William of St Thierry Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans

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William of Saint Thierry’ biography”
William of St. Thierry (1070-1148) became a cistercian monk as a result of his infirmity, and decided to retire from his position as a Benedictine Abbot.(1135) His Exposition on Romans is the only surviving commentary on Romans from the 12th Century and is described as a monastic text. “William’s aim is not refutation, dialectic, or scholastic disputation, but joy and delight: His goal is humility of heart and devotional purity. Williams motivation is the centrality of grace in the spiritual life. To sing the praises of grace is the single theme that dominates William’s writing and research. There are negative aspect to his work, an intolerance toward non‘ Augustinian theological inquiry. His crowning achievement is his ability to synthesize two systems of thought,i.e.grace and free will, which are the systems of Augustine and Origen. William’s curiosity is the driving force perhaps toward linking St. Augustine with Origen in the exegesis of romans.” {2} William had a close and intimate relationship with St. Bernard which lasted for life and as a result of their conversations, William was the first to deal with the errors of Abelard and to urge St. Bernard to bring charges against him.

The Ascetical Life, Free Will and Grace Themes
William of St. Thierry in his exposition introduces us to the author, Paul,as “a stout hearted champion of God’s glory throughout this whole epistle, who defended it with apostolic authority and prudence against the jews; The holy fathers defended it against heretics, to acquire a disposition of total humility and to achieve purity of devotion. He states, “ There is no piety without thanksgiving and no thanksgiving without an acknowledgement of grace. Blessed are the poor in spirit to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs and whose spirit is believed to be totally with God.” {3} The eternal pleasures of God are found to be of essence as He takes up residence in our soul. We find the doctrine of grace to be the guiding principal of our faith and so it is established in this text. Some of the highlights that you will find in the reading of this essay are: Grace predestined us before we existed; it will glorify us when we are justified if we are not ungrateful; it cooperates good in us so we may will; without grace we can neither will nor accomplish any good; if we merit anything, it is a grace and what we merit is grace for grace; grace goes before us so we can pray; the virgin filled with grace so she could become the mother of God; He who was born of the virgin was found to be full of grace; Noah, Abraham, moses and the rest of the holy fathers are said to have found grace with God. ‘ When the Apostle Paul sought something else; he was told that grace would suffice.’Thus we begin our journey with William of St. Thierry as our guide, as he explores the complete book of Romans.{4} William of St. Thierry draws from the works of his exposition on Romans and adapts the text of Origen-Rufinus Commentary to his own purposes. William was not synthesizing two great systems of theological thought that of Origen and that of Augustine but rather was using traditional monastic sources for the exegesis of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.{5} The second area of consideration is William’s use of Augustine through various passages put together by Florus’ of Lyons, as the Cistercians had a special fondness for Augustine’s comments on Paul. The scriptures constitute a major source for William’s language and expression. There are over 200 citations from both Old and New Testament and almost 100 of them from Psalms alone. You will find in the text the Glossa ordinaria, a complex set of glosses and commentary on the scriptures, initially the work of Answelm of Laon during the first quarter of the 12th Century, and yet there is nothing to suggest that William used that work while writing his exposition. {6} In the summary of Origen, we find some interesting...
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