Discuss St. Aelred of Rievaulx’s ‘On Spiritual Friendship’ and justify its relevance for society
In the modern world where a sense of meaningless pervades it seems obvious that fewer people experience what can be called a friendship of any depth or meaning. Such people would benefit from reading St. Aelred of Rievux’s unique treatise “On Spiritual Friendship”. His sincere and genuine treatment of friendship allows one to stand back and reflect on their own friendships and their importance. According to Cistercian history St. Aelred wrote his treatise during the “golden age” for the Cistercians. Thus one must assume that the power and influence of the Cistercians and their teachings was at its peak St. Aelred’s influence is further highlighted when upon his death his followers declared him a saint without the permission of Rome. This essay will discuss St. Aelred’s main themes as well as justifying its relevance for modern society. Although his treatise is written over twenty years one can see that similar themes resurface throughout highlighting his consistent thought. Furthermore this long time line a passion that is unmatched by any other thinker. The Cistercian’s cenobitic lifestyle, emphasising communal life and brotherly love as ways of unity with God are of primary importenve in St. Aelred’s thougts.
Friendship with God
Before embarking upon the salient details of St. Aelred’s thought it is necessary to include a small amount of relevant Cistercian history. This is merely to defend Aelred against those who claim his treatise as a beacon of homosexuality. Their ignorance of twelfth century Cistercian writings leads them to an ill-considered notion that he was perhaps gay. Fortunately written evidence has survived to prove that this notion is false. Firstly there is no evidence in other writings of the period to confirm this suspicion. Due to Aelred’s notoriety one would assume that had there been suspicions there would certainly exist some form of...