Towards the end of his life, St Aelred received a request from his sister, an anchorite, for a rule of life. This is his reply. Here is St Aelred on the liturgy of the hours, fasting, almsgiving, work and recreation, and the seasons of the year. He opens a section on the virtues and prayer on the subject of chastity, and, with the conversational simplicity one would expect in a letter written to a near relative, Aelred goes on to speak of that chaste austerity which an anchorite is to observe in her dress, her surroundings, her diet. A particularly delightful allegory of fine linen leads on to the subject of clothes. An anchorite must make herself a wedding gown of virtues, beautiful in its many-coloured diversity as that worn by the queen-mother in Ahab’s wedding psalm. The gown must have a golden hem, for the hem, being “the last end of the cloth”, is an image of St Paul’s finis precepti est charitas: “the purpose of our charge is charity.” Aelred then develops a meditation on Our Lord’s life in the gospel – surely one of the most beautiful ever written – and then rounds off the whole with an account of his own life.
Saint Austin Press, 2001. Softcover, 64 pp.