To Romanus, Sub-Deacon of the Roman Curia.
He urges upon him the proposal of the religious life, recalling the thought of death.
Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, to his dear Romanus, as to his friend.
MY DEAREST FRIEND,
How good you are to me in renewing by a letter the sweet recollection of yourself and in excusing my tiresome delay. It is not possible that any forgetfulness of your affection could ever invade the hearts of those who love you; but, I confess, I thought you had almost forgotten yourself until I saw your letter. So now no more delays; fulfil quickly the promise that you have written; and if your pen truly expresses your purpose, let your acts correspond to it. Why do you delay to, give birth to that spirit of salvation which you have so long conceived? Nothing is more certain to mortals than death, nothing more uncertain than the hour of death, since it is to come upon us as a thief, in the night. Woe unto them who are still with child [of that good intention] in that day! If it shall anticipate and prevent this birth of salvation, alas! it will pierce through the house and destroy the holy seed: For when they shall say Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape (1 Thess. v.3).1 wish you not to flee from death, but only to fear it. For the just, though he avoids it not, because he knows that it is inevitable, yet does not fear it. Moreover, he awaits it as a rest (Wisdom iv.7) and receives it in perfect security; for as it is the exit from the present life, so it is the entrance into a better. Death is good if by it thou die to sin, that thou mayest live unto righteousness. It is necessary that this death should go before, in order that the other which follows after may be safe. In this life, so long as it lasts, prepare for yourself that life which lasts for ever. While you live in the flesh, die unto the world, that after the death of the flesh you may begin to live unto God. For what if death rend asunder the coarse envelope of your body so long as from that moment it clothes you with a garment of joy? O, how blessed are the dead which die in the Lord (Apoc. xiv.13), for they hear from the Spirit, that |they may rest from their labours.| And not only so, but also from new life comes pleasure, and from eternity safety. Happy, therefore, is the death of the just because of its rest; better because of its new life, best because of its safety (Ps. xxxiv.21). On the other hand, worst of all is the death of sinners. And hear why worse. It is bad, indeed, through loss of the world; it is worse through separation from the flesh; worst of all through double pain of worm and fire. Up, then, hasten; go forth out of the world, and renounce it entirely; let your soul die the death of the righteous, that your last end also may be like His: Oh, how dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps. cxvi.13). Flee, I pray you, lest you stand in the way of sinners. How canst thou live where thou durst not die?