A letter from Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot (1130-32?)
To his beloved daughter in Christ, Ermengard, once highest countess, now humble handmaid of Christ, Bernard abbot of Clairvaux, pious affection of holy love.
If only I could open my mind to you just like this letter! O if you could read in my heart what God with his finger deigned to write there of love for you! You would know certainly as no tongue or pen suffices to express what the spirit of God could stamp on my deepest marrow. And now I am present in spirit though absent in body, but neither you nor I can make me appear. Nonetheless it is in your power to imagine though you do not yet know what I say. Enter your heart and look into mine, attribute as much love for you to me as you feel in yourself for me; if you presume that we love less and you more, you would think to put yourself before us in thinking you surpass us in charity. It is your modesty rather to feel that about us as the one who influences you to love me so and choose me to counsel you in your salvation would influence me equally in the service of your love. You therefore will have seen how you keep me with you; I, I confess truly, never depart from you without you. I wanted to write these things to you briefly from the road as I travel, hoping to send more when I have more time, if God grants it.
Dilectae in Christo filiae suae Ermengardi, quondam eximiae comitissae, nunc humili Christi ancillae, Bernardus, abbas Claraevallis: pium sanctae dilectionis affectum.
Utinam sicut chartam nunc praesentem, ita et meam tibi mentem expandere possem! O si legere posses in corde meo, quod ibi de amore tuo suo digito Deus scribere dignatus est! Certe agnosceres quam nulla lingua vel penna sufficiat exprimere, quod in intimis mihi medullis Dei spiritus imprimere potuit. Et nunc quidem praesens sum spiritu, licet corpore absens; sed nec mihi, nec tibi est unde appaream. Est tamen penes te, unde possis de me utcumque conicere, etsi nondum cognoscere, quod dico. Intra ergo cor tuum et inspice meum, et vel tantum mihi tribue amoris erga te, quantum tibi erga me inesse sentis, ne si nos quidem minus, te vero amplius amare praesumpseris, eo te nobis praeferre puteris, quo et vincere nos caritate putaveris. Ceterum tuae modestiae est, id potius sentire de nobis, ut qui te affecit ita me diligere et eligere ad consilium tuae salutis, aeque affecerit et me in obsequium tuae dilectionis. Tu ergo videris quomodo me tecum retinueris; ego, ut verum fatear, nusquam abs te absque te recedo. Haec tibi interim de via breviter in transitu scribere volui, sperans me maiori otio maiora missurum, si Deus annuerit.
Bernard inspired Ermengard to another religious move and she took the veil from him, though she would eventually return to the world once again.
Sancti Bernardi Opera, ed. J. LeClercq and H. Rochais (Rome: Eds. Cisterciennes, 1979), ep.116