Bernard of Clairvaux (and Gilbert of Hoyland and John of Ford) On the Song of Songs

One of the most important Christian commentaries on the Song of Songs is Bernard of Clairvaux’s series of 86 sermons. Unfortunately, he only got through Song 3:1 or so. Another Cistercian abbot, Gilbert of Hoyland from Swineshead in Lincolnshire, decided to keep up the sermon series and picked up at the beginning of chapter 3. He got in 47 sermons before his death and made it to Song 5:9. Once Gilbert died, another Cistercian abbot, John of Ford, took up the torch and wrote 120 sermons finally making it all the way through the Song of Songs (and the longest sermon series in the Middle Ages!). The whole series does not read like a commentary, but rather like a sermon series. The point of the sermons is not to focus in and provided a detailed historical critical exegesis of each passage. In fact, in some of the sermons it’s hard to find a mention of the text of Song of Songs at all. Rather, the vast sermon series is a great work of spiritual theology, which examines the nature of the soul’s relationship with God through the lens of the Song of Songs. All of the sermons are available in English translation from the Cistercian Fathers series. All told, there are 14 volumes.

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2 thoughts on “Bernard of Clairvaux (and Gilbert of Hoyland and John of Ford) On the Song of Songs

  1. Marsha Dutton

    Nice to see the complete series cited at once–and to have it publicly said that Gilbert wrote 47 sermons rather than the formerly thought 48. Terrific!

  2. catholicbiblestudent Post author

    Hi Marsha,
    Thanks for your comment. I’m a big fan of Aelred of Rievaulx, especially his work, Spiritual Friendship. I really appreciate the edition you put together. My students love it too!

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