Notebook

Army with Banners

Walter Daniel, St Aelred’s biographer, described the Cistercian enterprise thus: ‘They venerate poverty—not the penury that stems from negligence and sloth, but a poverty regulated by voluntary privation, sustained by perfect faith and rendered congenial by the love of God. So strong is the mutual love which binds them that their society is as terrible as an army with banners. Trampling the flowers of the world with the foot of forgetfulness, counting riches and honours as dung […], they renounce in food, drink, act, and affection the pleasures of the world and the flesh. […] The strongest of mutual loves sweeps from their midst the bane of resentment, every growth of anger and the murky phantasms of pride, so that, in the words of the Acts of the Apostles, they are united in heart and soul by the grace and love of the Holy Spirit.’ 

By such principles the Church of the twelfth century was powerfully revitalised.