17.04.19, Edmonds, Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for the Autumn Season

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Katherine Willis

The Medieval Review 17.04.19

Edmonds, Irene, trans. and revised by Scott, Mark. Sermons for the Autumn Season / Bernard of Clairvaux. Cistercian Fathers Series, 54. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press / Cistercian Publications, 2016. pp. lxxiv, 378. ISBN: 978-08-7907-454-8 (paperback) 978-08-7907-154-7 (ebook).

Reviewed by:
Katherine Willis
University of Central Arkansas

This translation of Bernard of Clairvaux's Sermons for the Autumn Season will be immensely useful to researchers, students, and members of the general public who have a scholarly or personal interest in Bernard. It is based on Irene Edmonds' translation from the critical edition Sermones II in Sancti Bernardi Opera (8 vols.), edited by Jean Leclercq and H.M Rochais. Mark Scott revised Edmonds' translation for this publication. It includes a general introduction by Wim Verbaal. Copies can be purchased in both print (paperback only) and ebook formats.


The translation and layout of this volume are just as excellent as in the other volumes in the series. Edmonds' translation here, as with the others she produced, renders Bernard's Latin into elegant but accessible modern English, capturing the distinctive features of the style of the doctor mellifluus that readers have so often noted and enjoyed. Thanks to Edmonds' work and Scott's careful revision, this edition is perfectly suited for use in research, in the classroom, and in personal reading. To my knowledge, there is only one error: in Asspt 1. 3, "who the created world cannot contain" should read "whom the created world cannot contain" (16).

Sermons for the Autumn Season follows the layout of the other volumes in the series in terms of highly useful marginal notes and footnotes. The marginal notes are of three general kinds. First and most common are the notes that indicate Bernard's paraphrases or quotations from Christian scriptures by book, chapter, and verse. These notes also identify instances where Bernard makes use of an "ancient version" of a particular text. Second, some of the marginal notes provide the original Latin words or phrases in places where translation is difficult (as with the word affectus, forms of which Bernard uses regularly), where the translation takes some moderate liberties, or where the Latin might be of particular interest (such as instances of word play). Third, some of the marginal notes identify when Bernard quotes from or paraphrases liturgical texts. Occasionally, there are also footnotes where full citations are needed for Bernard's sources or for important critical works related to Bernard's ideas.

The volume also includes an Index of Scriptural References. The index is organized by book of the Bible and is keyed to vols. 51-54: Sermons for Advent and the Christmas Season (vol. 51), Sermons for Lent and the Easter Season (vol. 52), and Sermons for the Summer Season; Liturgical Sermons from Rogationtide and Pentecost (vol. 53). There is also an Index of Subjects, which again covers all four volumes and is extensive in the range of proper names and topics included. The decision to have both indices cover all the seasonal sermons makes them a lengthy portion of each volume, but it will be a boon to those who may start with one volume and then discover via the indices that others are of interest to them as well.

Sermons for the Autumn Season includes the following in this order: On the Time of Harvest, On the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sunday within the Octave of the Assumption, On the Nativity of Blessed Mary, A Sermon to the Abbots, On the Feast of St. Michael, Sunday of the First Week of November, On the Feast of All Saints, For the Dedication of a Church, On the Feast of St. Martin, Bishop, On the Feast of St. Clement, Sermon on the Passing of St. Malachy the Bishop, On the Vigil of St. Anthony the Apostle, On the Feast of St. Andrew, and On the Death of Master Humbert.


The volume offers an insightful and helpful general introduction by Wim Verbaal, who has published excellent work elsewhere on Bernard of Clairvaux. The introduction begins with an examination of the complexities involved in reconciling the four redactions of the sermons: B, M, L, and Pf (the latter being Leclercq's choice for the critical edition). Although the introduction seems at first as though it will be most helpful for those exploring textual criticism, Verbaal's purpose is actually to clarify what we know and can deduce about Bernard's intentions for organizing his sermons. Readers who do not have an interest in textual criticism therefore should not be dissuaded from finishing the introduction: our understanding of Bernard's organizational principles can directly affect how we interpret Bernard's sermons.

Verbaal makes a convincing argument that the chronology of the liturgical year is not the best explanation for Bernard's organization of his sermons. By tracing Bernard's choice of themes in this collection, Verbaal suggests that the sermons bring to the fore Bernard's creativity and skill in using both linear and cyclical structures. The final seven sermons demonstrate this most clearly. As Verbaal explains, "Time is one, and in God's traces Bernard as the supreme organizer of his liturgical year has the right and the power to mix temporal succession according to his own spiritual insights" (lxi). For example, "Bernard consciously transposed the sermon (and thus the date of Malachy's commemoration) to a place that fit better in his overall plan" (lxiii). By moving Malachy after Sts. Martin and Clement, he could "show that while the heroic time of the first martyrs was not complete, saintliness was still possible" (lxiii). Ultimately, Bernard's purpose for these sermons was to support lectio divina, and in doing so, he "offers his readers a way to make every day's today a day of living Liturgy" (lxvi).


The book can be purchased in paperback but not hardback. The cover is simple in design but satisfactory (it is the same as for vols. 51-53). The binding and paper are of better-than-average quality, sufficient to withstand regular use for many years.

For those who prefer a different reading format, Cistercian Publications has also made available an ebook version that is identical in pagination to the print version. It can be purchased separately ($31.99) or bundled with the paperback for a significant discount ($49.49). On some devices, the ebook text would be searchable, and that might offer considerable advantages to some readers. In either format, however, the volume is very affordably priced and easily accessible.

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