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Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

“Book Three” is the last book of Spiritual Friendship. Aelred and Gratian are conversing while waiting for Walter to arrive. Gratian admits that he needs Walter there to help him see other points that he can not. And so begins the last book, and my last post of this series.

Last Conversation Together

Aelred starts by saying what unites friends. He notes many character traits that can end a friendship. Some can be overcome, but others can not. For the ones that can’t be overcome, he gives practical ideas to take to dissolve the friendship, so it does not devolve into further destruction. For those that can be saved, he gives steps for correction. Finally, Aelred describes one famous biblical friendship that shows how to be friends when they are of different stations in life – Jonathan and David.

Reason and sweetness, the word that Aelred uses for affection, have to be united so the love between friends is pure. Or in modern vernacular, the head and heart have to be united for love to flourish in a friendship. Reason sometimes is needed to lovingly admonish a friend when needed.

Once a friendship starts, then it needs to be tested, acceptance is granted if the tests are passed, and finally, there is “perfect harmony in matters human and divine with charity and benevolence.” At the foundation of the friendship is God, who is according to Ephesians 2:14 (NKJV) “…is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”

Aelred mentions a few categories, grouped by being salvageable or not, of vices anathema to friendship ranging in severity. The ones that are not salvageable, he teaches, need to be slowly unwound, so as not to cause any more destruction. The brotherly love should always be preserved with the other party. Aelred notes some sins against friendships can be overcome, providing they are not dishonorable, violate a confidence, or destroy virtue.

If the offense is public, it warrants an immediate end. He defines public as

  • against one’s church leadership (this book’s setting is a monastery)
  • against one’s country
  • against one’s family or friends.

He talks about the friendship between David and Jonathan in one aspect: that they were of different social classes. David tended the sheep in his family and Jonathan was the son of a king. Inside the friendship itself, Aelred teaches that the friends are equal in the sight of God, and should within the friendship conduct themselves this way. Galatians 3:28 (ESV) states “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.One should humble themselves and allow the anointed one to rise when necessary as Jonathan did by recognizing David as king and not his father.

Ending Thoughts

Spiritual Friendship is a timeless classic, short, and easy to understand. Buy or borrow a copy and read the points that I left out. Godly friendships will be needed in the days to come.

I made a personal vow to make my best friend that I lost last Good Friday famous. I hope in Heaven he is reading and smiling over my words, for he loved me despite myself.

Post 1 – Introduction to Aelred’s Spiritual FriendshipPost 2 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t Read
Post 3 – Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter

FaithReading

Introduction to Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship

Welcome to my first of four or five post series on Spiritual Friendship, a book praising the wonders of Christian friendship. This post will give you a bit of theological, historical, and cultural background information of St. Aelred’s world.

Aelred’s Life

Aelred was born around 1110 A.D. in Northumbria to Eilaf, priest of St. Andrew’s at Hexham. During his father’s married life, Pope Gregory VII ordered the priesthood to become monks or leave the church. His father chose to leave which created financial hardship. But it did not seem to affect Aelred, at least based on his educational opportunities and rise within the ruling Scottish government.

He likely was educated in a cathedral school and later became a steward in King David I of Scotland’s court. He held this position for nine years. During this time he read Cicero’s On Friendship, which had a profound influence on his book, Spiritual Friendship.

After nine years of court life, he visited the Cistercian monastery of Rievaulx in Yorkshire, where he asked and received permission to join. Aelred’s life was spent mainly in Rievaulx, but he spent a few years starting a new monastery at Revesby. He died at Rievaulx of ill health in 1167.

Since he prospered in his duties in King David’s court, his time there gave him the skills he needed to lead Rievaulx: it grew to 140 monks and 500 laymen. His unhappiness with superficial life in court was the goad that God used, I believe, to drive him to spiritual life. When he wrote Spiritual Friendship, he wanted to go beyond On Friendship, adding a Christian foundation.

Aelred’s Monastic Life

The Cisterns had their theology – they took the Benedictine’s Rules more stringently by following the rules and doing no more. Their world view was one of hierarchy starting with God at the top: learning to love Him through experience and metaphor. The monks read both the Psalms and spiritual books. They balanced work and prayer, refused elaborate church art, and practiced poverty. They also settled uninhabited European land to build the world for God to overcome man’s lawlessness.

He also viewed himself as equal to women, as seen through the eyes of God. I can’t help but wonder if St. Francis of Assissi, an after-his-time contemporary, had read or heard of Aelred, because of his lifelong friendship with St. Clare.

Aelred’s Reading and Writing Life

Around the 3rd century, the practice of Lectio Divina began. Readers read to apply what is read to their own lives. It usually applies to religious works, but can also apply to secular ones. (Reading poetry using Lectio Divina is explained in Sage Cohen’s Writing the Life Poetic.)

Aelred was a prolific reader. One of the books he read was Augustine’s Confessions.

He was also a prolific writer, writing histories, guides, and sermons along with his books. One book, The Mirror of Charity, was requested by St. Bernard, a fellow well-known Cistern. The book became the foundation for Spiritual Friendship.

In Spiritual Friendship, Aelred writes in the dialog format, teaching us through his conversation with younger monks. He teaches us the value of friends through the mediator of Jesus Christ:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

Ephesians 2:14 NIV

Closing Thoughts

Though this was written by a monk roughly 1,000 years ago, the principles still apply to anyone. Knowing a smattering of the background enhances the understanding of Spiritual Friendship. However, I think we can all to some degree relate to his solitude due to our lockdowns.

Godly friendships prepare us for our time in heaven, where our bodies are transfigured for eternity. Where there is no giving in marriage, just friendships for eternity.

Friendships here on earth allow us to bear each other’s sorrows and celebrate each other’s joys. Over the years, I have made big mistakes and lost friends, but I have also been blessed with a few that have been “closer than brothers” (Proverbs 17:17). One waits for me Up There.


Post 2 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t ReadPost 3 – Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter
Post 4 – Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

FaithReadingWriting

Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship, A Series

With orchestrated divisions being perpetrated on all of us, friendship is a commodity more valuable than gold. And the divisions being perpetuated are on a micro, local level between friends and families too. Anyone who reads the news knows the specific ways we are being divided – I will not rehash that here.

Some think that “What the world needs now is love sweet love,” and we do. But sometimes that love comes in the form of … “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—“ (Eph 4:15 NKJV).

So if you have managed to hang onto friends and familiy despite the differing opinions and actions of others, you are blessed indeed. Civility of conversation and brotherly love are required for the other person’s benefit.

My Friend

I recently wrote about one of my best friend’s passing, but I didn’t explain why he was a best friend. He would listen to me, then give me his opinion. And I never once felt slighted. I knew he knew me well and spoke the truth as he saw it (and he did see it), keeping his love utmost in his words to me. He told me that my blog writing was mainly for my benefit (in an enriching way) when I would moan and groan about having low numbers of followers. But he read my posts, commented on one that touched him, and subscribed to my newsletter.

Blog Series

A few years ago, I read Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx, who lived during the 12th century. I marked it up as I read. Aelred wrote this book in a time when friendships were discouraged in the church. His views on friendship, and his education and ties to nobility before he became a monk, enabled his footprint in the church to flourish.

As well as work on my Psalm project, I am going to do a short series of blog posts on what I glean from rereading Spiritual Friendship. The book is sectioned into three books, and I will do one post after each book, plus some background information, and a summary post.

The passing of my friend is opening the possibility to pass on what I know about friendships that the Lord would be proud of. Friends are united through Him. Or put another way:

You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”.The second great commandment is this: “Love others in the same way you love yourself.” There are no commandments more important than these.

Mark 12:30-31 VOICE

FaithReadingWriting

The Breath of God

I have on my bookshelf several writing-to-inspire books. I refer to them occasionally for encouragement.

  • If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
  • A Writer’s Paris by Eric Maisel
  • Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke
  • Unless It Moves the Human Heart by Roger Rosenblatt
  • Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson

In the same vein, I have read The Creative Call: An Artist’s Response to the Way of the Spirit by Janice Elsheimer. She teaches about the Greek word pneuma and the Hebrew equivalent word rûach (both share the same meanings in Strong’s Concordance #4151). Both refer to God’s breath or His wind as the creative empowerment that inspires us to create.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 is the story of God raising up an army from a valley of very dry bones, so dry that they had no life force left in them. The Lord God told Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones, and “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”

Sometimes I do have divinely sent ideas for blog posts and writing projects, and sometimes I sit in front of my blank laptop screen, racking my head for ideas (like today). But that is the essence of co-creation with God. We do our part and He does His.

FaithWriting

Setting Sail for 2021

Now that the festivities of the Christmas season are over, I have amassed a list of projects to keep me busy, and writing more blog posts. I want to make a spreadsheet of commonly used Linux terminal commands, reorganize my planner, and as stated before, one of the biggest is revamping my blog.

My New Year Resolutions get written on New Year’s Eve, sealed and read the next New Year’s Eve. They, over the last few years, have morphed more into a letter to the Lord and what I feel He wants me to do. Plus a few of my own desires thrown in.

Ordered three new books today. One in response to a follower: 1984 by George Orwell. It will be interesting to see how current events line up with the book.

Next two in line: Blogging for God’s Glory in a Clickbait World by Benjamin Vrbicek and John Beeson, and To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction by Phillip Lopate. I have a weakness for writing books; most of my bookshelf is crowded with them.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

This verse – read in context – is during the time of Israel’s captivity, with promises from God that He will someday return them to their homeland. I think it is a key verse for 2021.

FaithReadingWriting

Orwell’s Writing Advice

References to 1984 abound on the Internet today, with political and cultural turmoil and our surveillance society. I admit I have not read it, but it is on my classical novels to be read bucket list.

Popular writing advice includes to write what you do not know. To just start writing and you will find how you believe or feel about a topic while you writing. That writing what you really believe can lead to propaganda or didactic writing. Sometimes this can be helpful or even desired.

However, this advice has always made me chafe. A pencil, pen, or keyboard in the hands of an experienced writer can write the novel or short story subtly, co-creating with the reader’s own thoughts. But the the bigger issue to me is if, as a writer, you have something to say from the beginning.

As a writer, you need a secure foundation from which to write.

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.

George Orwell

I believe Mr. Orwell has succeeded.


Have a blessed weekend!

Writing

Happy Reading!

Today was a mailbox bonanza for me: two books and two writing magazines to peruse.

Both books had to do with road trips, and I did not even realize it until I had clicked the order button. It’s likely my subconscious, or conscious desire, is to get out on the road like I did before the lockdowns.

First up is Nala’s WorldOne Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride around the Globe by Dean Nicholson. Another unmet desire is to own a cat again, but due to circumstances I can’t right now, hopefully in the near future. So I read vicariously. Color pictures in two sections of the book made my heart smile. If you have an Instagram account, you can find them at @1bike1world.

Second, is Writing In A Convertible With The Top Down by Sheila Bender with co-author Christi Glover. Looks to be an encouraging and fun guide to navigate the writing life.

Third, I have pointed to political bias in the writing magazines. One this time was no exception, though it wasn’t as bad as the last issue. (Throat clear – that would be Poets & Writers). Maybe they should rebrand themselves as a political writing magazine. That being said, looks to have some nuggets for me to panhandle. Writer’s Digest is celebrating their 100th Anniversary, and it is thicker than usual. I am really looking forward to reading this issue.

To all you readers out there – Happy Reading!

ReadingWriting

Solitude Work and Privacy

I have always enjoyed my own company, reading books and travelling by proxy to other lands and cultures.

Seriously lacking in our current culture is minding our own business. With societal lack of privacy and isolation, it is tempting to throw up our hands and let it all hang out. Even despite extreme technological abilities and the people who use it, my privacy rests in God. This is a biblical concept.

Stated in a previous post, I wrote that I hated writing a sonnet. Not as easy as the haikus I write. But today I decided to concentrate on the task at hand, and came out of it with 50 minutes of work and a decent 1st draft of my second stanza. I struggled for years thinking writing poetry was not work. Behind this was caring what others thought of me. It did nothing but rob me of poems that were not written.

Finished Walden. Henry David Thoreau loved his own company for two years. This is a gift.

FaithPoetryWriting

Writers’ Magazines and Bias

I subscribe to four major writing magazines. I have read writers’ magazines off and on for most of my adult life. I glean mainly writing encouragement from all four.

A few issues ago, sad to say I can’t remember which one, a subscriber wrote a letter to Poets & Writer’s version of Letters to the Editor called “Reactions.” This person was enjoying an interview article and thought “wait for it,” regarding a political dig, and it was there as expected. I was shocked that Poets & Writers even published it. Because it is true – the magazine is very politically biased. Every issue takes a dig at our current administration in every single issue.

The magazine closest to just writing advice and encouragement? It would be Writer’s Digest, though I would love to see more articles about poetry throughout the year. However, the article “A Different Kind of Story” mentions two races, one capitalized and one not.

Do I have a choice to not read them? Yes, and I may decide not to. I subscribed to Poetry magazine a few years ago and started to read the first one I received. I could not finish. Poems containing explicit sexual actions in them. I never renewed. But God can and does use anybody or anything – reading through the parts I would rather not, I still find a nuggets of gold.

Hopefully someone will hear the clarion call to raise a mainstream non-partisan, family-friendly writers’ (poets’) magazine. The cultural pendulum is swinging (and needs to swing) in a more family-friendly direction. I can’t help but wonder if these magazines will prosper or even continue in the days ahead, if they do not course correct.

Writing

What Is A Poet?

While searching for a word meaning in Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, I came across the word poet. In the New Testament section, the word means “a maker,” and was later used as a “doer.” The classical Greeks used it to refer to any author, but especially to a “poet.”

John Drury, author of the po·e·try dic·tion·ar·y, defines it as “One who creates poems, or one who has created them, or one who thinks or feels like a poet … or one who prepares to write poems or attempts writing them or otherwise stays alert for words, images, and experiences that might coalesce into the nucleus of a poem.” Other nationalities have different words for poet. And not everyone thinks highly of poets; e.g., poetaster is a term of ridicule.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, defines (I will use the second definition as the first is obvious and not as poetic) poet as “one (as a creative artist) of great imaginative and expressive capabilities and special sensitivity to the medium.”

My personal definition of poet is a state of mind, connecting and associating things in metaphorical language to convey an idea, feeling, or image. It is the soul part of my personality, wanting to break free from my state of silence. It is my beautiful Oregon geography which supplies me with multiple ideas. It is communication with the Holy Spirit, who creates dreams and visions for me to scan for meaning and wisdom.

Who is the Master Poet? God, who used His imagination to create the heavens and the earth. Then created man in His likeness to co-create with Him.

FaithPoetryWriting

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