Guardian of love

Daily Reading for July 29 • Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

A friend is called a guardian of love or, as some would have it, a guardian of the spirit itself. Since it is fitting that my friend be a guardian of our mutual love or the guardian of my own spirit so as to preserve all its secrets in faithful silence, let him, as far as he can, cure and endure such defects as he may observe in it; let him rejoice with his friend in his joys, and weep with him in his sorrows, and feel as his own all that his friend experiences.

Friendship, therefore, is that virtue by which spirits are bound by ties of love and sweetness, and out of many are made one. Even the philosophers of this world have ranked friendship not with things casual or transitory but with the virtues which are eternal. Solomon in the Book of Proverbs appears to agree with them when he says: “He that is a friend loves at all times,” manifestly declaring that friendship is eternal if it is true friendship; but, if it should ever cease to be, then it was not true friendship, even though it seemed to be so. . . .

For spiritual friendship, which we call true, should be desired, not for consideration of any worldly advantage or for any extrinsic cause, but from the dignity of its own nature and the feelings of the human heart, so that its fruition and reward is nothing other than itself. Whence the Lord in the Gospel says: “I have appointed you that you should go, and should bring forth fruit,” that is, that you should love one another. For true friendship advances by perfecting itself, and the fruit is derived from feeling the sweetness of that perfection. And so spiritual friendship among the just is born of a similarity in life, morals, and pursuits, that is, it is a mutual conformity in matters human and divine united with benevolence and charity. . . . Where such friendship exists, there, indeed, is a community of likes and dislikes, the more pleasant in proportion as it is the more sincere, the more agreeable as it is more sacred.

From Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1977).

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