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Bernard of Clairvaux’s Four Stages of the Spiritual Life

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…as copied from a footnote in Brian McLaren‘s newest book, A New Kind of Christianity. The quote isn’t indicative of the book as a whole, thus it’s inclusion in the footnotes, but it resonated with me, and I thought it appropriate to post:

“Bernard of Clairvaux understood what it means to be a friend to oneself. He spoke of four stages in the spiritual life, beginning with learning to love oneself for one’s own sake. This is the infant, nursing at his mother’s breast, ecstatic in the warmth of being held and filled, but unaware of anyone outside his own skin.

Then comes loving God for one’s own sake. This is the child who learns to appreciate his mother, maybe to draw her a picture or gather her a bouquet of flowers, overflowing with love mixed with gratitude for all she dos for him.

Then comes loving God for God’s own sake. This is the adolescent or young adult who begins to see his mother for who she is, not just for what she does for him, and his love grows even deeper.

One wonders how any love could go deeper than this, but Bernard sees yet another dimension to the journey of life: loving oneself for God’s sake. This is the young man who has made a mess of his life and feels knocked down and beaten up, but then thinks of how much his mother loves him, and her love inspires him to not give up, but to get up and give life another go.”

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