Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: The Holy Name of Jesus

Philippe Quantin (d. 1636)
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux writing
Oil on canvas
181,1 cm x 120.4cm
Musée des beaux-arts, Dijon

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, O.Cist (1090 – August 20, 1153) had a particular devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.

In one of his Sermons he said:

"What can so enrich the soul that reflects upon it (the holy name of Jesus)? What can . . . strengthen the virtues, beget good and honorable dispositions, foster holy affections? Dry is every kind of spiritual food which this oil does not moisten.

Tasteless, whatever this salt does not season.

If thou writest, thy composition has no charms for me, unless I read there the name of Jesus. If thou dost debate or converse, I find no pleasure in thy words, unless I hear there the name of Jesus.

Jesus is honey on the lips, melody in the ear, joy in the heart.

Yet not alone is that name light and food. It is also a remedy. Is any one amongst you sad? Let the name of Jesus enter his heart; let it leap thence to his mouth; and lo! the light shining from that name shall scatter every cloud and restore peace.

Has some one perpetrated a crime, and then misled, moved despairingly towards the snare of death? Let him but invoke this life-giving name, and straightway he shall find courage once more. . .

Whoever, all a-tremble in the presence of danger, has not immediately felt his spirits revive and his fears depart as soon as he called upon this name of power? There is nothing so powerful as the name of Jesus to check anger, reduce the swelling of pride, heal the smarting wound of envy. . ."

In Cantica, Serm. XV, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 846-d, 847-a, b

Jesu Dulcis Memoria ( Jesus, Sweet Memory) is a hymn attributed to the authorship of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. The name can refer either to the entire poem, which, depending on the manuscript, ranges from forty-two to fifty-three stanzas, or only the first part.

Three sections of it are used as hymns in the Liturgy of the Hours of the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus: "Iesu dulcis memoria" (Vespers), "Iesu rex admirabilis" (Office of Readings), "Iesu decus angelicum" (Lauds).

The first few verses are as follows (translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878))

IESU, dulcis memoria,
dans vera cordis gaudia,
sed super mel et omnia,
eius dulcis praesentia.

JESU, the very thought of Thee,
with sweetness fills my breast,
but sweeter far Thy face to see,
and in Thy presence rest.

Nil canitur suavius,
nil auditur iucundius,
nil cogitatur dulcius,
quam Iesus Dei Filius.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
nor can the memory find
a sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
o Savior of mankind!.

Iesu, spes paenitentibus,
quam pius es petentibus!
quam bonus te quaerentibus!
sed quid invenientibus?

O hope of every contrite heart
o joy of all the meek,
to those who fall, how kind Thou art!
how good to those who seek!

Nec lingua valet dicere,
nec littera exprimere:
expertus potest credere,
quid sit Iesum diligere.

But what to those who find? Ah this
nor tongue nor pen can show:
the love of Jesus, what it is
none but His loved ones know.

Sis, Iesu, nostrum gaudium,
qui es futurus praemium:
sit nostra in te gloria,
per cuncta semper saecula.

Jesu, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize wilt be:
Jesu, be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.