Aelred z Rivaulx – cysterski Doktor miłości

Ryszard Groń


Aelred of Rievaulx – the Cistercian Doctor of Charity

Aelred of Rievaulx, one of the first and foremost representatives of the so called school of charity propagated by the Cistercian order within the monastic theology, can certainly be considered the Cistercian doctor of charity. This suggestion was earlier proposed by contemporary scholars of the doctrine of the English abbot, especially that it was in keeping with the traditional medieval practice of giving the more prominent spiritual authorities the title of the Church doctor, based on their theological accomplishments. It was about formation of the doctrinal bases for the Cistercian theology and a great contribution to this was the work on charity by Aerled, beside his other piece on Christian friendship, which had already earned him the title of „Doctor of Christian friendship”.

An analysis of Speculum caritatis by the abbot of Rievaulx presented against the backdrop of the specificity of monastic theology, which it represents, as well as against its structure subjected to the ultimate goal defined by the authority of the great Bernard, support this position. Those special conditions also had an effect on these contemplations, telling to first ponder on the title of Aelred's work, which reveals the specificity of the theology practiced by the abbot. Next, in order to explain the major difficulty in the ascetic character of Christian love, insisted on by St. Bernard, the theme of charity was described in three sections. The criterion for the division follows the work's major idea expressed in the triad of love (amor), greed (cupiditas) and theological love (caritas), which correspond to the three time orders of charity resulting from God's actions of: creation, redemption and rebirth, which, as argued by P. A. Burton, were explored in the three parts of Speculum. This is why the sections of my work describe:

− the nature of love in the aspect of creation, reflected in human soul directed toward God, even after a sin;

− the difficulty of love, connected to greed, which because of Christ's redemptive cross becomes a sweet yoke of charity for His true followers, and then;

− the practical side of Christian love, from the point of view of its object and subject.

Attentive reading into and analysis of the work on love by Aelred of Rievaulx presented above shows enormous richness of theological knowledge, which proves theological competence of this then young Cistercian abbot (about 33 years old). It is confirmed with his solid preparation and in depth reflection on the issue of charity, as he himself acknowledged, which he then expressed in the language and monastic form familiar to him, which was then prevalent throughout monasteries. This is perhaps one of but few obstacles, which today make reading his work difficult. His value, however, was recognized from the very beginning by the great Bernard of Clairvaux, followed by the entire medieval tradition which left behind over a dozen of his manuscripts. We can only be grateful to Bernard to have nudged the young theologian to compose this excellent work.

The depth and richness of its contents certainly prove his own experience in the field of God's charity, or even its mystical implications, even more so, since monastic theology considered experience as one of the sources of theological wisdom, which was about presenting apractical way to reach God. It might then come as a surprise for such a relatively young theologian to posses this kind of highly sensitive spiritual life. It must have amazed Bernard himself. Maybe, it is time to include Aelread in the ranks of Cistercian mystics.

On account of his work, Aelred's influence has already been recognized by contemporary scholars. Worth mentioning here are: exceptional role of feelings in spiritual pursuit of God and relationships with others; aforementioned „little treatise on affections”; teaching about sabbath as the ultimate rest in God's love – the source and purpose of perfection for all creation, including the man, who in this sabbath delights in complete unity with God; doctrine of three sabbaths associated with forms of love towards: God, neighbor and oneself, experienced in this life through contemplation of infinite God; ascetic character of love with its sense in the sweet cross of Christ; the role of humanity of Jesus Christ on the way to spiritual growth, and so one.

Certainly a number of these components are a reflection of the Augustinian theological environment prominent at that time, but Aelred added them a unique color, or even originality. Considering the above, we can see the English Abbot of Rievaulx as a Cistercian doctor of charity.

Słowa kluczowe

doktor Kościoła; teologia monastyczna; cysterska szkoła miłości; wieczny szabat Boga

Pełny tekst:



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