Charity Floods the Soul

From A Mirror of Charity I.7 (ca. 1150)

It was pride that distorted the image of God in us and led us away from God, not by means of our feet but by the desires of our hearts. Thus we return to God by following the same path, but in the opposite direction, by the exercise of these same desires; and humility renews in us the same image in which God created us. This is why St. Paul calls on us to be mentally and spiritually remade, and to be clothed in the new self made in God’s image. This renewal can only come about by fulfilling the new commandment of charity given us by our Savior, and if the mind clothes itself in charity, our distorted memory and knowledge will be given new life and new form.

How simple it is to state the new commandment, but how much it implies — the stopping of our old habits, the renewal of our inner life, the reshaping of the divine image within us. Our power to love was poisoned by the selfishness of our desires, and stifled by lust, so that it has tended always to seek the very depths of deviousness. But when charity floods the soul and warms away the numbness, love strives towards higher and more worthy objects. It puts aside the old ways and takes up a new life, and on flashing wings it flies to the highest and purest Goodness, which is the source of its being.

St. Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167) was an English Cistercian monk and spiritual writer who served as abbot of Rievaulx in Yorkshire from 1147 until his death. He wrote several histories and spiritual treatises. The Mirror of Charity, a treatise on the monastic life, was among his earliest works. His feast day is January 12.


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