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On Loving God

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  605 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Perhaps Bernard's most delightful tract, On Loving God posits that everything good in human persons is an expression of God's love and by love the person may participate in the being of the triune God. In a new analytic commentary, Stiegman examines Bernard's language, logic, and theology, demonstrating the vital importance of reading medieval authors on their own terms, w ...more
Paperback, 219 pages
Published March 1st 1995 by Cistercian Publications
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4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  605 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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Listened to in one sitting. Can be read it on line here.

A sweet book on a sweeter topic! 'I do not promise to answer other questions you may raise. This one, as to loving God, I will deal with as He shall teach me; for it is sweetest, it can be handled most safely, and it will be most profitable. Keep the others for wiser men.'

St. Bernard's perfect little reflection on His Creator and Lover isn't lofty nor especially intellectual, but it typical of him. The Mellifluus Doctor has sprinkled this g
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dove
This was a pleasurable read. The content is direct, true and you get a sense of the writers devotion. The references to the bible verses is nice if a person wants to add to their own reading, now or at a later time. I will reread this one.
Fr. Kyle
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Another Librivox recording, the reading was a bit fast and it was late at night driving that I listened to it. It'll probably take another listen or two plus maybe a reading for it to really sink in.
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorites. God loved us first, we are in the debt of his love.

Bernard walks us through four degrees of loving God: from self interested love of God for own sake to loving God for God's sake and loving ourselves only in God.

Love it.
Aaron Crofut
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, libri-vox
First off, this was a LibriVox "read" and a good one. The reader is good and this book is fairly short and easy to follow:

Content-wise, it's a beautiful little read. We owe a love to goodness itself that we can never satisfactorily give and yet we must try. We have different stages in loving God. We love him at first for our gain, then out of a murky sense that it is the right thing to do, followed by loving God on his own account, and finally reaching the fou
Daniel Nelms
"You wish me to tell you why and how God should be loved. My answer is that God himself is the reason why he is to be loved."

Bernard's Christian approach to Plato's Ladder of Love was so helpful. On his ladder, there are only four rungs (or what he calls degrees):

1) First Degree - Man loves himself for his own sake

This is the most base level of love, yet it still can serve as the foundational point of our love for God, even if it is still wrapped in immaturity. " is animal and carnal,
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing

According to Bernard of Clairvaux, there are four degrees of love we may experience:

Love of self - all men experience this, it is our nature

Love of God for one's own sake- coming to the end of oneself and crying out to Christ for salvation

Love of God for God's sake - what John Piper calls Christian hedonism: God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him

Love of the self only in God - complete self forgetfulness because of Divine fullness in us, Clairvaux doubts whether any men
Kody Masteller
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it
“The flesh then is a good and faithful comrade for a good soul: since even when it is a burden it assists; when the help ceases, the burden ceases too; and when once more the assistance begins, there is no longer a burden. The first state is toilsome, but fruitful; the second is idle, but not monotonous: the third is glorious. Hear how the Bridegroom in Canticles bids us to this threefold progress: ‘Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved’ (Cant. 5.1). He offers food to those who ...more
Jeanne Lambrianou
Some good points, but...

There was no heart in it from Bernard himself. Perhaps I am judging him too harshly, from a time post-psychology, wherein I have come to expect less quotation of scripture for WHY we SHOULD love God, and more sharing of the love of the author for God. I mean the showing of Bernard's love, as an example for his readers. Still, it was a good read...
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This devotional classic on the love of God should be read slowly and in small bites. I listened to an audiobook of it while doing other tasks. Bernard's work needs and deserves more attention than that.
Aggie Christine
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bernard makes compelling arguments for how and why God should be loved. The break down of his understanding into the four degrees made his concepts fairly simple to follow.
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic, audiobook
concise and precise
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: georgetown
In Bernard of Clairvaux’s work, On Loving God, he outlines four degrees of love and relates them to the development of a relationship with God. The basest type of love is man’s love for himself for his own sake (192). In nature, without any other instruction, man will focus primarily on himself, because that is all that he knows. This focus is permissible up to a certain point, where man begins to focus on his own pleasure at the expense of others. This excess is countered by the commandment “l ...more
Skylar Burris
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: christianity
Drawing broadly from the entire Scriptures (including the Apocrypha), but most especially from the Psalms, St. Bernard reflects on the “four degrees of loving God.” This is more a work of emotional intensity than of intellectual depth, and consequently it did not impress me as much, as say, the Confessions of St. Augustine did. Perhaps the book would have been better read in 5-10 minute increments, digested slowly, and meditated over. I read it straight through, and maybe I missed a lot doing it ...more
Steven Tryon
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. A warm treatment of the ways in which we love God and the progress from one to another.
The commentary was helpful for setting the work in context. At some point I will go back and re-read the treatise.
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting Quotes:
"Not knowing himself [Man] as the creature that is distinguished from the irrational brutes by the possession of reason, he commences to be confounded with them because, ignorant of his own true glory which is within, he is led captive by his curiosity, and concerns himself with external, sensual things. So he is made to resemble the lower orders by not knowing that he has been more highly endowed than they."

"For although God would be loved without respect of reward, yet He wi
Peter B.
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
(I didn't read the edition above. I began reading it at, and finished reading it in "Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works")

"The earth under the ancient curse brought forth thorns and thistles; but now the Church beholds it laughing with flowers and restored by the grace of a new benediction. Mindful of the verse, ‘My heart danceth for joy, and in my song will I praise Him’, she refreshes herself with the fruits of His Passion which she gathers from the Tr
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Bernard does not here reach the eloquence of some of his sermons on the Song of Songs, but this work makes evident the demands of love and makes winsome the pursuit of love.

"I owe all for having been created, what can I add for being remade, and being remade in this way? It was less easy to remake me than to make me.... In his first work he gave me myself; in his second work he gave me himself; when he gave me himself, he gave me back myself. Given, and regiven, I owe myself twice over. What c
The only thing I knew about Bernard of Clairvaux prior to reading this book was that he was the main preacher of the second Crusade. As a borderline Anabaptist, I am not a fan of the crusades: those bloody wars do not bring to mind the idea of "loving God". Of course, the crusades are not mentioned in this book so they have really nothing to do with this review. On Loving God is very short, but filled with moving and inspiring text. My friends may think I am becoming Catholic as my list of Catho ...more
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
ancient but still accurate. Bernard's 4 degrees of love put me in mind of maslow's hierarchy of needs ... a series that is really a progression of growth starting with the center of the self and moving toward a universal and deep concern for the many culminating in love of the Creator for its own reason (vs. b/c Creator is a gumball machine in the sky who gives me what I "need" and who is a daddy to protects me). this writing draws out the higher order of love and its applications to our selves, ...more
Magnus Itland
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic Christian text, using numerous citations from the Bible (especially the poetic parts of the Old Testament) to outline the various reasons why people may love God. The saint then place these various motivations in an ascending order, from selfish to divine, presenting them as a path which anyone can start and that leads to perfection in love. The text is fairly short and stays well on topic.

Thinking of love as a process of spiritual evolution should be fairly acceptable to the modern re
Karen Blanchette
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this short (I didn't read the Analytic Commentary that accompanied the work) treatise on love absolutely delightful and refreshing. It came across to me as a much softer perspective of our relationship with God that is often missing in other works focused more on right behavior. This helped put God's love and my own love for God into a greater context. Overall, I found it enjoyable and enlightening.
Joseph Bolin
Feb 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
I didn't actually read the book in this translation, but in the Latin original, De Diligendo Deo. I recommend this to those who know Latin well, or who know it somewhat and want to learn more.

The book On loving God is a beautiful and classic work, regardless. It is not so much a systematic treatise, as written from the saint's own lived experience.
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
The author quotes Scripture a lot. I can feel his love and devotion to God as I read his writing. I do not agree with all his views, but I don't have to. He wrote his heart out, and successfully helped me to love God more. This book is best read meditatively, allowing your mind to digest every sentence.
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Bernard challenges a Christian to love God for God Himself. By that, Bernard means that a Christian should not love God for the benefit he will receive from God. Instead, a believer should love God because He wholly deserves it and because He gives the most pleasure to anyone (Ps 16:10).
Craig Bergland
Partly a stringing together of scriptures calling for Christians to love God and partly a disturbing look into the mind that preached both that love and the Crusades, for me this was more disturbing than anything else.
Michael Kornelis
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
A short read, this book provides a concise meditation on what true christian charity, or love of God, ought to look like and aspire toward. For me, among other things, it clarified that we both love God for God himself as well as for reward given that God himself is that very great reward.
Mark Schlechty
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Concise and clearly written

I read this short book quickly but found many statements that lived a me up and inspired me to live Good more fully for who he is and not just for the blessings he gives. Take your time and enjoy this well known classic.
Luke Langley
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a short and largely spiritual or perhaps apologetic work. Benard sets forth the reasons God is to be loved above all things, the consequences of loving created things above God, and the sanctification affected from loving God above all else.
Joshua Bloor
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Clairvaux's writings open something amazing inside of your soul. His four ways on loving God are exceptionally accurate and should be read by all Christians. There are some smashing quotations worth underlining on every page.
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Bernard of Clairvaux, O.Cist, Doctor of the Church (1090 - August 20, 1153) was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian monastic order. After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. Three years later, he was sent to found a new house, which Bernard named Claire Vallée, 'of Clairvaux', on 25 June 1115. Bernard would preach an immediate ...more
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“Rest is in Him alone. Man knows no peace in the world; but he has no disturbance when he is with God.” 4 likes
“In Him should all our affections center, so that in all things we should seek only to do His will, not to please ourselves.” 3 likes
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