2nd Sermon of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux on the Passing of Saint Malachy of Armagh

[Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Malachy of Armagh]2 November 1149

It is clear, dearly beloved, that whilst we are detained in the body we are absent from the Lord. And throughout this wretched time of detention banishment and conscience of faults enjoins upon us sorrow rather than joy. But because by the mouth of the apostle we are exhorted to rejoice with them that do rejoice, the time and the occasion require that we should be stirred up to all gladness. For if it is true, as the prophet perceived, that the righteous rejoice before God, without doubt Malachy rejoices, who in his days pleased God and was found righteous. Malachy ministered in holiness and righteousness before Him:the ministry pleased Him; the minister also pleased Him. Why should he not please Him? He made the Gospel without charge, he filled the country with the Gospel, he tamed the deathly barbarism of his Irishmen, with the sword of the spirit he subdued foreign nations to the light yoke of Christ, restoring His inheritance to Him even unto the ends of the earth. O, fruitful ministry! O, faithful minister! Is not the promise of the Father to the Son fulfilled through him? Did not the Father behold him long ago when He said to the Son, I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. How willingly the Saviour received what He had bought, and had bought with the price of His own blood, with the shame of the Cross, with the horror of the Passion. How willingly from the hands of Malachy, because he ministered freely. So in the minister the freely executed office was acceptable, and in the ministry the conversion of sinners was pleasing. Acceptable and pleasing, I say, in the minister was the singleness of eye, but in the ministry the salvation of the people.

However, even though a less effective result of the ministry followed, He would nevertheless justly have had regard to Malachy and his works, He to whom purity is a friend and single-mindedness one of his household, to whose righteousness it belongs to weigh the work in accordance with its purpose, from the character of the eye to measure the state of the whole body. But now the works of the Lord are great, sought out according to all the desires and efforts of Malachy; they are great and many and very good, though better in proportion to the good origin of the pure purpose. What work of piety escaped the attention of Malachy? He was poor as regards himself, but rich to the poor. He was a father of the fatherless, a husband of the widows, a protector of the oppressed. A cheerful giver, seldom making petitions, modest in receiving gifts. He was specially solicitous, and had much success, in restoring peace between those who were at variance. Who was as tender as he in sharing the sufferings of others? who as ready to help? who as free in rebuke? For he was zealous, and yet not wanting in knowledge, the restrainer of zeal. And, indeed, to the weak he was weak, but none the less strong to the strong: he resisted the proud, he lashed the tyrants, a teacher of kings and princes. It was he who by prayer deprived a king of sight when he worked wickedness, and restored it when he was humbled. It was he, when certain men broke a peace which he had made, who gave them up to the spirit of error, and foiled them in the evil which they devised to do; and who compelled them to accept peace a second time, confounded and stunned by that which had happened to them. It was he to whom a river most opportunely lent its aid against the others, who were equally transgressors of a covenant. In wonderful fashion, by throwing itself before them, it made void the efforts of the ungodly. There had been no rains, no floods of waters, no gathering of clouds, no melting of snows, when suddenly the mere rivulet was converted into a great river; and it rushed along and swelling up overflowed the banks, and utterly denied passage to those who wished to do wickedly.

What things we have heard and known of the wrath of the man and his vengeance on his enemies, while yet he was sweet and gentle and plenteous in mercy unto all that suffered need! For he lived for all as though he were the one parent of all. As a hen her chickens, so he cherished all and protected them under the covert of his wings. He made no distinction of sex or age, of condition or person; he failed none, his loving heart embraced all. In whatsoever affliction men cried to him he counted it his own: even more than that, for in regard to his own afflictions he was patient, in regard to those of others he was compassionate, very often even passionate. For indeed sometimes, filled with wrath, he was stirred to take the part of one against another, that by delivering the poor and restraining the strong he might take thought in equal measure for the salvation of all. Therefore he was angry; but it was in order that he might not sin by not being angry, according to the words of the Psalm, Be ye angry and sin not. Anger did not rule him, but he himself ruled his spirit. He had power over himself. Assuredly he who had the victory over himself could not be mastered by anger. His anger was kept in hand. When it was summoned it came, going forth, not bursting forth; it was brought into action by his will, not by impulse. He was not set on fire by it, but used it. As well in this as in ruling and restraining all the motions both of his inner and his outer man his judgement was careful, his caution great. For he did not give so much attention to all, as to leave himself alone out of account, as, in his universal solicitude, to disregard only himself. He was careful of himself also. He guarded himself. In fact, he was so wholly his own, so wholly also belonged to all, that his love seemed in no degree to hinder or delay him from his guardianship of himself, nor his concern for his own person from the common good. If you saw the man busied in the midst of crowds, involved in cares, you would say he was born for his country, not for himself. If you saw the man alone and dwelling by himself, you would suppose that he lived for God alone and for himself.

Without tumult he went about among tumults; without ease he spent the time which he gave to ease. How could he be taking his ease when he was occupied in the statutes of the Lord? For though he had time free from the necessities of the peoples, yet had he none unoccupied by holy meditations, by the work of prayer, by the ease itself of contemplation. In the time of ease he spoke gravely or not at all. His mien was either courteous, or humble and self-restrained. Assuredly – a trait which is counted worthy of much praise among the wise – his eye was in his head, never flying forth except when it was obedient to power. His laughter displayed love, or provoked it: but even so it was rare. Sometimes indeed, it came forth, but it was never forced, intimating the gladness of his heart in such a way that his mouth did not lose but gained in grace. So modest was it that it could not be suspected of levity; so gentle, however, that it sufficed to free his joyous countenance from every trace and shadow of sadness. Oh perfect gift! Oh rich burnt sacrifice! Oh pleasing service in mind and hand! How sweet unto God is the savour of him who employs his leisure in prayers, how sweet unto men of him who is occupied in fatiguing labours.

Because he was such an one, then, beloved of God and men, not undeservedly was Malachy received this day into the company of angels, having attained in fact what his name denoted. And indeed, already he was an angel not less in purity than in name. But now more happily is the significance of his glorious name fulfilled in him, since he is glad with a glory and happiness equal to that of the angels. Let us also, dearly beloved, be glad because our angel ascended to his fellow-citizens, acting as an ambassador for the children of the captivity, winning for us the favour of the blessed ones, declaring to them the desires of the wretched. Let us be glad, I say, and rejoice, because in that heavenly court there is one who went forth from us to take care of us, to protect us by his merits, whom he instructed by his example and strengthened by his miracles.

The holy pontiff, who in a humble spirit often brought peace-offerings to the heavens, to-day in his own person has gone unto the altar of God, himself the victim and the priest. With the departure of the priest the rite of sacrifice is changed into a better thing. The fountain of tears is dried up, every burnt sacrifice is made with gladness and rejoicing. Blessed be the Lord God of Malachy, who by the ministry of so great a pontiff hath visited his people, and now, taking him up into the holy city, ceaseth not, by the remembrance of so great sweetness to comfort our captivity. Let the spirit of Malachy rejoice in the Lord, because he is freed from the heavy load of the body, and is no longer hindered, by the weight of impure and earthly matter, from passing with all eagerness and fullness of life, through the whole creation, corporeal and incorporeal, that he may enter entirely into God, and joined to Him may with Him be one spirit for ever.

Holiness becometh that house in which the remembrance of so great holiness is celebrated. Holy Malachy, preserve it in holiness and righteousness pitying us who in the midst of so many and great miseries utter the memory of thine abundant goodness. Great is the dispensation of the mercy of God upon thee, who made thee little in thine own sight, great in His; who did great things by thee, in saving thy country, great things to thee, in bringing thee into His glory. May thy festival, which is deservedly devoted to thy virtues, have a saving efficacy for us by thy merits and prayers. May the glory of thy holiness, which is celebrated by us, be continued by angels: so shall it meetly be pleasant for us, if it be also fruitful. While thou departest be it allowed to us, who are met together to-day in thy so delicious feast, to preserve some remnants of the fruits of the Spirit, loaded with which thou ascendest.

Be to us, we beseech thee, holy Malachy, another Moses, or another Elijah, like them imparting of thy spirit to us, for thou hast come in their spirit and power. Thy life was a law of life and knowledge, thy death the port of death and the portal of life, thy memory the delight of sweetness and grace, thy presence a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord thy God. Oh fruitful olive tree in the house of God! Oh oil of gladness, giving both anointing and light, cherishing with favours, resplendent with miracles, make us partakers of that light and graciousness which thou enjoyest. Oh sweet-smelling lily, blossoming and budding evermore before the Lord, and spreading everywhere a sweet and life-giving savour, whose memorial is blessed with us, whose presence is in honour with those who are above, grant to those who sing of thee that they may not be deprived of their share in so great an assembly. Oh great luminary and light that shinest in darkness, illuminating the prison, making glad the city by the rays of thy signs and merits, by the lustre of virtues put to flight from our hearts the darkness of vices. Oh morning star, more brilliant than the rest because thou art nearer the day, more like to the sun, deign to go before us, that we also may walk in the light as children of light, and not children of darkness. Oh thou who art the dawn breaking into day upon the earth, but the noon light illumining the higher regions of heaven, receive us in the fellowship of light, by which illuminated thou sheddest light far without, and sweetly burnest within, by the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigneth One God, world without end. – Amen.