St Bernard 




I. God is ineffable. He cannot be described. Considering the name as being the summing up and the picture of a person and his qualities and peculiarities, we may say that God cannot be named. If our intellect cannot grasp His essence, still less can feeble words express it. Even the transcendent ideas that find expression only in those nobler languages which we call the arts, are still too much " of the earth earthly " to suggest to us a fraction of the wonders and delights contained in the Creator s smallest attribute. Even this earth will never be adequately described, although it is but the footprint of the Almighty. Hence it was said, " Why askest thou My name, which is wonderful?" (Jud. xiii. 18). And again, "I am the Lord that appeared ... by the name of God Almighty ; and My name Adonai I did not show them " (Ex. vi. 3). The name of God was not pronounced or even known by the Israelites : it was represented by four letters which we pronounce Jehovah. No word can express God s nature but the uncreated Word of God Himself, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Never presume to measure the perfections of God by the ideas of men. You cannot judge of His ways, His designs, the wisdom of His decrees, the methods by which He carries them out. To attempt this is the same as attributing a human character to God and a human name.

II. But because God is ineffable and indescribable, we must not on that account abstain from naming God according to our abilities, from describing His perfections and glorifying His name. In the same way that God, although incomprehensible, may yet be known to a great extent by us; so the impossibility of a full description of Him does not prevent us from describing Him in a way that will excite much devotion and give glory to His name. " When you exalt Him put forth all your strength and be not weary, for you can never go far enough " (Eccli. xliii. 34). The fact that we cannot go far enough is the very reason why we should go as f?r as we can. If we cannot render God the whole of His deserts, we should at least offer Him all that is in our power. Glorify the name of God, then, as much as you can, making His perfections known to others, en lightening their ignorance about Him, leading them to practise worship and prayer, and teaching them to love Him.

III. Consider the multitude of names by which God allows us to address Him. The Jews had seventy-two names for God ; and we have many more, according to the different aspects in which we regard Him. Much of our knowledge of God is negative ; we know that He is free from our imperfections and limitations ; so we call Him the Infinite, the Eternal, the Immortal, the Uncreated. Other names refer to God as the origin of all life and virtue and goodness. Therefore we speak of Him as the Creator, the First Cause, the Supreme Being, the Almighty, the All- just, the All-merciful. Under other aspects we may address God as our life, our perfection, our joy, as perfect truth and perfect beauty. In the old times God was called the Lord of Hosts, the strong, the great, the terrible (2 Esdr. i. 5). Jesus Christ has revealed to us a different class of names. Christians think of God more frequently as their love, their highest good, their supreme desire, their felicity, their sweetness, their Spouse, and chiefly as their Father. Above all we know the name of God made man, Jesus Christ, the only "name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved" (Acts iv. 12). Rehearse the different names of God, and praise Him for what is signified by each. Be grateful that He has granted you to know His name and to call upon it.

"No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find 
A sweeter sound than Thy blest name,
O Saviour of mankind."



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