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St. Bernard of Clairvaux. 1090 - 1153 AD

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

1090 - 1153 AD

St. Bernard, founder of the Abbey of Clairvaux, prolific preacher and writer, had an enormous influence on his contemporaries. He was canonised in 1174, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1830 AD. Though Bernard never literally applied the title ‘priest’ to Mary, he attributed sacrificial actions to her. The text quoted below helped to spark off the devotion to Mary Priest.

Text translated from the Latin by John Wijngaards.

‘ O consecrated Virgin, offer your son and present to the Lord the blessed fruit of your womb. Offer for our reconciliation to all, this holy victim, agreeable to God. The Father will fully accept this new sacrifice, this precious oblation (victim) of whom he himself has said: “This is my well beloved Son in whom I have put my love” (Mt 3, 7). This text presupposes familiarity with the Gospel text of the Presentation of Christ.
‘But this offering, my brothers, may seem rather easy to you since the victim offered to the Lord is redeemed by birds, and therefore released. The time will come when this victim will no longer be offered in the Temple, nor in the arms of Simeon, but outside the city and in the arms of the cross. The time will come when the victim will not be redeemed by anything else, but when it will redeem others by the price of its blood. Then it will be the evening sacrifice. Now we are still at the sacrifice of the morning. This one, surely, is more pleasant; the other one will be more complete. The word of prophecy comes through: “He has been sacrificed because he has wanted it” (Is 52,7). If he is offered today [at the Presentation], in fact, this is not because he needs to be offered, nor that he falls under the law, but because he himself wanted it. Also on the cross he was offered, not because he deserved it, neither because the Jews could do it, but because he wanted it himself.’ ‘In Purificatione Mariae’, Sermo III, in Sancti Bernardi Opera Omnia, ed. J. Mabillon, Paris 1982, p. 370 col. b
“St. Bernard calls Mary ‘consecrated’ because she was consecrated to the priestly function of offering sacrifice . . . .Mary carries in herself a priestly soul of the highest degree...Her soul was bathed through the anointing of the Holy Spirit who covered her with his shadow. In this way a true royal and mystical priesthood was conferred on her.... Mary became for Jesus both priest and altar, the priest and the altar of this offering of the lamb of God anticipated on the day of her purification. ” Commentary by D. Nogues, Mariologie de S. Bernard, Paris 1935, p. 150.

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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

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