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the cistercian reform
Our fathers passed on to us a longing for simplicity, for fraternal communion and for the withdrawn life. The expressed these values in an art of living and dwelling together that we live today.
This starkness is expressed in architecture, but also in a sober and beautiful liturgy witnessed by the choir books. And a certain austerity of life.
This simplicity is not, however, a mere material poverty: although the brothers possess nothing of their own, the community disposes of the means of production that allows it to live while protecting its liberty in regard to the surrounding society. Cistercian art is sober, but this economy of means is also a search for beauty that expresses the mystery of God.
Fraternal communion is revealed in a silence which is the choice for a quality of relationship, with God and with the brothers. It is expressed through the mutual help among brothers walking together in the house of God. This mutual aid is also instituted among monasteries by the practice of the Charter of Charity: monasteries are not dependent one on the other in a hierarchy, but they choose to provide fraternal support by means of such institutions as the General Chapter, filiation, and the regular visitation.
Separation from the world
During the Middle Ages, monasteries were places of meeting among lords. The first Cistercians distanced themselves from this practice: the “great” did not come to Cîteaux to hold court. However, this withdrawal is not a break: Cîteaux, like most Cistercian abbeys, is built near the great lines of communication, but slightly away from these routes. According to an etymology (probably false although its use is meaningful) Cîteaux means “before the third boundary marker” (cis-tercium), that is to say the place that is located three thousand steps form the nearest village, a distance which signifies a withdrawal and not a complete break.