In her contribution to Last Things: Death and the Apocalypse in the Middle Ages (The Middle Ages Series) , Anna Harrison concludes that “Bernard [of Clairvaux’s] conception of community among the saints in heaven is limited” (204).

She elaborates: “Although he does talk about common experience among the saints and about reciprocity, or sharing of experience, interaction among the saints simply does not figure prominently in his thought. It appears that Bernard has not fully worked out the relationship between self, God, and the other who is a friend. Longing for the ecstatic loss of self in God in heaven, he nevertheless betrays some trepidation about what that loss of self seems to imply for the precious relationships we have established on earth. Known for the fervent friendships he carefully cultivated in life, Bernard’s heaven is not . . . restitution for the toll on friendship that death takes. Although memory guarantees the continuation of self, the way we love in heaven seems to move us away from the self we were on earth as our wills dissolve into the will of God. Nor does Bernard have a conception of community after the resurrection that is distinct from the community among all souls before the Final Judgment. Indeed, Bernard has a far greater interest in the resurrected person than in the resurrection community. In his vision of the glory of eternity, it is this self . . . that enthralls Bernard” (204).

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

Loading...