The Name of Jesus Medicine in All Afflictions

by St. Bernard of Clairvaux

THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM is benevolent (Wis. i. 6), and not wont to be ungracious to those who invoke Him, Who often, and even before He is called upon, will say: I will hear (Is. lxv, 24). Listen, and I shall show thee a Name that is fittingly compared with oil, and for what reward I speak. Many names of the Bridegroom have you read, scattered across every divine page, but I shall embrace them all for you in two. There is none of them, as I think you will find, but gives an echo of the grace of His Compassion, or the power of His Majesty. The Spirit tells us so Himself, and by that instrument which is most familiar to Him: These two things hare I heard, that power belongeth to God, and mercy to Thee, O Lord (Ps. lxi. 12, 13)."Therefore as to His Majesty, holy and terrible is His Name (Ps. ex. 9), and as to His Compassion, there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved (Acts iv.12).

But this will become clearer by examples. This, He says, is the name they shall call Him, the Lord our Just One (Jer. xxiii. 6). This is a name of power. Again: And His Name shall be called Emmanuel (Is. vii. 14). This is a name of compassion. Again He says of Himself: You call Me Master and Lord; and you say well, for so I am (Jn. xiii.13). The first is a name of grace, the second of majesty. For it is not less kind to nourish the soul with wisdom, than to provide food for the body. Again the prophet: And His Name shall be called wonderful, counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace (Is. ix. 6). The first, third, and fourth are names of majesty; the rest of compassion. Which is poured out? Clearly the name of majesty and power is in a certain manner poured out into that which is of kindness and compassion, and this is poured out abundantly through Jesus Christ Our Savior.

For example, the name God, does it not in God-with-us, which is Emmanuel, liquefy and flow forth? So does the name Wonderful flow into that of Counselor; so likewise God and mighty flow into Father of the world to come, and Prince of peace; and the names: Lord our Just One into Merciful and gracious Lord (Ps. cs. 4). In this I speak no new thing: for of old Abram was softened into Abraham, and Sarai in Sara (Gen. xvii. 5,15); here we have mention of the mystery of this life-giving pouring out; commemorated and prefigured.

Nor is it to be wondered at that, when the fullness of time was come, there was a pouring out of the Name: Almighty God promised by the word of Joel, pouring out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel ii. 28). Hasten then, all ye peoples! Thy Salvation is now here! The Name is poured out, and whosoever shall call upon it shall be saved. He that was the God of angels, now proclaims Himself the God of men. He poured out oil upon Jacob, and it overflowed upon Israel. Say to your own brethren: Give us of your oil (Mt. xxv. 8). If they will not give, turn to the Lord of oil, and ask that He gives it also to you. Say to Him: Take away our reproach (Is. iv. I). Let not the Evil One insult thy beloved, I beseech Thee, whom it has pleased to call from the end of the earth; and the less I was worthy of Thy call, the more kindly hast Thou called me. Is it fitting, I pray Thee, that a wicked servant should close the door on those who were invited by the Kind Master of the house?

I am, you say, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. And of none others? Pour out, pour out! Open still more Thy Hand, and fill every creature with blessing! Let them come from the east and the west, and let them sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. viii. II). Let them come and sit down, let them eat and take their fill in joy, with the voice of joy and praise, and the sound of one eating (Ps. xli. 5).

Thy Name is as oil poured out. Of one thing I am sure. If Andrew and Philip are the doorkeepers, we shall not be refused when we come seeking oil, we who would see Jesus, for Philip will go and tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip will tell Jesus. And what will Jesus say? Jesus will of a certainty say: Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (Jn. xii. 21). Let the Grain die, and the harvest of men arise. It must be that Christ shall die, and rise again from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sin be preached in His Name, not, alone in Judea, but in every nation. Since then from this one Name which is Christ, thousands of thousands are named Christians, let them say: Thy Name is as oil poured out.

I recognize the name which I have in Isaias: He will call His servants by another name, in which he that is blessed upon earth, shall be blessed in God (Is. Ixv. 16). O Blessed Name! O Oil everywhere poured out! How far? From heaven down to Judea, and from thence it flowed into every country, and every place cries out: Thy Name is as oil poured out. Poured out in abunddance, and flowing, not alone over heaven and earth, but upon those in hell; so that in the Name of Jesus every knee is bowed, of those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (Phil. ii. 10); and every tongue shall confess and proclaim: Thy Name is as oil poured out.

Behold Christ, behold the Name of Jesus; both have been poured out on the angels, both have been poured out on men, and even upon men who had become soiled like beasts of burden, by their own filth, healing both men and beasts, since Thou, O Lord, hast multiplied Thy mercies (Ps. xxxv. 8). How precious, yet how cheap! Cheap, but health-giving! If it were not cheap, it could not be everywhere poured out. If it were not wholesome, it would not have won me. I am a partaker of the Name, I am a sharer of the inheritance. I am a Christian; I am a brother of Christ. If I am what I am called, I am the heir of God, and co-heir with Christ (Rom. vii. 17).

And what wonder that the name of the Spouse is everywhere poured out, since He Himself is also poured out. For, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil. ii. 7). He said also: I am poured out like water (Ps. xxi. 14). The fullness of the divinity is poured out dwelling bodily upon the earth, so that of His fullness all we who wear this body of death may share, and, saturated with that living fragrance, may exclaim: Thy Name is as oil poured out. Behold the Name that is poured out, and in what manner, and how far. But why oil; There is no doubt a resemblance between oil and the name of the Bridegroom.

Not without reason does the Holy Spirit compare the name of the Bridegroom to it, when He teaches that in this manner does the Spouse greet the Bridegroom: Thy Name is as oil poured out. For oil gives light, nourishes, and anoints. It feeds the flame, sustains the body, eases pain. It is light, food, medicine. Notice how the same may be said of the Name of the Bridegroom: for it throws light upon what is preached, it nourishes our thoughts, it soothes and anoints those that are called. Let us briefly consider each one of these. Whence came, do you think, so great and so swift a light of faith upon the whole earth, unless by the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Is it not in the light of this Name that God has called you into His own marvelous light? And we being by this enlightened, and in that light beholding the True Light, with truth does Paul declare: You were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord.

This then is the Name that the Apostle was commanded to bring to the children of Israel, before peoples, and kings; and he bore the Name as a shining light, and illuminated the race of men, and he cried everywhere: The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly in the day (Rom. xiii. 12). And he pointed out to all the Light upon his candlestick, proclaiming in every place Jesus, and Him crucified (I Cor. ii. 2). How that light has shone forth, and seized the vision of all who beheld it; when from the mouth of Peter, as lightning going forth, it strengthened the soles of the feet of a certain man who was lame (Acts III. 7), and gave light to multitudes who were spiritually blind? Did he not cast fire on the earth when he said: In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise, and walk.

The Name of Jesus is not light alone, it is also food. Are you not strengthened as often as you recall it? What so fills the heart of him who meditates upon it? What so refreshes the tired senses, strengthens virtue, nourishes good and worthy habits, fosters pure affections? Dry indeed is all food of the soul, if it be not dipped in this oil; tasteless, if unseasoned by this salt. If you write anything, that which you write has for me no flavor unless I perceive there the Name of Jesus. Should there be discussion, or if we converse together, for me it is again without flavor, unless I hear there the Name of Jesus. Jesus is sweet upon the tongue, melody to the ear and joy in the heart. But it is also a healing medicine. Is one among us sorrowful? Let Jesus come into his heart, and rise thence to his lips. And behold, at the risen light of Thy Name, every cloud is scattered, and calm returns. Has anyone fallen into sin? More, does anyone run despairing into a noose of death? If he calls upon the Name of Jesus, shall he not breathe again in life?

Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me (Ps. xlix. 15). Nothing so restrains the violence of anger, eases the swellings of pride, heals the wounds of spite, checks the flow of sensuality, extinguishes the flame of lust, restricts the thirst of greed, and puts to flight the craving for whatever is unbecoming. Since when I name the Name of Jesus, I place before my mind a Man, who is meek and humble of heart, kindly, calm, chaste, merciful, and conspicuous in every virtue and grace, and the Same is the Omnipotent God, Who heals me by His example, and strengthens me by His aid. All this speaks to me, when I speak the Name of Jesus.

Keep then as a medicinal lozenge, O my Soul, that which is hidden in the tiny capsule of this word that is Jesus, which is truly salutary; nor is there any infirmity against which it has been known to fail. Let it be ever in your bosom, ever in your mind; and by means of it all your thoughts and actions will be directed unto Jesus.

You have here truly the means whereby you are helped in the heart and hand. You have, I say, in the Name of Jesus, that by which you can correct your evil ways, improve those that are less perfect. You have that whereby you may defend your heart, lest it be corrupted; and should it be corrupted, that whereby you may restore it, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.