Seek Wisdom – Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux, commenting on Proverbs, extols wisdom as a hidden treasure and prudence as honey which delights the heart. Bernard himself came to be known as the “Mellifluous Doctor,” meaning the one from whose lips the divine truth flowed like honey.

Let us work for the food which does not perish – our salvation. Let us work in the vineyard of the Lord to earn our daily wage in the wisdom which says: Those who work in me will not sin. Christ tells us: The field is the world. Let us work in it and dig up wisdom, its hidden treasure, a treasure we all look for and want to obtain.

Seek Prudence

If you are looking for it, really look. Be converted and come. Converted from what? From your own wilfullness.

“But”, you may say, “if I do not find wisdom in my own will, where shall I find it? My soul eagerly desires it. And I will not be satisfied when I find it, if it is not a generous amount, a full measure, overflowing into my hands.” You are right, for blessed is the man who finds wisdom and is full of prudence.

Find Honey

Look for wisdom while it can still be found. Call for it while it is near. Do you want to know how near it is? The word is near you, in your heart and on your lips, provided that you seek it honestly. Insofar as you find wisdom in your heart, prudence will flow from your lips, but be careful that it flows from and not away from them, or that you do not vomit it up. If you have found wisdom, you have found honey. But do not eat so much that you become too full and bring it all up.

Eat so that you are always hungry. Wisdom says: Those who eat me continue to hunger. Do not think you have too much of it, but do not eat too much or you will throw it up. If you do, what you seem to have will be taken away from you, because you gave up searching too soon.

While wisdom is near and while it can be found, look for it and ask for its help. Solomon says: A man who eats too much honey does himself no good; similarly, the man who seeks his own glorification will be crushed by that same renown.

Three Ways for Prudence to Abound

Happy is the man who has found wisdom. Even more happy is the man who lives in wisdom, for he perceives its abundance.

There are three ways for wisdom or prudence to abound in you: if you confess your sins, if you give thanks and praise, and if your speech is edifying. Man believes with his heart and so he is justified. He confesses with his lips and so he is saved. In the beginning of his speech the just man is his own accuser, next he gives glory to God, and thirdly, if his wisdom extends that far, he edifies his neighbor.

This post is an excerpt from a sermon on Proverbs by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (Sermo de diversis 15: PL 183, 577-579).  In it, the “Mellifluous Doctor,” likens prudence to honey and buried treasure. This selection is used in the Roman Office of Readings for Monday of the Sixth (6th) week in ordinary time.  The accompanying biblical reading being taken from Proverbs 3:1-20.

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