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Pray without ceasing.
Why pray so much? In order to be with Him, to nurture a loving relationship with God.
Then we can receive the precept of the apostle Paul, pray without ceasing! as a way of life, simple and joyous. In nurturing this relationship, the brother believes that he is drawn close to all people, becomes a channel of their aspirations, cries of distress, songs of praise.
The relationship with a person takes different forms: intimate conversation, sharing a meal, a walk, or a common activity. It is the same with prayer: liturgy, remembrance of God, personal prayer, and spiritual reading are different forms of the same relationship.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of all Cistercian life. For us, this mystery unfolds throughout the day in the Liturgy of the Hours which is a communal celebration and listening to the Word. Every night, when the world is still plunged in sleep, the community rises and gathers to celebrate the office of Vigils. This is our first motion on awakening. Sign of resurrection in the night of death.
O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise!
Every night, when the world is still bustling with various activities, the community comes together to celebrate the office of Compline and to give to God all that has been accomplished. Sign of hope beyond sleep.
And now, Master, you let your servant go in peace, according to your Word,
For my eyes have seen the Salvation
From Vigils to Compline, seven times a day, the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God, presenting to Him the sufferings of humanity, and, through the labor of obedience, to let themselves be formed in His image.
Vigils, you who watch in the house of the Lord.
Lauds, Sing to the Lord a new song.
Tierce, May our life and our strength burn with the fire of your love!
Sext, With what a love I love your Law!
None, The Son of God, with open arms, took all into his offering!
Vespers, Lord, may my prayer rise before You like incense…
Compline, Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, may the Lord grant us a quiet night, and the grace to live and die in his love.
Communal prayer, regular, « official », established, repetitive, the liturgy distinguishes itself from what we usually imagine as prayer. However, it is in its liturgy that the Church, like an attentive mother, teaches us to pray. She gives us the words of her prayer. And through her, it is God who gives us his Word in order that we may address Him. Listening to a single word, we learn to behave as members of a single body: the body of Christ.
Remembrance of God
The first step of humility consists in keeping the fear of God always present in your mind.
Rule of Saint Benedict
Whatever the activities, the places, the people, it is for Him, with Him and in Him that we endeavor to live. Each one cultivates this remembrance of God in the secret of one’s heart, aided by invocations that tradition passes on as treasures.
“Lord Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
Before each community gathering, we place ourselves under his protection.
May the Lord keep our thoughts, our words, and our actions in his peace.
And before a computer, is it possible to keep the remembrance of God? As for all our contemporaries, we are led to use computers more and more frequently for tasks as varied as they are indispensable: accounting, business management, contacts with the outside, studies, analysis of the results of production of our industries…Is this activity compatible with keeping God in our heart?
If we limit the remembrance of God to a constant and conscious invocation of the name of God, or to a recitation of the rosary, it is evident that it is easier to do this along with a simple and repetitive manual work. On the other hand, it becomes impossible in the midst of an activity as intellectually captivating as computer work. We can find loop holes by arranging short pauses in the midst of the activity, but that is not satisfying since it is not the activity itself that is placed under the gaze of God; we are letting him have only the little spaces between larger spans of activity.
So then, is contemplative life altogether incompatible with modernity?
First of all, we must not believe that “captivating” activities appeared with computers! We find many testimonies showing that our fathers had the same difficulties, even without computers. They introduce the work of the copyist as a battle between the monk and his parchment. This exhausting activity demanded both strength and attention to detail, strength to bear the cold of the buildings (heating was impossible for fear of fires), patience in order to compare texts and to correct mistakes, cleverness to work around the holes in the parchment . . . Saint Bernard sometimes evoked his work of editing as a fiercely tangled mix of words coming into his mind all at the same time . . . leaving him exhausted! Truly, we must give up the image of the holy monk making rosaries while reciting the rosary. Certainly, simple and peaceful manual work is an excellent place for rest, but it is too rare, today as yesterday, to serve as the exclusive place for a life of contemplation.
If we abandon the myth of contemplative life as a romantic daydream in the shade of trees, then yes, any kind of work can be monastic work, as long as it is done for the glory of God, the salvation of the world and the service of the brothers. Computer work even presents some very significant qualities: it teaches humility because the machine is always right, it teaches mutual support because it is often useful to ask a brother for help, and it is an opportunity to exercise patience and care.
All relationship is eminently personal. Even if the first form of our prayer is communal liturgical prayer, it is also expressed through a heart to heart exchange with God. Each brother lives this heart to heart according to the gift that is his own, one praying the rosary, another letting the Word he has heard come back to his memory again, a third welcoming the Presence in silence. At Cîteaux we usually pray together, in the same place and at the same time, in order to support each other in the battle of prayer and also in order that the diversity of gifts remains at the service of the single body.
The Virgin Mary is the model of our prayer: with her we travel the life of Christ while praying the rosary. As she allows the Word to dwell in our hearts, in her and in us, for her and for us, the silence becomes Presence.
They chose as Queen the lowly servant of the Lord, the Virgin Mary.
Hymn for the Holy Founders