William of Saint-Thierry (ca. 1080–1148) became abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Thierry in about 1119, holding that office for about sixteen years and writing a large number of works, some for the guidance of the monks of his abbey and others as theological treatises. But during that same time, after meeting Bernard, abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Clairvaux, he longed to become a Cistercian. He finally satisfied that dream in 1135, when he became a monk at Signy. His final work was the first of the five books that constitute the Vita Prima Sancti Bernardi.
The nine chapters in this book explore William's thought as represented in his twenty works, ranging from his earliest theological writing through his contribution to the Vita Prima Sancti Bernardi. The contributors to this volume have moved scholarship on William in new directions, ranging from a comparative analysis of Bernard's and William's thought through a study of William's Christology, an analysis of individual works, a new translation of one of William's little-known works, an examination of sixteenth-century images drawn from the Vita Prima, a study of William's rhetorical skills, and a recognition of William's new take on the phrase unitas spiritus.
Dr. E. Rozanne Elder's expertise as a scholar of the works of William of Saint-Thierry, combined with her decades of distinguished service as a professor of history, director of the Institute of Cistercian Studies and then of the Center for Cistercian and Monastic Studies, all at Western Michigan University, and as editorial director of Cistercian Publications for thirty-five years, has made her the best known of Cistercian scholars today. She is the one primarily responsible for moving Cistercian studies into the mainstream of medieval history and thought. As the gracious and indefatigable host of the annual Conference of Cistercian Studies that takes place each May as part of the International Medieval Studies Congress, she has created a community of scholars and friends.
"Such a book of scholarship should find a home in libraries devoted to monastic and spiritual history. Its soundness and depth challenge much contemporary writing in the area of spirituality."
Rosanne E. Elder, PhD, introduced William of Saint-Thierry with his profound theology and spirituality to the English-speaking world in a groundbreaking manner. This festschrift bears witness to her past and ongoing dedication to this twelfth-century monastic theologian. The essays in this volume present William, author of the Vita Prima, as an intimate friend of Bernard of Clairvaux. Along with Bernard, William's writings challenge us, today, to engage theology not only academically, but also as a personal spiritual pursuit of deification into the mystery of God through Unity of Spirit. The contributors to this festschrift reveal various dimensions, `treasures,' of William's teaching and inaugurate a vision for further scholarly research and spiritual growth.
Abbot Thomas X. Davis, OCSO
"The volume illuminates the important and wide-ranging contributions Dr. Elder has made to our understanding of William's thought. In addressing the varied audience that Dr. Elder too sought to reach, it is a fitting tribute to her distinguished career."
The Medieval Review, Martha G. Newman, The University of Texas at Austin
"In sum, a fitting tribute to Professor Elder for her distinguished career and many contributions to monastic studies."
Philip Timko, O.S.B., St. Procopius Abbey, Lisle, IL, American Benedictine Review
Unity of the Spirit is an invaluable resource, not only for Cistercian scholars, but for all students of spiritual theology, monasticism, and medieval history. Offering the best of current research on William of Saint-Thierry, this volume makes a significant contribution to the literature on this twelfth-century Cistercian Father. The authors present chapters furthering the scholarship on William's life, works, Christology, relationship with Bernard of Clairvaux, concept of the unio mystica, and spirituality. Unity of the Spirit makes a handsome tribute to retiring professor E. Rozanne Elder, whose life's work has greatly advanced scholarship on William and Cistercian studies worldwide.
Dr. Glenn E. Myers Professor of Church History and Theological Studies Crown College