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St. Bernard of Clairvaux

From his Treatise "On Conversion"

Translated by Gillian R. Evans

Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works

Paulist Press, (c) 1987 Gillian Evans.


XVI.  On the Mercy Which Is Promised to the Penitent & Wretched,

          "Blessed," He Says, "Are the Merciful," and so on


29.  For him who prays for mercy, there is a fitting reply, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt. 5:7).  Have mercy on your own soul (Sir 30:24) if you want God to have mercy on you.  Drench your bed in tears night after night, and remember to water your couch with weeping (Ps. 6:7).  If you take compassion on yourself, if you labour with groans of repentance (Ps 6:7)--for this is your first step in mercy--you will indeed find mercy.  If you are perhaps a great sinner with manny sins, and you ask a great mercy and many acts of pity (Ps. 50:3), you, too, must strive to show great mercy.  Be reconciled to yourself, for you did yourself grave injury (Jb 7:20) in setting yourself up against God.


Now that peace has been restored in your own house, it is necessary first to extend it to your neighbor, and that he may give you a new kiss with the kiss of his mouth (Sg. 1:1); as it is written, you must be reconciled and at peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Forgive those who have sinned against you, and your own sins will be forgiven you (Lk. 6:37); and you will pray to the Father with a quiet conscience, and say, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us" (Mt. 6:12).


If perhaps you have cheated anyone, make good what you owe, and give what is left over to the poor (Lk. 19:8, 18:22, 11:41), and you will be shown mercy (Rom. 9:25).  "If your sins were as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, and if they were red as vermillion, they shall be white as wool" (Is. 1:18).  So that you may not be put to shame for all the devices of your wrongdoing (Wis. 3:11), for which you blush now (Rom. 6:21), give alms, and if you cannot do so from your earthly substance (Jb. 4:7; Lk. 11:41), do it from your good will, and they will all be clean.  Not only will the reason be enlightened and the will put right, but the memory itself will be purged, and henceforth you will cry to the Lord and hear a voice saying, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt. 5:8).