Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The “Kiss” of Divine Love Reflections from John of the Cross and Bernard of Clairvaux

Today is the Memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
He wrote a series of sermons on the first part of the Song of Songs.

In my email this morning, I found this lovely article and wanted to share it.

source:  http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/21/2130/37LED00Z/posters/gustav-klimt-the-kiss-der-kuss-close-up-of-heads.jpg

The “Kiss” of Divine Love
Reflections from John of the Cross and Bernard of Clairvaux


Mystics have a way of placing ancient truths in a new light. They present for us what we already believe but in a way that fills us with wonder and awe, as if we were seeing it for the first time. St. John of the Cross is one example, as he introduces us to what may be possible if we are truly in love with God.

Imagine waking up in the morning to the touch or kiss of a loved one. You find yourself rising gently from the depths of the unconscious, like a sailor finally reaching home after wandering distant and foreign shores. In comparison, what is it like to awaken to the “kiss” of divine love in the depths of the heart? St. Bernard of Clairvaux, referring to the first line of the Song of Songs, describes God’s kiss as a secret expression of ineffable love that brings us back to life. According to Bernard, the kiss surpasses anything known in the physical world, and represents the intimate touch of the spirit of Christ.

Who can begin to describe the depth and meaning of the intimate touch of the spirit of Christ on our hearts? We know Jesus Christ as the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity, but we often bracket this as a dogmatic truth rather than looking upon it as God’s personal self-disclosure to us. In other words, God has entered into human experience and has given us in the Person of Jesus a glimpse into divine love. Divine love is so ready and willing to have an intimate relationship with us that it actually becomes one of us in order to reveal itself more. John reminds us that in Jesus Christ, God holds back nothing; he reveals the compassionate depths of divine nature by dying for us on the cross and rising from the dead, holding out the hope that we, too, will one day be transformed.

John was amazed that the Father offered us the gift of his Son, that God became human in Christ: “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). It was a gift, he believed, given to each one of us personally. To truly understand John’s teaching, each of us has to claim our fundamental giftedness, namely, that Christ belongs to me and my unique personal history. God not only knows my thoughts, feelings, and experiences but identifies with them in the Person of Jesus Christ, who has become like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15).

When the Word touches our hearts with his personal presence, when we are “kissed” by him, we really know God and are in communion with the divine. Only in the depths of our hearts is the Word fully revealed to us. Imagining Jesus in the Incarnation or on the cross is not enough. The incarnate Word is more than visible and tangible to us; he is a sign and invitation calling us to open ourselves to a fuller experience of revelation, to the divine presence within us. Only by an inner experience of grace—the touch of the Word’s own presence—can we really know Jesus and, in knowing him, know the Father as well.

If we are looking for God to intervene in our lives or for miracles to guide us, then our faith is limited. The faith that Jesus desires, insists John, is the total surrender of ourselves to him so that he can reveal himself intimately to us. According to John, Jesus knows what is in our hearts and will not reveal himself to us if our hearts are not open to his presence. What God wants to communicate to us cannot be expressed externally or in words; it can be expressed only in our awakening to the touch of a loving presence.

Trust, then, that everything is given to us through the Word made flesh, and we need nothing more. This overflowing of the Father’s love transforms us and all of creation. The more we immerse ourselves in the mystery of the Incarnation, the more wisdom we will gain to appreciate the beauty and goodness within ourselves, in others, and in the world at large. John himself saw light everywhere, in the faces of the people he met and in the forms of the natural world, all of which he believed were an extension of his love for Christ.

Once I take the Incarnation personally and accept that God gave his only Son especially for me, then I look at the world around me and see everything in a dramatically different way: It is all given through Christ. My vision changes; my eyes are renewed. In wonder I see the physical world, from quarks to the cosmos, as an expression of the Word made flesh, God’s love taking form.

Wayne Simsic is an author and retreat leader. He teaches at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. This article is adapted from his bookSeeking the Beloved: A Prayer Journey with St. John of the Cross. If you’d like to read another excerpt or purchase the book, please visit our Bookstore.

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