Sundays mornings 9-9:45 we continue our study of St. Bernard's On Loving God. His treatment of self-love as the first stage of loving God is both wonderfully optimistic in contrast to some Reformed viewpoints and realistic in contrast to the modern obsession with self-affirmation.
Because nature has become rather frail and weak, we are driven by necessity to serve nature first. This results in bodily love, by which we love ourselves for our own sake. We do not yet know anything but ourselves, as it is written, “First came what is animal, then what is spiritual” (1 Cor 15:46). This love is not imposed by rule but is innate in nature. For who hates his own flesh (Eph 5:29)? –St. Bernard
We must first love ourselves because of the Fall but the Fall does not mean that we cannot love at all. Love even after the Fall is factory equipment. Natural love (amor carnalis) is not inevitably disordered, although of course it can easily become so. What Bernard wants to highlight according to Dr. Emero Stiegman is the "loving action of God within our created nature, the lovableness of God to the most creaturely eyes, God as the initially unknown goal of the human quest." Gratia non tollit naturam sed perficit.