To the very dear community of St Bertin their brother Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, sends greetings and assurance of his prayers.
Courage, my dear friends! Keep on the road to which you have committed yourselves, for nothing honours the master so much as the disciple’s progress, and whoever is not engaged in the school of Jesus Christ is unworthy of such a master, especially when one considers that in this present life nothing remains stable in the same condition, and that the moment someone ceases to climb up, that person begins to sink down. No one should say, ‘I can stay as I am; it is enough for me to remain today just as I was yesterday.’ Such a proposal means staying on the road and halting on the ladder where all the angels that the patriarch saw were going either up or down (Genesis 28.12). For my part I say to you, ‘When you think you are standing firm, be careful that you are not falling’ (1 Corinthians 10.12). The road on which we are travelling is narrow and steep, devoid of stopping-places. We can find a place to halt only in the house of our Father, for anyone who claims to dwell in Jesus Christ must walk as Jesus Christ walked (1 John 2.6). Speaking of him the evangelist tells us, ‘he increased in wisdom, in stature and in divine and human favour’ (Luke 2.52). If you look carefully, ‘he rejoices like a champion to run his course’ (Psalm 18.6). If we are really inspired we will run after him, we will follow in the sweetness of his perfumes, and we will not let him get too far ahead of us, for fear that the road may become more dangerous and difficult for our lazy and encumbered soul, when it becomes too distant to scent the smell of his perfumes and to recognise his footprints.