Aelred of Rievaulx: In Advent We Inflame Our Souls with Love and Longing for Christ Monday, Dec 3 2012 

Aelred of RievaulxThe present holy season which we call Advent directs our thoughts to our Lord’s twofold coming.

[…] Advent calls to mind the two comings of our Lord.

The first is the coming of the fairest of the sons of men and the desire of all nations, so long awaited and so fervently prayed for by all the fathers when the Son of God graciously revealed to the world his visible presence in the flesh, that is to say when he came into the world to save sinners;

The other is that second coming to which we look forward no less than did our fathers of old.

[…] To speak more precisely, however, the day we are shortly to celebrate in memory of our Lord’s birth brings him before us as a newborn child – that is to say it more expressly signifies the day and the hour when he first came into the world.

Whereas the season we keep beforehand represents him to us as the longed-for Messiah, and reminds us of the yearning that filled the hearts of those holy fathers of ours who lived before his coming.

How beautifully then at this season the Church provides that we should recite the words and recall the longing of those who lived before our Lord’s first advent!

Nor do we commemorate that desire of theirs for a single day, but share it so to speak for a long period of time, because when something we greatly love and long for is deferred for a while it usually seems sweeter to us when it does arrive.

It is our duty then to follow the example and recall the longing of the holy fathers and so inflame our own souls with love and longing for Christ.

You must understand that the reason why this season was instituted was to inspire us to remember the desire of our holy fathers for our Lord’s first coming, and through their example learn to have a great longing for the day when he will come again.

We should consider how much good our Lord did us by his first coming, and how much more he will do for us by his second.

This thought will help us to have a great love for that first coming of his and a great longing for his return.

And if our conscience is not so perfect that we dare entertain such a desire, we ought at least to fear his second coming and by means of that fear to correct our faults, so that if perhaps we cannot help being afraid here and now, we shall at least be secure and fearless when he comes again.          

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Sermo 1 in Adventu Domini 1-6 (CCCM IIA);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, 1st Sunday in Advent, Year 1.

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Aelred of Rievaulx: In the Cross of Christ there is Death, and in the Cross of Christ there is Life Saturday, Mar 31 2012 

Rievaulx Abbey

Be careful…to reflect not only on the fact of this redemption but also on two other points: the manner in which this redemption was wrought, and the place in which it was wrought.

The manner of redemption is the suffering of the Cross; the place, outside the city.

Let us then learn from the Cross of Jesus our proper way of living.

Should I say ‘living’ or, instead, ‘dying’? Rather, both living and dying.

Dying to the world, living for God.

Dying to vices and living by the virtues.

Dying to the flesh, but liv­ing in the spirit.

Thus in the Cross of Christ there is death and in the Cross of Christ there is life.

The death of death is there, and the life of life.

The death of sins is there and the life of the virtues.

The death of the flesh is there, and the life of the spir­it.

But why did God choose this manner of death?

He chose it as both a mystery and an example.

In addition, he chose it because our sickness was such as to make such a remedy appropriate.

It was fitting that we who had fallen because of a tree might rise up because of a tree.

Fitting that the one who had con­quered by means of a tree might also be conquered by means of a tree.

Fitting that we who had eaten the fruit of death from a tree might be given the fruit of life from a tree.

And because we had fallen from the security of that most blessed place on earth into this great, expansive sea, it was fitting that wood should be made ready to carry us across it.

For no one cross­es the sea except on wood, or this world except on the Cross.

Let me say something now about the mystery contained in the manner of our redemption.

[…] When a Cross is set upright, the head is directed to heaven and the feet to earth, and the outstretched arms to what is located between heaven and earth.

[…] Do you see, now, the mystery in the kind of death Christ chose?

[…] St Paul says: He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross.

And, revealing the mystery, he says: Therefore God exalted him and gave him the name that is above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee might bend of those who are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.

Since, then, he was to take possession of heaven and earth through the Cross, on the Cross he embraced heaven and earth.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): In Hebd. Sancta, sermon 36.1-2.4 (CCM 2A:294-295); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Palm Sunday, Year 2.

Aelred of Rievaulx: The Memory of His Passion in Our Heart Friday, Mar 2 2012 

Rievaulx Abbey

After the people of Israel left Egypt with Moses at their head, the Amalekites, a savage race, came and did battle against them.

Moses sent an army against them, while he himself went up on to a mountain to pray for them and raised his hands to the Lord.

And it came to pass that while he kept his hands raised, the people of Israel were triumphant but whenever he lowered his hands Amalek started to win.

Why was it, do you think, that the raising of his hands possessed such grace? Without doubt God usually takes more account of the attachments of the mind than of the postures of the body.

Why was it then? Did his prayer have no effect before God unless he raised his hands? That lifting up of his hands had such an effect that their enemies could not withstand the Israelites.

The reason why this lifting up of hands had such force was that it signified the raising of the hands of him who said in the psalm, The lifting up of my hands is like an evening sacrifice.

For, when evening had already come upon the world, his sweetest hands were stretched out on the Cross and there was offered up that evening sacrifice that took away the sins of the whole world.

So that raising of Moses’ hands signified the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ who went up on to a mountain to pray because he ascended into heaven to plead our cause with the Father.

There he lifts up his hands so that Amalek – that is, the devil – will not be able to vanquish us.

For there he appears in God’s sight on our behalf and re­presents to him the Passion that he underwent for us.

As for us, brothers, as long as…our fight is against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of the dark things of the world, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens, we need to have our Lord lifting up his hands within us.

That is to say, the remembrance of his Passion should be continually present in our minds.

We can be quite sure, my brothers…that as long as the memory of his Passion is in our heart, as long as our hope is directed to where Christ is pleading our cause at the right hand of the Father, the spiritual Amalek – that is, the devil – will not be able to vanquish us.

And therefore…let us see that this attachment, this remembrance, does not through some negligence on our part grow lukewarm in us.

For then we shall immediately grow faint and our enemy will gain the upper hand and cause us distress.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Sermon 13.27-29 (1st Clairvaux Coll.); tr. Berkeley & Pennington, from Cistercian Fathers 58, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday in 2nd Week of Lent, Year 2.

Aelred of Rievaulx: “They shall Beat their Swords into Ploughshares and their Spears into Sickles” Friday, Dec 2 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

Our way of life is a strongly fortified city surrounded on all sides by sound observances which, like walls and towers, rise up to prevent our enemy from deceiving us and enticing us away from our Emperor’s army.

What a wall poverty is! How well it defends us against the pride of the world, against harmful and ruinous vanities and superfluities.

What a tower silence is! It repels the assaults of contention, quarrelling, dissension, and detraction.

What about obedience, humility, cheap clothing? What about a restricted diet? They are walls, they are towers against vices, against the attacks of our enemies.

In this city we declare ourselves, not Romans, but angelic beings. For these observances demonstrate that we belong to the fellowship of the angels and are not among the slaves of the Romans.

When we make profession of this way of life the words of Isaiah are fulfilled: They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles.

Then he goes on: Nation shall not lift sword against nation nor ever again be trained for war.

[…] Let us think about the sword of which the Lord said: Everyone who takes up the sword will perish by the sword, and the ploughshares by which the earth of our heart is broken, in accordance with the text: Rend your hearts and not your garments.

And we shall see at the present time countless persons changing their swords into ploughshares.

The sword is wrongdoing. With this sword a person wounds himself before he does anyone else; as Saint Augustine says:

‘Every person who is a wrongdoer harms himself before he harms anyone else because, even before he injures the other person, by making up his mind to injure someone else he injures himself, slaying himself with the sword of wrongdoing.

This is the sword of which the Lord says to Peter: Everyone who takes up the sword will perish by the sword.

How many there are, brothers, who at the present time are beating this sword of wrongdoing into the ploughshare of compunction!

Many who have previously killed their soul with the sword of sin now rend their heart by the compunction of penance.

Many today are also changing their spears – that is, the subtlety of their wits by which they used to drag many others down into sin with them – into sickles with which they are reaping a spiritual harvest so that they may come to meet the Lord bearing in their hands the sheaves of justice and salvation.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): The Liturgical Sermons 3.7-13, tr. Berkeley & Pennington (2001), from Cistercian Fathers 58, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday in 1st Week of Advent, Year 2.

Aelred of Rievaulx: Even My Earthly Body will be Filled with the Glory of the Lord. Thursday, Sep 22 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the whole earth filled with his glory (Isaiah 6:1).

[…] I know that this earth I tread upon will be delivered from its enslavement to decay, and that there will be a new earth and a new heaven, and he who sits upon the throne will say: See, I am making all things new.

Even my earthly body will be filled with the glory of the Lord.

At present the earth yields thorns and thistles for me, since Adam’s crime brought a curse upon it.

My body is weak and languid, lazy and burdensome, subject to strong passions and prone to grave illnesses.

But why are you cast down, my soul; why groan within me? The whole earth will be filled with his glory.

But when will this be?

Undoubtedly, when the Lord takes his seat upon his throne, high and exalted, and refashions our lowly bodies to be like his own glorious body;

when that glory which was revealed in the body of the Lord at his transfiguration on the mountain shines forth in our earthly bodies, now risen from the dead and endowed with immortality.

Then a new song will be sung and cries of gladness and joy will be heard in the tents of the righteous, for winter is past, the rains are over and gone, and flowers have appeared in the countryside.

The cause of our joy will be the vision of the Creator in his creatures, the love of the Creator in his own being, and the praise of our Creator in both.

His train filled the Temple, says Isaiah. What Temple? Scripture says: God’s Temple is holy, and you are that Temple.

Now although our bodies are God’s Temple, nevertheless, because our souls control our bodies, our souls are God’s Temple in a special way.

This is the Temple in which during the present life we offer God the sacrifice of a humbled, contrite heart which he does not spurn.

This is the Temple in which, when the corruptible life of the body is over, and we have been carried to the kingdom of eternal glory where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, we shall offer God a sacrifice of praise.

As he himself says through the Prophet: A sacrifice of praise honours me.

Now, in the meantime, Lord, may our sacrifice of contrition placate you, so that, when you sit upon your throne, high and exalted, our sacrifice of praise may honour you.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Sermo de adventu Domini, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday in 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Aelred of Rievaulx: Keep the Eyes of the Soul Always Fixed on the Serene Patience of Your Beloved Lord and Saviour Saturday, Mar 19 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

The perfection of brotherly love lies in the love of one’s enemies.

We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of Christ.

He who is more fair than all the sons of men offered his fair face to be spat upon by sinful men.

He allowed those eyes that rule the universe to be blindfolded by wicked men. He bared his back to the scourges.

He submitted that head which strikes terror in principalities and powers to the sharpness of the thorns.

He gave himself up to be mocked and reviled, and at the end endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, remaining always gentle, meek and full of peace.

In short, he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent, and did not open his mouth.

Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity – Father, forgive them – and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love?

Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?

Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgment; therefore, Father, forgive them.

They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.

Therefore, Father, forgive them.

They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognise my glory.

Therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

If someone wishes to love himself he must not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature.

If he wishes to resist the promptings of his sinful nature he must enlarge the whole horizon of his love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the humanity of the Lord.

Further, if he wishes to savour the joy of brotherly love with greater perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love.

But if he wishes to prevent this fire of divine love from growing cold because of injuries received, let him keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Lord and Saviour.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Speculum Caritatis 3,5, taken from the Office of Readings for Friday of the 1st Week in Lent @ Crossroads Initiative.

Aelred of Rievaulx: In Charity Alone is True Peace and Contentment Monday, Feb 28 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

When insults have no effect on us, when persecu­tions and penalties have no terror for us, when prosperity or adversity has no influence on us, when friend and foe are viewed in the same light…do we not come close to sharing the serenity of God?

All such dispositions spring from charity and charity alone,in which is true peace and contentment.

For it is the Lord’s yoke, and if we follow his call to bear it our souls will find rest, because his yoke is easy and his burden light.

[…] The other virtues are to us as a carriage bearing the weary traveller, as provisions fortifying the wayfarer, as a lamp for those in darkness, or as arms for combatants.

[…] For what is faith but the carriage that bears us to our native land?

What is hope but the food we take for our journey through life’s hardships?

And those other virtues of temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice – what are they but the weapons given us for the struggle?

But when death has been swallowed up by that perfection of charity which is achieved in the vision of God there will be no more faith, because faith was the preparation for that vision, and there will be no need to believe what we see and love.

And when we embrace God with the arms of our charity, there will be no more hope, for there will be nothing left to hope for.

And as for the other virtues, temperance is our weapon against lust, prude­nce against error, fortitude against adversity, justice against injustice.

But in charity there is also perfect chastity, and so no lust for temperance to combat;

in charity there is the fullness of knowl­edge, and so no error for prudence to guard against;

in charity there is true blessedness, and so no adversity for fortitude to overcome;

in charity all is peace, and so there is no injustice for justice to withstand.

Faith is not even a virtue unless it is expressed by love; nor is hope unless it loves what it hopes for.

And if we look more closely, do we not see that temperance is only love that no pleasure can seduce;

that prudence is only love that no error can mislead;

that fortitude is only love courageously enduring adversity;

and that justice is only impartial love mitigating the injustices of this life?

Charity therefore begins with faith, is exercised through the other virtues, but achieves perfection in itself.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Speculum Caritatis 1.31, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday in Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Aelred of Rievaulx: Then the Mind is Untroubled by Fear or Worry, for the Calm of Perfect Love Reigns There Thursday, Jan 13 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

Charity – a short word indeed, but with its meaning of perfect and unalloyed love it sums up the whole human attitude to God and his creatures.

Or, to use our Lord’s own explanation, it is on charity that all the Law and the Prophets depend….

Charity gives the soul a spiritual circumcision.

The delights of a never ending sabbath, the saving victims offered by the loving soul to God, the perfumed incense and fragrant smoke of sacrifice – these are merely some of the fruits of charity when it is firmly rooted in the soul.

Yet none can flourish or even live in a soul where charity is not present.

The circumcision effected in the soul by charity is the complete casting off of our baser inclinations as they affect both body and soul.

The result is that the flames of lust are quenched and anger’s heat is cooled.

Tempering also the appetites of gluttony, charity further roots out all envy and banishes completely the mother of all vices, pride.

And it so soothes the sting of melancholy in the soul that even accidie, that spiritual torpor which is the aftermath of melancholy, is waylaid.

Yet another effect of charity’s circumci­sion of the soul is that munificence cuts the shackles of graspingness so that nothing – least of all the desire for wealth – can take God’s place in the soul’s devotion.

Surely no physical operation could have greater effect than this spiritual circumcision which amputates vice, drains the pus of sin, removes the dead skin of original sin, and burns away the gan­grene of long-standing evil.

Then the mind is untroubled by fear or worry, for the calm of perfect love reigns there.

Lust’s evil desires can leave no stain, anger’s raging will never again sear the soul, nor will pride inflate it with self-importance.

Gone is the blinding desire for earthly glory together with the heat of anger and the sting of ambition.

No longer does the soul yearn for masses of worldly wealth, no more can sadness make it downcast nor envy gnaw at it.

For as Saint Paul tells us, when charity reigns in the soul, there is no envy or double-dealing, no arrogance or self-centredness, no self-pity or self-aggrandizement.

It is easy to see, then, that the circumcision of the soul destroys all evil at the same time as it purifies all the senses of the body, just as the surgeon’s knife cores out a poisoned wound.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Speculum Caritatis 10-11, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday in Week 1 of Ordinary Time, Year 1.