Words on the Word
Blessed Guerric of Igny
Blessed Guerric of Igny, the saint we commemorate today, is one of our Order’s outstanding teachers of prayer. Securely launched on an ecclesiastical career, he felt, like so many of the best men of his time, the irresistible attraction of Bernard’s Clairvaux. He became a monk there in 1131. After not many years he was sent as abbot to Clairvaux’s foundation of Igny, near Reims, where he lived until his death in the late 1150s. Of his outward life, we know little more. The life of his soul, meanwhile, is spelt out for us in a series of wonderful sermons his monks were bold enough to keep – thank God! – ‘though Guerric, on his deathbed, asked that everything he’d written should be burned. It is often said that Guerric’s spirituality is liturgical. What does that mean? It means he insisted that the texts, chants, and gestures of the liturgy have singular power to raise hearts and minds to union with God – and that these texts, chants, and gestures, in consequence, deserve our deep respect and undivided attention. For Guerric, divine contemplation was fundamentally a matter of assimilating, by interiorisation, the prayers we recite with our lips in the breviary and missal. He would have scoffed at any notion that mental and vocal prayer were somehow in opposition. ‘No!’, he would have said, ‘they are inseparable.’ If we are here this morning, you and I, it is because we thirst for a living encounter with God. In the school of Bl Guerric, let us be mindful what a fount of divine life is uncovered for us in the liturgy. Let us resolve to discover the liturgy ever more fully, to celebrate it ever more devoutly and carefully.