Bernard of Clairvaux
Among the abbots who ratified the Charter of Charity was the thirty-three-year-old abbot of Clairvaux, Bernard–a man whose reputation for holiness and wisdom was rapidly growing. His ability as a preacher and writer was also being recognized. It was Bernard, along with his disciples, William of Saint Thierry, Guerric of Igny and Aelred of Rievaulx and other early abbots, who gradually articulated a rich theological basis for the spirituality of the Cistercians. Perhaps nowhere is it expressed so succinctly and beautifully as in Bernard's letter to the monks of the abbey of Saint John in the Alps:
"Our vocation is to take the lowest place, it is the way of humility, voluntary poverty, obedience and joy in the Holy Spirit. Our vocation is to be under a master, under an abbot, under a rule, under discipline. Our vocation is to cultivate silence, to exert ourselves in fasts, vigils, prayers, manual labour and above all to keep to that more excellent way which is the way of love, to advance day by day in these things and persevere in them until the last day".