April 2011 - Vol. 49.

Ecce Homo,  by Michael O'Brien

Emptied for Our Sake
By Bernard of Clairvaux

Christ’s self-emptying was neither a simple gesture nor a limited one. He emptied himself even to the assuming of human nature, even to accepting death, death on a cross (Philippians 2:7). 

Who is there that can adequately gauge the greatness of the humility, gentleness, and self-surrender, revealed by the Lord of majesty in assuming human nature, in accepting the punishment of death, the shame of the cross? 

But somebody will say: "Surely the Creator could have restored his original plan without all that hardship?" Yes, he could, but he chose the way of personal suffering so that man would never again have to reason to display that worst and most hateful of all vices, ingratitude.

Even if God made you out of nothing, you have not been redeemed out of nothing. In six days he created all things, and among them, you. On the other hand, for a period of thirty whole years he worked your salvation in the midst of the earth. 

What he endured in those labors! To his bodily needs and the abuses from his enemies did he not add the mightier burden of the humiliation of the cross, and crown it all with the horror of his death? And this was indeed necessary. Man and beast you save, 0 Lord (Psalm 36:6). How you have multiplied your mercy, 0 God!

[Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153) was born of noble parentage. He became a Cistercian monk at the age of 22 and took with him thirty young men, including his brothers and uncles, to Citeaux Abbey in France. Three years later he founded a new monastery at Clairvaux. This abbey became a center of the Cistercian order and a source of spiritual renewal throughout Europe.] 
Redeemed by His Blood

by Bernard of Clairvaux

To redeem a servant, the Father spares not his own Son, and the Son delivers himself up most willingly. Both send the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit himself interceded for us with unspeakable groaning (Romans 8:26).

O hard, and hardened, and hard-hearted children of Adam! How can you remain unmoved by such great kindness, such blazing fire, so prodigious a flame of love, and so ardent a lover, who paid such an extravagant price for a worthless piece of goods!

“Not with perishable things like gold and silver” did Jesus redeem us, but with his own “precious blood” (1 Peter 1:18-19) which flowed out liberally from the five parts of Jesus’ body. 

What more should he have done that he did not do? He enlightened the blind, brought back the stragglers, reconciled the guilty, and justified the ungodly. 

Thirty-three years he was seen on earth. He lived among humans, he died for humans, he spoke concerning the Cherubim and Seraphim and all the angelic powers and they came to be (Psalm 33:9). When he wills it, all power is there with him (Wisdom 12:18). 

What then does he who sought you with such concern now seek from you, if not that you walk mindfully with your God (Micah 6:8)? No one but the Holy Spirit enables us to this.

It is he who probes the depth of our hearts (1 Corinthians 2:10), he who discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). 

He does not allow the slightest amount of chaff to settle inside the dwelling of a heart which he possesses, but consumes it in an instant with a fire of the most minute scrutiny. 

He is the sweet and gentle Spirit who bends our will, or rather straightens and directs it more fully toward his own so that we may be able to understand his will truly, love it fervently, and fulfill it effectively.

- Sermon Two for Pentecost
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