Christian Mysticism is the experience of Truth in Love. The Truth we speak of is that objective reality which is God who is Love—specifically, the fullness of God's self-communication in the person of Jesus Christ. Cistercians traditionally speak of mysticism as the experience of God acquired by learning the truth about ourselves. This mysticism is an interior process we embrace day after day, purposefully and with a quiet joy, as one might pursue gardening, book illumination, or baking bread.

The Mystery of the Heart's Conversion by God's Grace

In accord with sacred scripture, St. Bernard held that you are made in God's image. He taught that, in your free will, above all else, there has been impressed in you a true image of the eternal and unchangeable God! This image of God in you had a beginning, but it will know no destruction. It will not be in any way increased by your righteous actions, or even by heavenly glory. Likewise, this image can suffer no diminution by sin or be lessened by human misery. "Imagine!," Bernard says: "There is perhaps nothing except Eternity itself, that bears a greater likeness to eternity — than this image of God in you!"

Conversion is Necessary That you May be Free!

St. Bernard once prayed words to this effect: "God — why don't you pardon my sins, that having thrown off the heavy weight of my own selfishness, I might breathe freely again with nothing weighing down upon me except what love requires; that I might no longer be constrained by cowering fear, nor enticed to live like the 'page-boy' of my selfish desires, but that I might be led by your Spirit, the Spirit of freedom!"

First the Mind Must be Converted by God's Word

"You see," Bernard explains, "the Son of God is God's own Wisdom and He seeks to enter your mind which is oppressed and clouded by selfish desire; a hostage of sin; made blind by ignorance of what is true and good, and so abandoned to things in the world that can never make you happy."

How Humility is Born

Christ is merciful and so, entering your mind, He raises it up; by His Wisdom He teaches it. Drawing it inward, He makes your mind His own representative that you may judge truthfully concerning everything you have ever done. From this union of Wisdom with your human mind is born the virtue called "humility."

The Law of Christ is the One Law that Liberates!

"Humility", Bernard taught, "is knowing the truth about yourself." You were created out of nothing and are every moment sustained in existence by God's free gift of love. Having grown in the virtue of humility, the monk will arrive at that love of God which casts out all fear and he will keep, without effort, as if naturally, all the rules he had previously observed because of fear!

To Know Again the Sweetness of Love

Having taught the mind wisdom, and led the monk to judge himself truly, the Word of God is followed by the Holy Spirit of God who visits the heart, purifies it and fills it with new ardor, making it merciful toward itself and others. Like skin that is rubbed with soothing ointment and becomes supple, the heart softens and expands with new affection — even for enemies. From this union of the Spirit of God with your heart is born love.

Mystical Union With God

Your mind having been restored by God's Word and the affection of your heart enlarged by God's Spirit, humility has cleansed your soul of its sins, and God clasps your soul to Himself. So intimate is this embrace, that your soul loses all remembrance of itself and, in relating to others, the soul is initiated into the secret treasury of Love, hidden in the heart of your neighbor whom you love with God's own love.

The rest is silence

When Heaven itself is made silent, your soul rests calmly in that gentle embrace as though asleep and yet wholly awake. In this repose, your soul beholds things invisible and hears things unutterable of which it is not permitted for any human being to speak. These are things that make all human knowledge as the darkness of night.