One of my favorite Hymns in the LDS Hymn Book was written by a Frenchman in the middle of the dark ages. Born in the year 1091, Bernard of Clairvaux lived more than a thousand years after the great apostasy, which resulted in the removal of the priesthood from the Earth. (This meant the authority to act in God’s name was no longer here, and that the Lord’s Church was no longer on Earth in its fullness.)
He lived in a time where very few had access to the Holy Scriptures, many of the doctrines of Christ had been polluted, and religion was more about power than worship. Yet in the midst of that, this Frenchman, who was also a monk, wrote a 192-line poem titled “Dulcis Jesus Memorial” (”Joyful Rhythm on the Name of Jesus”) which was later translated by Edward Caswall in the early 1800’s. It was from this poem that the hymn “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” came to us.
Every time I hear the words,
“Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see
And in thy presence rest.”
(Verse 1 of “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” Hymn 141) Text: Attr. to Bernard of Clairvaux, ca. 1091–1153; trans. by Edward Caswall, 1814–1878
I find myself, like Alma in the Book of Mormon taught us in Alma Chapter 5, looking forward to the day when I will stand before my Lord and Savior to give an accounting of my days. I know that if I can but live so that when that time comes, I will have the power to look up, and I will see in His eyes such love and mercy that my heart will be filled with a sweetness beyond anything I can yet imagine.
“Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the mem’ry find
A sweeter sound than thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind!
O hope of ev’ry contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!”
(Verses 2 & 3 of “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee”)
There is no sweeter name that can pass through the lips of mankind then that of our Savior, for it is through Him that we are able to overcome sin and death in order to be brought back into the presence of God. I am again reminded of the words of the prophet Alma when He spoke of the Savior’s mission on Earth and what He did that He might succor (or run to) His people to heal them, and in the process bring them peace and joy.
“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12)
The Lord is indeed most kind, understanding, and merciful in His actions toward the children of men. He teaches us how to love and be loved.
“Jesus, our only joy be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And thru eternity.”
(Verse 4 of “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee”)
I await the day when I may become a joint heir with Christ in the kingdom of my Father in Heaven. This is the mark which I keep my eyes upon to guide me in the choices I make in my life.
This beautiful hymn is one way I help myself to keep my eye on the mark of eternal life. Whenever I hear the words or even the music, (which always brings the words to my mind) I find my faith and testimony strengthened, and am then able to face what lies before me. For this, I shall ever be thankful to Bernard of Clairvaux, and I look forward to the day when I shall see him face to face and express my gratitude for the influence his sweet testimony has had on my life.