September 14, 2008

Assisi, Italy, General Chapter OCSO 2008


 Homily for the Feast of the Holy Cross


            A scandal for the Jews, a folly for the Pagans, the Cross is for those who believe, the symbol and source of salvation.


            In the first centuries, Christians did not put the figure of Christ on the cross, but decorated it with precious stones.  Later, the image of the Son of Man appeared, Son of Man who – according to the beautiful ambiguity which this expression contains in the New Testament – represents both Christ himself, and all with whom he has chosen to be identified.


            It suffices to close our eyes and contemplate the cross, to see all the rivers of blood flowing in all directions to make our lands fruitful.


It was the blood of Constantine ’s soldiers who received the cross as a standard; but also the blood of their enemies.

It was the blood of the Europeans who brought the faith to other continents of America , Asia and Africa , and the blood of the peoples that they exterminated.    It was the blood of the slaves, torn away from their countries and brought to foreign lands, and also the blood of all those, even in our day, for whom life is interrupted or diminished by oppression, poverty and hunger.


            The Cross is also the symbol of the courage and the holy folly of those who, all through the centuries, have brought the Cistercian tradition to other lands and other continents, carrying with them a humble cross of wood.


            At the time of the French Revolution, when so many persons in France were shedding their blood for the faith, a small group of monks, under the direction of Dom Augustine – as strange in character as in name - left La Trappe and France, with a foundation cross that they planted in numerous countries both in Europe and in America, before returning to France after the Revolution to replant it in many monasteries.


            A real folly.  And from this folly were born almost all the monasteries of the Strict Observance, which we represent here, in these Chapters.


            In 1892, scattered pieces of this Strict Observance reunited to form one Order which, a few decades later, left in every directions: for Africa, Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere, always with a foundation cross as emblem.


            To bring the faith or the monastic life into foreign lands is not to bring them the wisdom of our own lands or of our founding communities, but rather, the folly of the Cross.  In the same way, the inculturation of local Churches and of monasticism consists not in adapting the Gospel and monasticism to local customs, but to make sure that local cultures allow themselves to be transformed and purified through the folly of the Cross.


            Let us adore this cross which is folly for the pagans – these pagans that we have never completely stopped being.  May this cross be for each of us the source of salvation.



Armand Veilleux