Declaration of the Trappist General Chapter
on the Cistercian Life
Following the first Fathers of our Order, we find in the Holy Rule of St. Benedict the practical interpretation of the Gospel for ourselves. A sense of the Divine Transcendence and of the Lordship of Christ not only pervades the whole of this Rule but also permeates our Life, totally orientated towards an experience of the Living God.
God calls and we respond by truly seeking Him as we follow Christ in humility and obedience. With hearts cleansed by the Word of God, by vigils, by fasting and by an unceasing conversion of life, we aim to become ever more disposed to receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of pure and continual prayer
This search for God is the soul of our monastic day, composed of the Opus Dei, Lectio Divina and manual work. Our Cistercian life is basically simple and austere. It is truly poor and penitential 'in joy of the Holy Spirit.' Through the warmth of their welcome and hospitality, our communities share the fruit of their contemplation and their work with others.
We carry out this search for God under a Rule and an Abbot in a community of love where all are responsible. It is through stability that we commit ourselves to this community. It lives in an atmosphere of silence and separation from the world, and fosters and expresses its openness to God in contemplationâ€¦treasuring, as Mary did, 'all these things, pondering them in her heart.'
The Church has entrusted a mission to us which we wish to fulfill by the response of our whole lifeâ€¦'To give clear witness to that heavenly home for which every man longs, and to keep alive in the heart of the human family the desire for this homeâ€¦as we bear witness to the majesty and love of God and to the brotherhood of all men in Christ.'
(Cf Letter of Pope Paul VI to the Order, Dec 8/68; GS 38, Ag 40)
We shall do this by recognizing all that really unites us in the Holy Spirit, rather than by trying to impose unity through a legislation that would determine observances down to the last detail. Individual communities can in fact look after such details according to local needs and in conformity with the directives of the General Chapter-so long as our contemplative orientation is maintained. We are convinced that the best laws are those which follow and interpret life, and it is in the concrete experience of our Cistercian vocation that we would first of all recognize this life.
STATUTE ON UNITY AND PLURALISM
In the present Statute those observances which demand special attention in our times are presented in a more concrete fashion. Thus, the fundamental values of our life are guaranteed without imposing a detailed uniformity, where in fact a legitimate diversity should exist. Conditions are laid down so that each community, in union with other monasteries of the Order and following these guidelines, may deepen their own living experience of the Cistercian life.
Faithful to the thought of their Founders, Cistercian monks live under a Rule and an Abbot. They live, united in the love of Christ, in a community which is stable and effectively separated from the world.
The Abbot, as spiritual father of his community, should try to discover the will of God. One important way of doing this is by listening to his brethren in the spirit of Chapter 3 of the Rule.
In our daily horarium, we keep the balance between the Opus Dei, Lectio Divina and manual work, as required by the Rule of St. Benedict.
The hour of rising is so regulated that Vigils, which follows it, should keep its traditional character of nocturnal prayer-as we watch for the coming of the Lord.
The monk, who is tending to a life of continual prayer, needs a fixed amount of prayer each day. The Abbot will see to this for the community as a whole and for each individual monk in particular.
This search for a life of prayer should be lived in an atmosphere of recollection and silence for which all are responsible. In particular, the great silence at night and the silence in the regular places will be maintained.
Separation from the world demands that journeys out of the monastery should be infrequent and only for serious reasons. The use of radio and television will be exceptional. Discretion is needed in the use of other media of communication.
Our monasteries should practice generous hospitality, but this should not be allowed to interfere with the contemplative nature of our way of life.
Our diet should be simple and frugal. The monastic practice of fasting and abstinence should be retained.
The habit should be retained as the distinctive sign of our Order. Its use can differ from house to house.
The life of the community, as of each monk, should be marked by simplicity and poverty. Fraternal correction in the spirit of the Gospel is a help in this direction.