It is in this specific sense that Bernard calls the Virgin Mary our advocate. The title suits her in the first place because we are exiles here below: ‘We have no lasting city but we are searching for that place where blessed Mary arrived today’ by her assumption into heaven. If we are ‘enrolled as citizens [conscripti cives] of this city [notice the juridical precision of the term] it is very fitting that even in our exile, even by the waters of Babylon, we should remember her’. Here Bernard uses the vocabulary of exile. In this, our miserable state, Mary can act as our advocate because she is the queen-mother, consequently the mother of Mercy – Advocatam praemisit peregrinatio nostra. Peregrinatio means exile. We are far from God, but our humanity is already in the homeland, near God; it is preceded by our advocate who is none other than the mother of the Judge. She is used to intervening, by right, on our behalf, as ‘mother of mercy’’; as mater misericordiae she is filled with mercy. Thus she is empowered to deal with the matter and negotiate our salvation: suppliciter et efficaciter salutis nostrae negotia pertractabit.

Finally, she is the mother of God’s only Son. Bernard loved word plays, opposing misery (miseria) to mercy (misericordia), and so contrasting our state as wretched, miserable serfs (miseri, servuli, miseria nostra) with Mary’s condition, misericordiae: ‘may our misery have recourse to her mercy’.

Jean Leclercq, Women and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1989)


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