Aelred of Rielvaux – Love your enemies

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From the

Saint Aelred of Rielvaux (1110-1167), Cistercian monk
The mirror of charity III, 5 (trans. Geoffrey Webb and Adrian Walker)

« Love your enemies »

The perfection of brotherly love is in the love we bear towards those who hate us, and nothing can give so much incentive to our striving after this virtue as the remembrance of the way in which our Lord bore his sufferings. He was more beautiful than all the sons of men (Ps 45,3), but he did not turn away his face from those who spat at him. Those eyes, which were the eyes of God, seeing and ruling over all things, He allowed to be darkened by evil men. His body he gave to be scourged. His head, the very sight of which made Powers and Principalities bow down in reverence, he bent low to be crowned by piercing thorns. He submitted to insult and suffering, the nails, the cross, the lance, the bitter drink, and all the while he was gentle and calm and loving. «Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth» (Is 53,7).

When we hear those words, «Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing» (Lk 23,24), spoken in a voice of infinite gentleness and love and peace, what further love and gentleness could be added to His prayer?

And yet our Lord added something else. Not content to pray, he also wanted to forgive: «Father,» he said, «forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.» They have undoubtedly sinned greatly, yet they hardly realize it, and so: «Father, forgive them.» They crucify him, but they do not know who it is they are crucifying… His murderers believe him to be a transgressor of the law, a seducer of the people, a blasphemous upstart who claims to be equal to God in divinity. But our Lord has hidden his face from them, so that they cannot recognize His divine majesty. And so: «Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.»

We have seen, then, that if we wish to love ourselves in the way God wants us to love ourselves, we must not be corrupted by the pleasures of the flesh… The remedy is to turn all our love of the flesh to the sweet patience of our Lord’s flesh. Finally, in order to reach the state of perfect and blessed repose in the pleasures of fraternal charity, we must take even our enemies to our hearts. But so that this divine fire may not be dampened by hard feeling we should think always of the unruffled patience of our blessed Lord and Savior in his sufferings.

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One Reply to “Aelred of Rielvaux – Love your enemies”

  1. Yes this si the mark of a christian, and if we caan’t practice this, or refuse even to try, we can’t claim to be Christians.

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