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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From His Sermon on the Death of Gerard
By Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090/1–1153)
 
“As the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.”—Sol. Song i. 5.

PERHAPS both members of the comparison—viz., “As the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon”—refer only to the first words, “I am black.” It may be, however, that the simile is extended to both clauses, and each is compared with each. The former sense is the more simple, the latter the more obscure. Let us try both, beginning with the latter, which seems the more difficult. There is no difficulty, however, in the first comparison, “I am black as the tents of Kedar,” but only in the last. For Kedar, which is interpreted to mean “darkness” or “gloom,” may be compared with blackness justly enough; but the curtains of Solomon are not so easily likened to beauty. Moreover, who does not see that “tents” fit harmoniously with the comparison? For what is the meaning of “tents” except our bodies, in which we sojourn for a time? Nor have we an abiding city, but we seek one to come. In our bodies, as under tents, we carry on warfare. Truly, we are violent to take the kingdom. Indeed, the life of man here on earth is a warfare; and as long as we do battle in this body, we are absent from the Lord,—i.e., from the light. For the Lord is light; and so far as any one is not in Him, so far he is in darkness, i.e., in Kedar. Let each one then acknowledge the sorrowful exclamation as his own:—“Woe is me that my sojourn is prolonged! I have dwelt with those who dwell in Kedar. My soul hath long sojourned in a strange land.” Therefore this habitation of the body is not the mansion of the citizen, nor the house of the native, but either the soldier’s tent or the traveler’s inn. This body, I say, is a tent, and a tent of Kedar, because, by its interference, it prevents the soul from beholding the infinite light, nor does it allow her to see the light at all, except through a glass darkly, and not face to face.  1
  Do you not see whence blackness comes to the Church—whence a certain rust cleaves to even the fairest souls? Doubtless it comes from the tents of Kedar, from the practice of laborious warfare, from the long continuance of a painful sojourn, from the straits of our grievous exile, from our feeble, cumbersome bodies; for the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things. Therefore the souls’ desire to be loosed, that being freed from the body they may fly into the embraces of Christ. Wherefore one of the miserable ones said, groaning, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” For a soul of this kind knoweth that, while in the tents of Kedar, she cannot be entirely free from spot or wrinkle, nor from stains of blackness, and wishes to go forth and to put them off. And here we have the reason why the spouse calls herself black as the tents of Kedar. But now, how is she beautiful as the curtains of Solomon? Behind these curtains I feel that an indescribable holiness and sublimity are veiled, which I dare not presume to touch, save at the command of Him who shrouded and sealed the mystery. For I have read, He that is a searcher of Majesty shall be overwhelmed with the glory. I pass on therefore. It will devolve on you, meanwhile, to obtain grace by your prayers, that we may the more readily, because more confidently, recur to a subject which needs attentive minds; and it may be that the pious knocker at the door will discover what the bold explorer seeks in vain.  2
 
 
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