CONFERENCE OF M. EMMANUEL
Abbaye de la Clarté-Dieu (Murhesa)
The Contemplative dimension of the Order of Cistercians, S.O.
To speak of the contemplative dimension is in a certain sense to define the monk and the monastic life.
It seems to me that in the OCSO, this dimension gives direction to the other activities of our life which are ordered to it. Our life has been conceived and organized with this goal in mind: "that in all things God may be glorified."
In our way of life, the contemplative dimension means living the Gospel in the absolute, with all else being ordered to this goal. It is a never-ending search to become one with Jesus Christ who said, "I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me."
Christ Jesus, then, came to do the will of his Father, who sent him to save mankind by the total gift of himself, the only gift capable of revealing the depth of God's love for us.
We, too, monks and nuns, are called by God to renounce our self-will, to fight "with one common will" under the banner of Christ the King, for the salvation of the world.
Preferring nothing to Christ, we must share by patience in his sufferings if we are to share also in his glory.
When we enter the monastery, we are led to conform ourselves to the Word of God by following the Rule of St. Benedict, the Constitutions, and the guidelines of a particular community of brothers or sisters.
To live thus does not only involve the essential monastic activities: Divine Office, lectio, study, and work, but includes also all our human activities in their least details: everything that goes to make up an intensely regular community life.
Everything depends on how we receive and assimilate our initial formation and continue with it: putting our will into the hands of God, under the care of an experienced guide, whether novice master or abbot. To let oneself be as clay in the hands of the potter: the Holy Spirit, who finds expression in the Rule, the Constitutions, the abbot's teaching, and in cenobitic life. The last has power to lead us either to fervor or laxity.
If the monk lets himself be totally directed toward God, he will little by little let go of that part of his life which is a slave to the senses and the passions; his heart will expand and be filled with an unspeakable sweetness of love. He will be able to delight sometimes, perhaps often, in supernatural graces---a deep relationship with God---which will always be discreet and modest, like everything else that is Cistercian. These are the "high seasons" in our life of contemplation.
In each of these stages of his conversion---and it takes a lot of them to make a monk---the monk immerses himself more and more in solitude of heart, moved and led by a divine touch, by a certitude he has been called to an ever greater discovery of Him who has loved and saved him.
By our vow of conversion we are always persons in formation.
May our communities and our shepherds protect us from the spirit of the world which is tending to penetrate our cloisters. If, when they are well managed, mass media, magazines, comfort, and exits from the enclosure can sometimes be instruments of compassion and communion, even of contemplation, they carry also the great danger of assimilating us to the world.