Friday, March 20, 2009

Bernard's Questions of the Heart

I've been living for a couple of weeks with these questions before me: what do I love? what do I fear? what makes me rejoice? what makes me sad?

Lest I deceive myself, St. Bernard reminds me to "observe carefully" - in other words, what I love, what I fear is revealed in my actions, and can be observed when I catch myself off guard or when I face an unexpected problem. What do I love: what do I make time for? What is it that I do when I have a free moment? What do I fear: what do I avoid and why? More often than not, it's the unknown that I fear - which is silly because in every case that I've met the Unknown (every day of my life!) - I am always surprised by its goodness.

Rejoicing and sadness are a bit easier, because in both cases something happens first which causes me to rejoice, which causes me to be sad. One thing I discovered (in sales over the phone) is that hearing no doesn't make me sad; instead, both no and yes cause me to rejoice. What saddens me is when judgment is evaded, or if someone lacks affection for themselves and their employees. 

Something that occured to me in reading St. Bernard's exhortation: what should I love? what should I fear? What love and fear are "involved when you turn to God with your whole heart"? As a monk, St. Bernard knew that the answer to this question was readily available to the monks in the Psalms, our school of affectivity. 

"[the precepts of the Lord] are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb" (NAB).

If we read the Psalms paying attention to these words: happy, fear, love, rejoicing, we begin to discover a new affectivity, a renewed way of meeting the world.


clairity said...

Thank you for this post, which I have been thinking over a lot since I read it. These questions cut to the reality of life at the most basic level. I can think of even stupid fears and the need to address them with an answer. I have learned to manage anxiety better by stopping and asking myself what is really bothering me. After identifying it, I can put myself back in a position of trust by offering. I love the humanity of the Psalms. They are so sustaining.

Suzanne said...

Yes, thank you. I am meditating on these questions, as well.