard.” See also Casey, “Reading Saint Bernard,” 92.

  87. 87

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Five Books on Consideration, 153 . SBO III, De Consideratione 5.4.11, 476 and PL 182. “Virtutes pro suo ministerio satagunt excitare corda torpentia hominum … sed in comparatione eius non faciunt … Adsunt Angeli et Archangeli, sed, ille germanior nobis, qui non modo adest, sed inest.”

  88. 88

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Five Books on Consideration, 149 . SBO III, De Consideratione 5.4.8, 473.

  89. 89

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Five Books on Consideration, 154 . SBO III, De Consideratione 5.4.12, 476.

  90. 90

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Five Books on Consideration, 154 . SBO III, De Consideratione 5.4.12, 476–477.

  91. 91

    SBO VIII, Epistola 288, 203. “Porro dextera Domini faciet virtutem et brachium suum auxiliabitur ei, ut cognoscant omnes quia bonum est sperare in Domino quam sperare in principibus.” Bernard of Clairvaux, Letters , trans. James, Letter 410, 470.

  92. 92

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bernard on the Song of Songs, 183 .

  93. 93

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bernard on the Song of Songs, 260261 . PL 183.1185A.

  94. 94

    Bernard of Clairvaux, Five Books on Consideration, 15015 . SBO III, De Consideratione 5.4.10.

  95. 95

    Matt. 24:36. In speaking of the Last Day, Jesus told the apostles, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”