A letter from Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot (1146-47)
To his beloved daughter in Christ, Hildegard, brother Bernard, called abbot of Clairvaux; the prayer of a sinner if it can do anything.
What you seem to feel about our humbleness, far other than our conscience allows, we believe is to be imputed to nothing but your humility. I have at least conceded to respond to the letters of your charity/love, though the multitude of things to be done compells me to do it more briefly than I might wish. We rejoice in the grace of God which is in you. And that you may hold that as grace and strive to respond to it with all sentiment of humility and devotion, knowing that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” [James 4:6], we urge and pray as much as we can. For the rest, where there is inner learning and anointment teaching about all things, what can we teach or instruct? We ask, furthermore, and request as a suppliant that you remember us with God and equally those who are joined with us by spiritual society in the Lord.
Dilectae in Christo filiae Hildegardi, frater Bernardus, Claraevallis vocatus abbas: si quid potest, oratio pecatoris.
QUOD de nostra exiguitate longe aliter quam nostra sese conscientia habeat sentire videris, non nisi humilitati tuae credimus imputandum. Minime tamen ad litteras caritatis tuae rescribere dissimulavi, quamvis id brevius omnino quam vellem negotiorum multitudo compellat. Congratulamur gratiae Dei, quae in te est. Et ut eam tamquam gratiam habeas et toto ei humilitatis et devotionis affectu studeas respondere, sciens quod DEUS SUPERBIS RESISTIT, HUMILIBUS AUTEM DAT GRATIAM, quod in nobis est, hortamur et obsecramus. Ceterum ubi interior eruditio est et unctio docens de omnibus, quid nos aut docere possumus aut monere? Rogamus magis et suppliciter postulamus ut nostri memoriam habeas apud Deum et eorum pariter, qui nobis spirituali societate in Domino iuncti sunt.
Bernard demurs at the idea of advising where God has given his grace, but the recognition of that grace is a tacit encouragement to Hildegard to proceed.
Sancti Bernardi, Opera, ed. J. Leclercq, H. Rochais (Rome: Cistercians, 1974), v.7, Epistolae, p.323-24, ep.366; also in Hildegardis Bingensis, Epistolarium, ed. Lieven Van Acker and Monika Klaes-Hachmoller, CCCM, 91 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1991), 6-7, ep.1r.