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Handmaid of the Lord

Handmaid of the Lord

Mary, the Cistercians, and Armand-Jean de Rancé
David N. Bell

ISBN: 9780879071882, CS293P
Details: 400 pgs, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Publication Date: 10/15/2021

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In this book, David N. Bell explores what Cistercian writers and preachers have said about Mary from the time of the founding fathers of the Order to Armand-Jean de Rancé, who introduced the Cistercian Strict Observance and who died in 1700. This work is divided into three parts. The first part presents some necessary, selective background material on Mary that is necessary for understanding where the Cistercian writers are coming from and the sources and ideas they are using. The next eight chapters, the second part of the book, examine the Marian ideas of Cistercian writers from Bernard of Clairvaux to a number of visionaries, both male and female, who take us to the very end of the thirteenth century. There is then a gap of more than three centuries—the reasons are given at the end of chapter 12—before we arrive at the birth of Armand-Jean de Rancé in 1626. The final chapters—part 3 of the book—summarize the life of Rancé, examine the place of Mary at La Trappe, and present annotated translations of Rancé’s five conferences for three Marian feasts, those of the Nativity of Mary, the Annunciation, and the Assumption.

David N. Bell is professor emeritus of religious studies and dean of theology at Queen's College, St. John's, Newfoundland, and canon theologian in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John's. He is the author of a number of previous books published by Cistercian Publications, including most recently A Saint in the Sun: Praising Saint Bernard in the France of Louis XIV (CS271, 2017) and Everyday Life at La Trappe under Armand-Jean de Rancé (CS274, 2018).

"In this book, David Bell offers his characteristic erudition in an accessible and engaging way, leading us from the life of Mary of Nazareth to her enshrinement as model of humility and monastic life in the thought of Armand-Jean de Rancé, leader of the monastic reform at la Trappe. This journey takes an extended sojourn among the Cistercians of the 12th and 13th centuries, correcting misperceptions and putting fine detail on the common generalizations about the flourishing devotion to Mary in these centuries. And like a suspense story, the conflicts about the Immaculate Conception and other Marian controversies are recounted with verve. Concluding with his new translations of Rancé’s conferences on Marian feasts, David Bell provides a magisterial work that can serve as a reference point for any of the many subjects covered here."
Anne L. Clark, Professor of Religion, University of Vermont