Aelred of Rievaulx on Spiritual Friendship

I drew the following ideas from Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rivaulx, Cistercian Publications; Reissue edition (September 2005). Doug Floyd Why is friendship important? A. God created man for companionship. • God has not left his creations alone but gives them a society. Human, likewise, were not left alone but given fellowship. By forming the second human from the rib of the first, God reveals that human beings are created equal. • Man is born with a desire for friendship. • Since a need for love is built into out nature—even evil men desire friendship (however false) B. To live without friendship is to live like a beast. • I would say that those men are beasts rather than human beings who declare that a man ought to live in such a way as to be to no one a source of consolation, to no one even of grief or burden; to take no delight in the good fortune of another, or impart to others no bitterness because of their own misfortune, caring to cherish no one and to be cherished by no one. • Without companionship riches hold no charm for the greedy, nor glory the ambitious, nor pleasure for the sensuous man. • He is entirely alone who is without a friend. C. Friendship is essential to enter into love. • Love of neighbor does not diminish our love of God but is essential if we are to truly love God. • While cupidity (false love) tears apart community, true spiritual friendship builds up a community of love. D. Spiritual friendship is its own reward. E. We do not enter friendship for the benefits but benefits proceed from the friendship. • Advantages – counsel in doubt, consolation in adversity, and other benefits of like nature. What is friendship? A. True friendship is mutual harmony in affairs human and divine coupled with benevolence and charity. B. The human and divine relationship comes together in friendship. • He dwells in friendship, dwells in God, and God in him. • Here we are, you and I, and I hope a third, Christ, in our midst. C. Friendship must be rooted in love (the affection of the heart). • Love is o Attraction – Some object or person is desirable o Intuition – Inclination of the will toward the person or object o Fruition – Act of the will and benefits of that act • Friendship is a love that is beyond the love for all people (which sometimes depends on the will). The love expressed in friendship is a foretaste of heaven. Spiritual Friendship, 1

Friendship is called a “guardian of love” or “guardian of the spirit.” My friend is a guardian of our mutual love. • Love vs. cupidity. If we love God or others for the benefits, our love is reduced to mere cupidity. (Cupidity – loving wrong objects or right objects for the wrong reason) • Friendship is that virtue by which spirits are bound by ties of love and sweetness, and out of many made one. The roots of friendship are eternal. • Although he unjustly accused, though he be injured, though he be cast in the flames, though he be crucified, “he that is a friend loves at all times.” • In a kiss two breathes meet, and are mingled, and are united. As a result, a certain sweetness of mind is born, which rouses and binds together the affection of those who embrace. • True friendship unites reason with affection so that love is pure because of reason and sweet because of affection. D. Friendship acts in a benevolent way. Carrying out the relationship in good deeds. • Medicine is not more powerful or more efficacious for our wounds in all our temporal needs than the possession that meets every misfortune joyfully, so that, as the Apostle says, shoulder to should they bear one another’s burdens. • Friendship is a stage bordering upon that perfection which consists in the love and knowledge of God, so that man being a friend of his fellow man becomes the friend of God, according the words of the Savior in the gospel: “I will not call you my servants but my friends.” (Friendship is a stage toward the love and knowledge of God.) • Four traits in friendship: love, affection, security and happiness. • Four qualities to look for in potential friends: o Loyalty – There is nothing more praiseworthy in friendship. A true companion no matter what may come. Hidden in prosperity; conscious in adversity. o Right Intention – That he may expect nothing from friendship but love of God and its natural good o Discretion – That he may understand the expectations of friendship (what is required; what sufferings are to be endured; what good deed congratulated; what faults to be corrected and when is the right time and place to address them. o Patience – That he might not grieve when being rebuked or unwilling to stand beside you during persecution • Friendship brings equality between friends. • Friendship bears fruit in this life and in the next. • Friendship heightens the joys of prosperity and mitigates the sorrows of adversity. E. False friendship must be avoided. • Friendship for carnal pleasure – offends good will, indulges our sin causing us to hate our own soul; carnal friendship has charity but lacks good will

Spiritual Friendship, 2

Friendship for material gain – simulates affection in order to manipulate someone to get what we want; self-seeking friendship has rational choice (basis for good will) but lacks charity • Childish friendship—unfaithful, unstable, and always mixed with impure loves, to be guarded against in every way by those who take delight in the sweetness of spiritual friendship. This is friendship’s poison. • A friend will not help another friend do evil. A friend will not befriend to receive good and services from another friend. F. Friendship that can end was never true friendship. How do we cultivate friendship? A. Selection of friendship • Aelred recommends testing of acquaintances before admitting them to intimacy. • There is a danger in being too eager for friendship and be deceived by its mere semblance, mistake the counterfeit for the true, the imaginary for the real, the carnal for the spiritual. • How to avoid false friendship? The beginning of friendship ought to possess, first of all, purity of intention, the direction of reason and the restraint of moderation; and thus the very desire for such friendship, so sweet as it comes upon us, will presently make friendship itself a delight to experience, so that is will never cease to be properly ordered. B. Foundation of friendship • Spiritual friendship begins in Christ, continues in Christ, and is perfected in Christ. • Friend cleaving to friend in the spirit of Christ is made with Christ but one heart and one soul, and so mounting aloft through the degrees of love to friendship with Christ, he is made one spirit with him in one kiss. (This is a unity of wills, a unity in charity) • The foundation of friendship is the love of God. • The can be no friendship without love. C. Cultivation of friendship • Even true friendship has to be weeded to prevent corruption into self-seeking. • True friendship advances by perfecting itself, and the fruit is derived from feeling the sweetness of that perfection. And so spiritual friendship among the just is born a similarity in life, morals, and pursuits, that is, it is a mutual conformity in matters human and divine united with benevolence and charity. • Four stages of climbing to friendship: (1) Selection; (2) Probation; (3) Admission; (4) Harmony (human and divine with charity and benevolence) • You can test a person’s fidelity and ability to hide secrets by telling them minor things you wish to keep hidden. If they reveal it, you know they cannot be trusted. • Reverence is the best companion to friendship. We respect and reverence our friends.

Spiritual Friendship, 3

When correcting, we cry and weep and come in humility. Yet we owe our friends truth.

Who can be our friends? A. More are to be received into the bosom of charity than into the embrace of friendship. • True friendship is not possible for sinner for there can be no harmony of vices. • Not all whom we love are worthy of friendship. • We can love and embrace many without admitting them into the secret counsel of our friendship. But we do need someone with whom we can bare our souls. B. Who can be friends? Friendship can begin among the good, progress among the better, be consummated among the perfect. • We must be cautious with who we form friendships because a friend is someone with whom we join our souls, entrust our self, hide nothing and fear nothing. • Chose a friend with care and do not change friends easily. Do not insult the friendship. Stand by the friendship. Once chosen, a friend should be borne with, so treated, so deferred to, that, as long as he does not withdraw irrevocably from the established foundation, he is yours, and you are his, in body as well as spirit, so that there will be no division of mind, affections, will or judgments. • Friendships among the poor are generally more secure than those among the rich. Where is friendship leading? • There is a sense in which friendship can never be broken off. We persist in good will even toward those with whom we can no longer trust with intimacy. We look toward heaven as our hope when true friendship will be restored. • Nothing ought to be denied to a friend, nothing ought to be refused a friend, which is less than the very precious life of the body, which divine authority has taught should be laid down for a friend. We deny any action that could bring about the death of the soul of a friend. • Having once received someone into my friendship, I can never do otherwise than love him. • True and eternal friendship begins in this life and is perfected in the next. • Even childish friendship can eventually grow into true friendships. • Let us perform what is honorable for our friends and seek what is honorable from them and not wait to be asked but be ever willing to serve.

Spiritual Friendship, 4