Love and the Individual Abelard and Bernard

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After Augustine, Western life and culture entered a period of centuries of nearly unremitting struggle for survival and the development of a feudal, warrior culture. As if striving for daily bread were not a sufficient hardship, there were also the internal conflicts among the rulers themselves as well as against external terrors such as Viking and Magyar incursions. During this period up to the rise of cathedral schools and then fledgling universities in the twelfth century, there appear few records in either prose or poetry that could assist us in exploring the concept of love. What was characterized as love largely had political and communal reference such as alliances, the deference of vassals, and the bonds of monastic brotherhood. Love was understood mainly as an impersonal benevolence. Hamm reflects on this relative silence about the significance of love, saying that the rich emotional, philosophical, theological, and mystical expressions of love in classical pagan and Christian writers disappeared by the early sixth century. The cultural foundations of classical Mediterranean life, Hamm argues, were eroded especially in the Frankish kingdom by temporal and spatial distance.

Dinzelbacher also notes the paucity of poetry and writings on love before the High Middle Ages. If people reflected about love - as must certainly have been the case - they left few written records of their thoughts. Of course sexuality in all its expressions was not without witness for the penitential books from the seventh century on provide detailed proscriptions and norms. The sphere of earthly love, the erotic, was treated by the clergy only as a culpable realm; all too often presenting profane love as the wellspring of all evils and misfortunes. These guides for confessors on sin and penance perpetuated the suspicion of marriage and sexual relations promoted in the early church, and the elevation of virginity found in the writings of Augustine and Jerome. Of these two church fathers, Augustine was the more moderate, but both were critical of the writing of their contemporary Christian, Jovinian, who claimed marriage and virginity were equal goods. Jerome in particular is famous, or infamous as the case may be, for amplifying his anti-matrimonial views into misogynism.

In his tract, The Excellence of Marriage, Augustine wrote that marital intercourse is not sinful when the intent is procreation: ''When it is for the purpose of satisfying sensuality, but still with one's spouse, because there is marital fidelity it is a venial sin. Adultery or fornication, however, is a mortal sin. For this reason abstinence from all sexual union is better even than marital intercourse performed for the sake of procreating.'' So much for Augustine's pre-conversion ''joy of sex!''

Augustine, of course, was not alone in bequeathing this kind of double-think about sexual relations to the West. The church fathers of the second to fifth centuries all privileged virginity and justified sexual relations in marriage by procreation. On the one hand, the Genesis 1:26 ff. creation account states that Adam and Eve are told by God: ''Be fruitful and multiply.'' On the other hand, in Genesis 4:1 f, ''the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.'' Since the second account is after the fall and expulsion from Eden, some of the early church fathers viewed sexuality as a consequence of sin or at least a development simultaneous with the fall. Further weight was added by Paul's views in 1 Corinthians 7: ''It is well for a man not to touch a woman'' (7:1); ''it is well for them [unmarried and widows] to remain unmarried'' (7:8); but on the other hand ''it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion'' (7:9). Marriage is not a sin (7:28 & 36), but refraining from marriage is better (7:38). Paul's views were formed in light of his expectation of the imminent end of the world (7:26-31). But Paul's ''situational ethic'' of sexual relations was missed by the early and medieval church which no longer lived in Paul's context, and thus his contextual reflection became a normative devaluation of sexuality. The linking of sin and sexuality - original sin now becoming the first sexually transmitted disease - with the concomitant effort to remove eros from sexual relations initiated a long fateful history. The pathological fear of the feminine that surfaced in church fathers such as Jerome with its denigration of women continues into the modern period. It also contributed to Mariology by positing that the mother of Jesus had to be free of the stain of eros and mortality (dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 1854), and the prohibition of priesthood to women. The theological suspicion of women was tempered by the sixteenth-century Reformation revaluation of sexuality and marriage, but continued in Roman Catholicism into the modern period as evident by Pope Pius Xl's dependence upon Augustine in his encyclical ''On Chaste Marriage'' (1930).

It would seem that with this tradition that reduced women to the roles of procreation and ''remedy'' within marriage for the ''flames of passion'' the human face of love would be permanently covered with the veil of shame. Nevertheless, sometime around the eleventh to twelfth centuries there is a rediscovery of the pluriformity of love - the love of Christ extolled in the devotional writings of the mystics that included erotic overtones; love between friends as related in collections of letters; love between the sexes as praised in the poetry and song of troubadour literature; love as romance, pain, and exploitation in the Goliard songs; love as erotic quest in the legends of Arthur and the myths of chivalry. In short, something new occurred in the expressions of love. The ''new'' may be related to what has been called the ''birth of the individual.'' It is difficult to provide a precise definition and dating for this shift in consciousness. Morris, points to a scholarly consensus that an ''increased vitality'' and ''a new respect for man and human possibilities'' arose in this period. The earlier medieval view of God had perceived Christ less as the loving and suffering God than as the kingly judge a la medieval rulers. Christ is represented on the cross as ''Christus rex,'' Christ the king, regally clothed and crowned looking out over his kingdom. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), the ''father of scholasticism,'' is significant in the history of theology for his theory of the atonement that shifted the focus from Satan's claim on humankind to the satisfaction of God's justice. Yet, even with this perspective, there remains in Anselm an earlier medieval emphasis upon the maintenance of God's honor and justice. God remains the cosmic model of the earthly experience of feudal barons and kings who ruled by fear and power. By the next generation, Anselm's impersonal-legal tradition, with its emphasis upon satisfying God's honor, shifted to an emphasis upon the saving love of the human Christ. God has given himself in order to recreate love. The crucifix now is rendered as the suffering servant stripped of regalia, a realistic human figure of humanity and pain. Likewise the earlier Romanesque and Gothic renderings of Mary and the child Jesus as stiff presentations of the ''throne of wisdom,'' with Jesus, the little man, holding an orb, gave way to a Madonna image portraying a human mother and child, who nestle together or kiss one another. There is a new intimacy, a more intensive bodily closeness. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) epitomized this shift in his ''Sermon 20'' in his collection On the Song of Songs: The humanity of God intended to ''draw the affections of carnal men, who could only love carnally, to a salutary love of His Flesh, and then on to a spiritual love.''

The ''humanism'' of the period was marked by two developments: fluency in reading and writing Latin, and growing regard for the humanity of persons. The facility to verbalize thoughts and feelings was essential to reflection upon self, others, and the environment of one's life. Some six centuries after Augustine's Confessions, there is once again the exploration of inwardness, introspection, and feelings in autobiographical literature and letters. The interest, indeed fascination, with personal character and development present in Augustine and revived in the twelfth century distinguishes Western literature from the classical Greek myths. Morris notes that ''Greek tragedy was a drama of circumstance, whereas the Western tragedy is essentially a drama of character.'' To put this in the terms for love we have already discussed: Greek Eros is a daemon, a force beyond oneself; whereas the biblical agape is relational. To cite Morris again: ''The personal character of Oedipus is really irrelevant to his misfortunes, which were decreed by fate irrespective of his own desires. Conversely, the tragedies of Shakespeare turn on the flaw in the hero's own character.'' Thus in Julius Caesar, we read: ''The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'' The medieval discovery of the individual and its significance for conceptions of love occurred about the same time in theological and courtly literature. We shall look at the latter's expressions of love in the poetry of the troubadours in the next chapter. The former is exemplified in the conflicting lives and writings of Peter Abelard (1079-1142) and Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). Each was a superb Latinist; and each was concerned with love. And while they shared the introspective individualism shaped by love that characterized the age, they were also bitter opponents. It may well be that the closest thing to concave is convex.

Abelard, born in Brittany of a knight named Berengar and his wife Lucia, both of whom later entered monastic life, was driven by his quest for learning, willing to forfeit his inheritance in search of his holy grail, knowledge. Abelard's exceptional brilliance was matched by his self-esteem. Both characteristics played significant roles in his life, much of which we know about through his autobiography, appropriately titled The Story of My Misfortunes (Historia calamitatum, thus also translatable as the ''history of my calamities''!), ostensibly written to provide comfort to an unnamed friend going through his own difficulties. He studied with some of the most prominent philosophers and theologians of his day, but was often dismissive of their work. Nevertheless he did gain the teaching position of ''Master'' at the cathedral school of Notre Dame. It was here that he met Heloise, fell in love, clandestinely married, had a son, and was castrated by Heloise's angry uncle and guardian. We shall return to this major love story of the Middle Ages in a moment. But first a brief sketch of Abelard's life and work to set the stage for reflections on the influence upon him of the love of Heloise.

Abelard made numerous significant philosophical, theological, and ethical contributions - many of which, it seems, his contemporaries did not fully understand and thus, enhanced by his personality, he appeared as a threat to what they perceived to be the orthodox tradition. His first major theological work, an explication of the Trinity, Theologia Summi Boni, was condemned at the Synod of Soissons (1121) where he was forced to throw it on the fire with his own hand. By now his opponents included the formidable monastic mystics William of St. Thierry (c.1085-1148) and Bernard of Clairvaux, both of whom, ironically, wrote influential treatises on love of God and the neighbor. Bernard remains famous for his extensive sermon series on the Song of Songs, that most erotic book of the Bible. Abelard was condemned to eternal silence as a heretic at the Synod of Sens in 1140. His opponents were also disturbed by his, to them, erosion of morality by his work on ethics Scito te ipsum (''Know Thyself'') that emphasized personal intention as the determinant of whether or not an act is sinful. According to Gurevich, that was ''a principle that was new for that age'' and reflects the emergence in Abelard of ''a new type of individual.'' Acts themselves are morally indifferent; it is the intention behind them that makes them right or wrong. There is an echo here of Augustine's phrase, ''love God and do what you will.'' The motif of love is equally present in Abelard's theology of salvation, that Weingart aptly titled The Logic of Divine Love. The essential God-human bond is love freely given by God. Sin breaks this relationship, but because God is love he re-creates fellowship with his creatures through the incarnation of love in Jesus Christ. The renewal and transformation of the person through divine love liberates the person from the rule of selfish love, cupiditas, and directs him or her toward an existence determined by selfless love, caritas. Salvation, then for Abelard, is ''the logic of divine love.'' Weingart notes Abelard's unique conception of the uniting in love of persons and God. ''[M]an is justified and sanctified by God in love, he is recreated by the infusion of love, he lives a life of love in the community of the faithful.'' In short, God's love is discovered and realized in human relationships; and that brings us to the love affair of Abelard and Heloise and its influence upon Abelard's theology.

Abelard himself records the story of his affair in his autobiography. He notes that not only was he inordinately proud of his intellectual abilities and learning, he also thought he cut a rather dashing figure with the ladies. With his characteristic modesty he wrote: ''So distinguished was my name, and I possessed such advantages of youth and comeliness, that no matter what woman I might favour with my love, I dreaded rejection of none.'' In light of his position as Master in the Cathedral School of Notre Dame, he notes that he avoided ''the foulness of prostitutes'' and the noblewomen who attended the school. However, he soon noticed Heloise, the brilliant, young, and comely niece of Abelard's fellow canon, Fulbert, at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Since Fulbert was her guardian, she lived in his lodgings. Heloise (c.1094-1164) was at this time about 20 years old; Abelard was in his mid-thirties. In Heloise's letters, collected in the volumes by Mews and Radice, it is clear that in her Abelard met his intellectual equal. Her writings exhibit an amazing conversance with the church fathers and classical authors, including the writings of Ovid. Inflamed with passion for her, Abelard set out to seduce her. He persuaded Fulbert to rent him a room in the canon's lodgings that were near the Cathedral. The arrangement included Abelard's promise to tutor her in philosophy and Greek. They soon proceeded to conjugate more than verbs and she became pregnant. Abelard recollected: ''Under the pretext of study we spent our hours in the happiness of love, ...No degree in love's progress was left untried by our passion, and if love itself could imagine any wonder as yet unknown, we discovered it.'' Abelard's attention was thus diverted, to the dismay and anger of his students, from philosophy and theology to poetry and love songs, which, he claimed, spread abroad and became the talk of Paris. Although no love poems from the time may be unequivocally attributed to Abelard, George Whicher in his The Goliard Poets includes some poems which may be the lost lyrics. One might be ''Moonlight Sonata'' that concludes:

But O, how many are the changes

Through which a lover's spirit ranges!

No ship that drifts

With anchor lost

Can match the shifts

Of hope and fear

Wherewith he's crossed:

The folk of Venus buy her service dear.

Heloise exulted in her pregnancy, but Abelard spirited her away to his sister in Brittany where their son was born. Heloise named him Astralabe, after the astronomer's instrument, perhaps in allusion to star-crossed love or heavenly bearings for their love. Fulbert, who had doted on his niece, was enraged when he discovered the affair and its consequence. Abelard offered marriage, provided ''the thing could be kept secret, so that I might suffer no loss of reputation thereby.'' We might note that at this time clergy in minor orders such as Abelard were still in an ambiguous situation vis-a-vis marriage. It was not until the first Lateran Council in 1123 that celibacy of the major clergy was mandated. Furthermore, a number of significant theologians and some synods argued against mandatory celibacy all the way into the fifteenth century. Nevertheless, the consensus of the day was that professors remain celibate; also, marriage would have been a bar to a church career, the prime avenue for Abelard's advancement.

Heloise herself rejected the thought of marrying Abelard on the basis that it would disgrace him and impede if not ruin his career. She informs him of the hardships of married life. ''Heloise bade me observe what were the conditions of honourable wedlock____What man, intent on his religious or philosophical meditations, can possibly endure the whining of children,... or the noisy confusion of family life? Who can endure the continual untidiness of children?'' Heloise asserted ''it would be far sweeter for her to be called my mistress than to be known as my wife; . . . In such case, she said, love alone would hold me to her, and the strength of the marriage chain would not constrain us.'' After the birth of Astralabe, who was left with Abelard's sister, the couple returned to Paris, were secretly married with but a few friends and Fulbert present.

Their plan was to live separately in order to conceal the marriage. Fulbert, however, could not reconcile himself to their relationship and began to abuse Heloise. Abelard then sent her to a nunnery for her protection. Fulbert interpreted this as Abelard's effort to rid himself of Heloise by forcing her to become a nun. Incensed, Fulbert and some relatives burst in upon Abelard during the night while he slept. ''There they had vengeance upon me with a most cruel and most shameful punishment, . . . for they cut off those parts of my body with which I had done that which was the cause of their sorrow.'' Finding himself permanently celibate, Abelard became a monk and later a priest. The love affair of Abelard and Heloise was immortalized in literature by Jean de Meun in his great thirteenth-century allegory of courtly love and satire on women and marriage, The Romance of the Rose.

Heloise herself took monastic vows and eventually became an abbess, but as we learn from her letters to Abelard written after his Historia Calamitatum her passionate love had not abated:

God knows, I sought nothing in you except you yourself; simply you, not lusting for what was yours. I expected no bonds of marriage, no dowry of any kind, not any pleasures or wishes of my own, but I sought to fulfill yours, as you yourself know. ...I preferred love to marriage, freedom to chains. I call God as my witness, that if Augustus, presiding over the whole world, saw fit to honor me with marriage and confirmed the whole world on me to possess for ever, it would seem dearer and more honorable for me to be called your prostitute (meretrix) than his empress (imperatrix).

Unfettered friendship, closeness to Abelard, meant more to Heloise than any slander directed to her as she declared her love for him to be completely pure. Heloise expresses a ''disinterested love'' for Abelard comparable to his expression of God's love for humankind. Heloise's refusal to color her freely given love by obligation through marriage is echoed by Richard de Fournival (1201-1260) in his ''Advice on Love'': ''[M]arried love is like a debt which one must pay, while the love of which I speak is a kind of grace freely bestowed. Although it is a mark of good manners to pay what one owes, still there is no more delightful love than that born of the gratuitous favor of an artless, ingenuous heart.'' Mews states: ''Heloise's ideal of love integrated three normally distinct concepts: amor, the passion or subjective experience of love; dilectio, an act of choice by which one consciously decided to love another person; and amicitia, or friendship.'' In one of her early letters, she reflects on ''what love is or what it can be by analogy with our behavior and concerns, that which above all forms friendships, and once considered, leads to repaying you with the exchange of love and obeying you in everything.''

Heloise's obedience, however, cost her dearly. She did become an influential nun and abbess, learnedly questioning and conversing about liturgy, hymnody, and theology while also meeting and corresponding with major figures of her day such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter the Venerable (c. 1092-1156), Abbot of Cluny. But she never overcame her love of Abelard and the pain of separation. From the cloister she wrote to him that it was his command, ''not love of God which made me take the veil.'' She cannot forget their past pleasures. ''Wherever I turn they are always there before my eyes, bringing with them awakened longings and fantasies which will not even let me sleep. Even during the celebration of the Mass, when our prayers should be purer, lewd visions of those pleasures take such a hold upon my unhappy soul that my thoughts are on their wantonness instead of on prayers.''

The news of Abelard's death reached Heloise in a letter from Peter the Venerable who extolled Abelard's faith, humility in persecution, devotion, and knowledge. Peter, following Abelard's request, brought Abelard's body to the Paraclete cloister which Abelard had founded and where Heloise had become abbess. At Heloise's request, Peter also provided a written absolution of Abelard to be placed over his tomb. She also requested Peter to help her son Astralabe gain a benefice in one of the cathedrals. Little is known of what became of Astralabe, who was rarely mentioned in the correspondence of Abelard and Heloise. Heloise herself died in 1163 or 1164, perhaps as romantics like to think, at the same age that Abelard died, 63. She was buried alongside Abelard in the abbey church. Their bodies were moved over the centuries until in the nineteenth century they were interred together in the famous Peere Lachaise cemetery in Paris where to this day flowers are occasionally placed beside their effigies.

The extent to which Heloise may have influenced Abelard's theology will remain speculative without further textual evidence. In light of Heloise's arguments against marriage, she may well have influenced Abelard's formulation of an ethic of intention. As she wrote to him: ''It is not the deed but the intention of the doer which makes the crime, and justice should weigh not what was done but the spirit in which it is done.'' In an age that prized the authority of tradition, they boldly questioned the institutions of marriage and church, perceiving internal conflicts as well as external oppression. It is hard to imagine Abelard's re-thinking of the classical theories of the atonement, shifting attention from the satisfaction of God's wrath and justice to God's unlimited love without hearing echoes of Heloise's professions of love: ''I never sought anything in you except yourself.'' Indeed,

Clanchy argues that Heloise was Abelard's ''inspiration... as she can be shown to have expressed these ideas before he did.'' Clanchy continues: ''The hypothesis that Heloise set Abelard's agenda in theology helps to explain why he addressed his final confession of faith to her, and not to the persecutors at

Sens and in Rome who were demanding it____In embracing

Christ, Abelard was also embracing Heloise, as the document addresses her as: 'now dearest in Christ'.''

The passionate romance of Heloise and Abelard has attracted major attention in our own day with a spate of scholarly studies and biographical works. In their own day and the following centuries, however, their story received far less attention. Jean de Meun's satirical continuation of the Romance of the Rose (c.1280) uses them to illustrate the dangers and burdens of marriage. But Dante (1265-1321), himself inspired by his Beatrice, does not mention them. Petrarch (1304-1374), however, showed more interest in them, especially Heloise. Burge comments that Petrarch was ''besotted'' by her. ''Petrarch has seen Heloise's full range: she is by turns intelligent, sexy, stylish, and faithful. This is a combination that has always made scholars fall for her.'' Radice in her ''Introduction'' to the correspondence suggests that the contemporary ideal of courtly love overshadowed the Heloise-Abelard story. In contrast to the troubadours' celebration of the ''chase'' of the unattainable lady, the sensuous physical consummation and courageous bearing of their separation place Abelard and Heloise outside the ''mannered and artificial'' ''romances of chivalry.''

Abelard's theology clearly ruffled the feathers of his opponents. Chief among them was Bernard of Clairvaux, monastic reformer and mystic theologian, self-appointed judge, jury, and prosecutor of Abelard. What galled Bernard was not Abelard's love affair with Heloise but rather Abelard's use of dialectical reason to analyze and express the fundamental doctrines of the faith. Bernard's point of view, echoing that of Gregory the Great (d. 604), is that love, not reason, is the knowing faculty of the human mind (''Amor ipse intellectus est,'' ''love itself is a form of knowing''). By ''knowing'' the mystic means more than acquisition of information and concepts, but rather awareness, experiential union, in the sense that the Hebrew Bible uses ''knowing'' for sexual intercourse. Love is the affective ascent to union with God. The person who does not love does not know God because God is love. It seems that Bernard and Abelard were closer than either thought.

Born into a noble family, Bernard by the age of 22 persuaded 30 other young noblemen, including his brothers, to join the Benedictine renewal movement that had recently developed into an order in its own right, the Cistercians (named after its foundation in Citeaux). The rigor of the Cistercian reform had brought the new community to the edge of extinction when Bernard arrived. His influence became so strong that the Order was at times referred to as the ''Bernardines.'' In 1115 he became the founding abbot at Clairvaux; by the time of his death there were some 340 Cistercian cloisters throughout Europe. Bernard has been called the ''uncrowned ruler of Europe'' because of his multifaceted influence upon the election of popes, politics of kings, preaching of crusades, reforms of the church, and pursuit of heretics. Above all, however, it was Bernard's promotion of a mystical love piety that secured his fame then and now. Thus Dante presented Bernard in the Divine Comedy as the representative of mystic contemplation who leads him to the Virgin Mary in Paradise.

Astell in her study, The Song of Songs in the Middle Ages, provides a summary of modern research on the Cistercians that provides insight into the fascination with this erotic poem and Bernard's famous sermons on it written for his community. The men who entered the new Cistercian communities were to a great extent from the noble class who entered the religious life as adults. ''Many of them had been married or had had sexual experiences. . . . Their ranks included former troubadours, and evidence suggests that the Cistercian recruits were familiar with the popular songs of secular love literature.'' Allen makes the same point, adding that some of the recruits to the newer monastic orders ''were even troubadours and trouveeres. The popularity of Ovid, the worldly experience of these religious, and the church's belief that secular love was purely and simply sexual produced a literature of the cloister that was by no means strictly spiritual; indeed, Leo Pollmann suggests that obscene texts may have been acceptable precisely because they reinforced commonly held ideas about the nature of secular love.'' The context, Astell notes, may help understand the perpetual problem in studies of Bernard: ''the apparent contradiction between his matter (spiritual love) and his manner of conveying it (the amor of the Song).'' While Freudians may view such imagery in terms of ''obsessive sexual repression,'' medievalists tend toward correlating Bernard's imagery to ''the psychological needs and experiences of his audience,'' the goal being ''the soul's mystical marriage with the Word.''

Bernard's tremendous spiritual influence resided not only in the power of his personality but also in the readiness of his age to look inward, a readiness that also informed and received Anselm of Canterbury's emphasis upon ''faith in search of understanding'' ( fides quaerens intellectum) and Abelard's emphasis upon intention. Bernard's extensive writings include treatises, letters, and sermons; the latter taking form as biblical-liturgical commentaries. His masterpiece, 86 sermons on the Song of Songs, composed over a period of about 20 years up to his death, comments on about a third of the book. This work and his On Loving God set forth the mystical path of love which leads to a loving union with Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom. The human fall into sin profoundly damaged the divine ''image and likeness'' in which humankind was created. Bernard therefore posited that the return to God occurred in stages of love that rose from self-love to spiritual love of God initiated by ''the carnal love'' of Christ, i.e., the Incarnation. Self-love is seen here as natural to creation, but this eros can be satisfied only in God.

Evans, in her study The Mind of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, comments that ''the cupiditas or desire which underlies all natural appetites has been sustained and directed and subordinated by caritas, until all its inferior tendencies are gone and desire has become pure love.'' Evans also notes that much of the writing on love in the twelfth century spoke of progress, development, ascent of the soul: ''Like the ladder of humility, the ladder of love is a step-by-step progression to a perfection to be realized only in the life to come. Love is a mountain to be climbed.'' And that climb is possible through the human cooperation with divine grace.

The motif of an ascent of love toward its true goal of union with God is reminiscent of Augustine's distinction of use and enjoyment in the imagery of travel to our homeland during which we use the ship as means toward our future enjoyment of home. At best, then, Bernard perpetuates an ambiguity toward creation, the temporal order of things, and erotic sexual relationships.

Dinzelbacher in his essay on the discovery of love in the High Middle Ages notes that at the same time as Abelard there is a renewed clerical interest in love. Bernard of Clairvaux exemplifies a new theological and spiritual programme with his ''On the Necessity to Love God.'' So did his contemporaries William of St. Thierry (''On the Nature and Dignity of Love''), Aelred of Rielvaux (''The Mirror of Love''), Hugh of St. Victor (''On the Praise of Love''), Richard of St. Victor (''On the Degrees of Love''), among others. These treatises on Christian love correspond to the increasing number of commentaries on the Song of Songs. More exegetes now turned to this biblical book than had in the entire previous thousand years. The most famous of these commentaries is Bernard's sermons on the Song of Songs which were incorporated into the Cistercian liturgy.

Bernard differed from the Anselm's exposition of the Incarnation (Cur Deus homo) with its feudal orientation to the satisfaction of God's honor. For Bernard the primary motive for God becoming a human is not the rectification of the violated order of creation, but love for fallen humankind. So Bernard could write: ''In the Scripture I have read that God is love, but never that he is honor and dignity.'' ''Honor'' and ''dignity,'' the two central concepts of feudal thought and society, appear to Bernard as dissolved in love. God has given himself to pay for human sin, in order to gain the love of humankind. In turn, God's love enables humankind to concentrate upon the saving love of the human Christ and thus move step by step toward spiritual love. The consequent ascent to God begins with the person loving him or herself; next loving God in terms of personal self-interest; and on the third and fourth levels, attaining pure love of God, now loving him or herself only through God. The love of the Christ of the Eucharist is replaced by love of the historical person Jesus.

Bernard broke with the older commentaries on the Song of Songs with their allegorical identification of the bride with the church, and instead identified the bride with the human soul. In Sermon 83, Bernard wrote: ''Now the Bridegroom is not only loving; he is love. Is he honor too? Some maintain that he is, but I have not read it. . . . Honor which is not inspired by love is not honor but flattery. Honor and glory belong to God alone, but God will receive neither if they are not sweetened with the honey of love____[W]hen God loves, he desires nothing but to be loved, since he loves us for no other reason than to be loved, for he knows that those who love him are blessed in their very love.'' For Bernard, the God who is love displaces the feudal image of God who demands honor and judges the world. The mysticism of love and suffering began with the new consciousness of the historicity of Jesus and his passion. These elements of love and suffering also found expression in the growing cult of the sacred heart of Jesus and the honoring of Mary as an earthly maiden. Love alone enables humans to emulate God because the divine attributes of power and wisdom are beyond human capacities.

About this same time period a new form of mysticism arose. According to McGinn, The Flowering of Mysticism that began around 1200 ''marked a major turning point in the mysticism of Western Christianity.'' Women played a major role in the new forms of mysticism expressed among the Beguines and the Mendicants with their emphasis upon ecstatic experience and conceptions of union with God. McGinn also makes the point that these women mystics of the first half of the thirteenth century utilized and transposed the courtly love poetry of the trouveres, the northern minstrels, in their mystical writings. That brings us to our next chapter, an exploration of the ideas of love expressed by troubadours and women mystics.

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