I love the works of Etienne Gilson; nearly every page of prose provides a new insight. The following idea in particular stayed with me after reading his work entitled The Mystical Theology of St. Bernard:
An ancient Greek doctrine says that "only like knows like." St. Bernard thinks about this in the context of Adam's first sin.
Man is made in the image and likeness of God. He still reflects the image, but lost the likeness at the time of the Fall. Bernard says that by growing in holiness, we begin to restore our original likeness to God. This makes sense: God is holy, so our holiness makes us like Him. Returning to our theme, since only like knows like, it follows that the more alike we are to God, the more we know him. Put in the negative sense, we cannot know him unless we are holy.
I have heard the apologetic advice for skeptics and those with doubts that they just start practicing the Faith, and their belief and understanding will follow. Bernard's theology seems to me a technical explanation of that phenomenon: practice piety, grow in holiness, and understand God as one cannot from a position of hostility and antagonism.
This type of confirmation edifies my own faith. I encounter disparate sources in my reading that seem capable of being overlaid -- layer after layer -- so that the fruit of Catholicism grows real, tangible, and richer with each layer.
I have more posts planned based on this book and others by Gilson...stay tuned.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us!
Last update 6/7/2012