St Aelred on Pentecost

A few days ago we sent Christ on ahead to the heavenly kingdom, so that in all fairness we might have in return whatever heaven held that should be sweet to our desire. The full sweetness of earth is Christ’s human nature; the full sweetness of heaven Christ’s (divine) Spirit. Thus a more profitable bargain was struck: Christ’s human nature ascended from us to heaven, and on us today Christ’s Spirit has come down. …

To be sure, the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples before our Lords’s ascension when he said “Receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive anyon’e sins, they are forgiven; if you declare them unforgiven, unforgiven they remain”; but before the day of Pentecost the Spirit’s voice was still in a sense unheard. From this day onward, however, the voice of the Lord has resounded over the waters; … [it] speaks with strength… in majesty… [it] fells the cedars …[and] strikes flaring fire … [and] shakes the desert … and all will cry out, ‘Glory’!”

[from a homily at Pentecost by St Aelred of Rievaulx]

Wonderful teaching. In Christ the full, created, sweetness of creation has entered into the life of God; in the Spirit the full, uncreated sweetness of the creating God has entered into us.

The Church does not have its birthday today so much as its coming of age, its barmitzvah. It was born with Noah, had its childhood in the history of Israel under prophets, judges, kings and oppressors, and now on Pentecost the Church, the new Israel, emerges from the old Israel, mature though not yet completed.

It is in this mature Body, the Church, that now the voice of the Spirit can be heard in clarity, with authority. But the Spirit makes does not make the Church his herald or spokesman. The Spirit establishes the Church as the Body of Christ, and its voice is the voice of the Spirit of Christ himself.

7 thoughts on “St Aelred on Pentecost

    1. Ah yes, the queering of St Aelred. Only in recent decades has St Alered been commandeered by the homosexual lobby as a patron. It stems from an anachronistic reading of his writings and of his biography by fellow monk, Walter Daniel. A few tenuous threads in these are woven together to create a tapestry that is actually quite threadbare.

      These threads include his attractiveness as a youth; his gift of making and keeping friends, and his classic treatise on true friendship, Spiritual Friendship; and his fulsome eulogy at the funeral of his monastic confrere and best friend, Simon.

      Certainly his praise of the relationship he had with Simon was florid. But if he was trying to hint at a homosexual relationship then he rather overdoes it. In fact, his words were in the tradition of the day, of florid spiritual writing such as we see in the writings of St Bernard. For men removed from the carnality of the world, such florid and emotive words have no taint and express the depth of a real human, yet chaste, love. To the pure, all things are pure.

      Of course there is an element in modern culture that seeks to taint all close friendship between those of the same sex with the hue of suppressed sexuality, or at least the sublimation of illegitimate sexual attraction. We have seen it also in the attempts to portray Jesus and John as mutually-attracted homosexuals. This is the stronger when such friendship has physical expression. In Italy, for example, it is very common to see young men kiss in greeting and stand with arms draped around each other. It does not indicate homosexual attraction, but rather an uninhibited expression of friendship.

      Sadly the effects of Puritanism and Victorian prudishness linger beneath the surface of our culture, making physical expression of friendship automatically suspect. On the one hand it degrades real friendship and inhibits its healthy physical expression. On the other it serves as supposed evidence to support the homosexual lobby’s dubious claim that homosexuality is more widespread than has been accepted, and thus enhance their demand for equality in sexual rights. Such a claim can only be strengthened, they might feel, if they could paint Christian heroes like St Aelred, or even our Lord himself, as homosexuals.

      The Church-approved support group for those struggling with same-sex attraction, Integrity, has adopted St Aelred as patron saint, partly in an attempt to reclaim him for orthodox Christianity, but partly due to his teaching on true friendship; not because such friendship serves to channel sublimated sexual energy, but because St Aelred shows that a person rich in friendship is far better equipped to live a celibately chaste life. After all, most (if not all) sexual promiscuity and misbehaviour seems a desperate attempt to alleviate a deep and un-addressed loneliness.

      I hope this helps. Pax!


      1. Thank you Father Hugh, I appreciate this response. The HL has no idea the damage they cause to authentic male friendship. People like me avoid getting too close to other men because of the things you point out. Between the HL and Women’s Libbers males have very little change to enjoy true male friendship any more. Sad.


    1. Yes, it is a great pity that male friendship is not so free to exist in public in Anglo cultures. Maybe there would be less violence, binge drinking and chest thumping if males did not feel the pressure to maintain their masculinity. I may be wrong, but it is worth a thought.



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