Bernard of Clairvaux, an eminent monk, theologian, scholar, preacher, and poet, was born at Fontaine, near Dijon, in Burgundy, France, in 1091. Aletta, his mother, was a devotedly pious woman, and consecrated her son to God from his birth. "Her death chamber was his spiritual birthplace." He was educated at Paris. Being naturally fond of seclusion, meditation, and study, and living in the twelfth century, it is not surprising that one so piously inclined as he soon sought a home in the cloister. At twenty-two years of age he entered the small monastery of Citeaux, and later he founded and made famous that of Clairvaux, where by fasting and self-mortification he became an emaciated monk, but with it all one of the most conspicuous and influential characters in Europe. Kings and popes sought his advice. His enthusiasm and impassioned eloquence were all but irresistible. He died August 20, 1153. His life was pure, his faith strong, his love ardent, his courage inflinching, his piety unquestioned. Luther greatly admired him and thought him "the greatest monk that ever lived." His published works are in five folio volumes. His Sacred Songs of Praise have long been the admiration of the Church. Christ crucified was the theme of his preaching and of his song, as the four hymns here given will testify. His love for Christ amounted to a deep and ardent passion that was unconscious of using terms of endearment not altogether becoming to so divine a theme.
Jesus, the very thought of thee 533
Jesus, thou Joy of loving hearts 536
O sacred Head, now wounded 151
Of Him who did salvation bring 289