This week, as we continue in our Ancient Christmas Prayers blog series, we get to connect with our Heavenly Father through a prayer from roughly 1140 A.D. written by Bernard of Clairvaux.
Bernard was born in 1090 A.D. to parents of the highest nobility in Burgundy, an historical province of France. At the age of 9, Bernard was sent to a religious boarding school, where he showed an interest in literature and an aptitude for speech and reasoning. By his early 20s, Bernard had become fairly influential within the Catholic Church, leading many young men, as well as all of his brothers and even his widowed father, to join the monastery he had entered. He eventually helped found 163 monasteries throughout Europe, and became an influential voice in theological and political matters within the Catholic Church.
Bernard's primary place of fame comes from two places: the founding of the Knights Templar (a military order within the Catholic Church) and giving the sermon that launched the second Crusade (which was not only a catastrophic failure, but for many modern people, this leads Bernard not to fame but infamy). You might have been unknowingly exposed to Bernard's influence if you've ever sung the hymn, O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.
Lastly, you might be interested to know that Bernard's influence did not impact only his beloved Catholic Church. Two of the most famous reformers, John Calvin and Martin Luther, quote from Bernard in defense of Sola Fidé (the doctrinal understanding of being justified by faith alone).
With that background, let us use Bernard of Clairvaux's Nativity Prayer to draw our hearts heavenward during this season of Advent.
Let your goodness, Lord, appear to us,
that we, made in your image, may conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength we cannot imitate
your majesty, power, and wonder,
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love.
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