Aelred of Rievaulx on the Triune Economy

Aelred of Rievaulx, a medieval spiritual writer (1110-1167), authored a reflection on the gospel story of Jesus at twelve years old (Luke 2:41-52). During this time, he is lost by his parents at the Temple for three days. Aelred ponders just what Jesus could have done during these three days, besides of course speaking with the teachers at the Temple, as Luke tells us (2:46). He proposes that Jesus was conferring with the Father and Spirit on their common plan of salvation. This ‘common plan’ is what the Church Fathers often referred to as the “divine economy.” Often in Paul’s letters, he refers to the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation as God’s “economy,” often translated “administration” or simply “plan” (for example, Ephesians 1:10). For Aelred, this divine economy includes the whole of Jesus’ ministry, and has a Trinitarian form:

But we can conjecture about more profound mysteries. Perhaps, the first day he presented himself before the face of his Father, not to sit at his right hand, but to consult the Father’s will on the order of the redemptive plan he had accepted. Indeed, it would not be absurd to think that the Son of God, who had, in his divine nature, drawn up a plan conjointly with the Father and Holy Spirit, being equal and consubstantial with one and the other, had, in the “form of a slave” [Phil. 2:7] which he had received, in his humanity, consulted God; that he had, in his smallness, inquired after the scale of this plan. Not to be instructed about what he himself knew from all eternity, being with the Father in the form of God, but to defer in all things to the Father, to give him his obedience, to offer him his abasement. There, in the secret places of the Father, he spoke of the baptism for him to receive, of the choice of his disciples, of the establishment of the Gospel, of miracles to accomplish, and finally of the suffering for him to undergo and of the glory of the resurrection.

Everything being divinely regulated, the next day he granted the sweetness of his design to the choirs of angels and archangels; he announced to them that the ancient defection of the citizens of heaven would soon be made up for, and he thus caused the whole city of God to rejoice.

At last, the third day, he mingled with the flock of patriarchs and prophets; to those that had already learned of this plan from the holy elder Simeon, he confirmed it by unveiling his face; he consoled them in the length of their long wait by the promise of the imminence of redemption, making them all more patient and more joyful. (Quand Jesus eut douze ans, Sources Chrétiennes 60, pp.61, 63)