From the Cistercian Fathers

Moreover, if you more closely contemplate every creature, from the first to the last, from the highest to the lowest, from the loftiest angel to the lowliest worm, you will surely discover divine goodness—which we have called nothing other than divine charity—which contains, enfolds and penetrates all things, not by pouring into a place, or being diffused in space, or by nimbly moving about, but by the steady, mysterious and self-contained simplicity of its substantial presence.

Charity joins the lowest to the highest, binds in harmonious peace contraries to contraries, cold to hot, wet to dry, smooth to rough, hard to soft, so that among all creatures there can be nothing adverse, nothing contradictory, nothing unbecoming, nothing disturbing, nothing to disfigure the beauty of the universe, but that all things should rest, as it were, in utterly tranquil peace, with the tranquility of that order which charity ordained in the universe.

When in the light of Truth a person knows herself and so thinks less of herself, it will certainly follow that what she loved before will now become bitter to her. She is brought face to face with herself and blushes at what she sees. Her present state is no pleasure to her. She aspires to something better and at the same time realizes how little she can rely on herself to achieve it. It hurts her and she finds some relief in judging herself severely. Love of truth makes her hunger and thirst after justice and she becomes strict with herself. She is anxious to exact from herself full satisfaction and real amendment. She admits that to make satisfaction is beyond her own powers. She flies from justice to mercy, by the road Truth shows her: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” She looks beyond her own needs to the needs of her neighbor and from the things they themselves have suffered she learns compassion.

Who is there who would look upon eternity making a new start, strength itself weak, bread hungry, the fountain thirsty and not be rendered dumb? But who is there who would behold the beginning of our salvation, the day of human redemption, and not break forth in exultation and praise? God is made man! Who knows how to speak about that? Our Jesus, our Savior, our joy comes among us. Who can keep silent? If we cannot keep silent and cannot speak, what else can we do but celebrate in song? Therefore let us celebrate God, our salvation, in song!

If, after the consummation of the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ had arisen again to this our mortal existence and to the miseries of this present life, I should have said He had returned, not that He had passed over: that He had gone back to His former condition, not transmigrated to a state more sublime. Now, having Himself passed over to a newness of life, He invites us also to make the same passage, He summons us to Galilee!

Behold peace, not promised but present, not deferred but conferred, not prophesied but presented. Behold, God the Father has sent to the earth, as it were, a sack filled with his mercy, a sack that must be cut to pieces in the passion so that it can pour out what is concealed in it for our ransom; a small sack, indeed, but stuffed full. A child has been given us, but in him dwells the whole fullness of divinity. He came in the flesh so that in this way he might be shown to those made of flesh, and in the likeness of humanity so that his graciousness might be recognized. When God’s humanity becomes known, his graciousness can no longer be concealed.

“Unto us a Child is born.” A Child who is the ancient of days. Child in bodily form and age; ancient of days in the Word’s eternity past understanding. And though, as the ancient of days, he is not a child, still he is always new; indeed he is just as new as newness itself which remains always in him and renews all things. Every single thing grows old just so much as it recedes from him, and is renewed in the degree that it returns. And, in a way unheard of, the reason for his youth and age is one and the same, for his eternity has no beginning in birth nor decline in old age. For him, his very newness is ancient and his antiquity new!”

Love’s birthplace is God. There it is born, there nourished, there developed. There it is a citizen, not a stranger but a native. Love is given by God alone, and it endures in Him, for it is due to no one else but Him and for His sake.

The love of God is born in us by grace, fed with the milk of reading, nourished with the food of meditation, strengthened and enlightened by prayer.

You have one cell outwardly, another within you. The outward cell is the house in which your soul dwells together with your body; the inner cell is your conscience and in that it is God who should dwell with your spirit, he who is more interior to you than all else that is within you. The door of the outward enclosure is a sign of the guarded door within you, so that as the bodily senses are prevented from wandering abroad by the outward enclosure, so the inner senses are kept always within their own domain.

The love of God is a river of peace, streaming out in its greatness and flowing in with gentle waters. At the same time it is a torrent, rushing along with mighty force and sweeping everything away with it.

— John of Ford

In this, truly, friendship shines forth with a special right of its own, that among those who are bound by the tie of friendship, all joys, all security, all sweetness, all charms are experienced.

And so in friendship are joined honor and charm, truth and joy, sweetness and good-will, affection and action. And all these take their beginning from Christ, advance through Christ, and are perfected in Christ. Therefore, not too steep or unnatural does the ascent appear from Christ, as the inspiration of the love by which we love our friend, to Christ giving himself to us as our Friend for us to love, so that charm may follow upon charm sweetness upon sweetness and affection upon affection. And thus, friend cleaving to friend in the spirit of Christ, is made with Christ but one heart and one soul, and so mounting aloft through degrees of love to friendship with Christ, he is made one spirit with him.

— Aelred of Rievaulx