Many folks may already know that there are actually two orders that are known as Cistercians: the Order of Citeaux (Common Observance) and the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance a.k.a. Trappists. If we took two monks from the two Orders, most will probably not be able to tell the difference just by looking at them. Perhaps it can be described as looking at identical twins - you cannot tell them apart but the twins know exactly who they are.
Recently, the monks of New Clairvaux were graced by the visit of Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, the Abbot General of the Order of Citeaux. He was actually making his rounds of visits which included the Cistercian monasteries of Chau Son in Sacramento and St. Joseph monastery in Lucerne Valley south of Barstow. Since New Clairvaux's fraternal ties to the monks of Chau Son Sacramento go way back, it seemed fitting to have their Abbot General come on the 3-hour drive up to Vina, to address the monastic community, break bread and preside over the Eucharistic liturgy, and join us for our noon meal. Dom Mauro-Giuseppe is originally a monk of Hauterive Abbey in Switzerland but was elected last year to serve the office of Abbot General.
The monks of New Clairvaux wish to thank Dom Mauro and our brothers of the Order of Citeaux for the mutual support and friendship. Please, visit our brothers of the Order of Citeaux online at the following:Chau Son Sacramento, U.S.A. - http://chausonus.com/public/midle.php?GADesign=process&id=107
Hauterive, Switzerland - http://www.abbaye-hauterive.ch/en/abbey.html
The trans-vaulted ceiling of the Ovila chapterhouse is unveiled. The old medieval stones are placed alonside newly carved ones creating curious, checkered patterns. The interior of many 12th-century Cistercian buildings reveal something of an unseen harmony. For Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, porprotion was a key element which tended to allow the acoustics of the interior space to become a natural resonator transforming the earthly voices of monks into something that might be described as heavenly music. The monks of New Clairvaux, however, cannot claim to have the voices of angels. But perhaps if he were here, Saint Bernard might still be proud to see the Cistercian legacy still alive today in the reconstruction of the Ovila chapterhouse.
To read an essay on Cistercian architecture written by New Clairvaux's abbot emeritus, Father Thomas Davis, click on the following link: http://www.newclairvaux.org/cistercian-architecture.html
A drawing of the Ovila chapterhouse portal made by the architect and Sacred Stones project consultant, Dr. Jose Miguel Merino de Caceres.
Walk into any Cistercian monastery church built in the 12th century and you may be struck by a certain kind of awe. Early Cistercian monasteries were built according to certain principles laid out by our early Cistercian founding fathers. These principles were expressed in the buildings in which the monks were to live, pray and work. One of the key features of early Cistercian architecture was proportion or harmony, which tended to instill a sense of integration, a kind of merging of heavenly reality with the earthly when the monk is able to behold the light of divine beauty.
The early Cistercian master planners and builders used the geometric proportion known as “phi” or the Golden Mean/Ratio to perhaps, capture in a limited way, a certain kind of truth about God. While many Cistercian monasteries now lie in ruins or are preserved as museum pieces in Europe, a tiny portion of the 12th century monastery of Ovila is being resurrected and bringing new life here at New Clairvaux today.
Our construction crew have finally removed all the scaffolding and unveiled the interior of the medieval building. No words can adequately describe “it”. Perhaps, one simply has to experience and behold the intensification of purpose and unity that our early Cistercian fathers sought in pursuing a life of uninterrupted, unceasing prayer.
To learn more about the reconstruction of the Ovila medieval Chapterhouse building also known as our Sacred Stones project, please visit www.sacredstones.org
In pre-Christian times in northern Europe, Easter was celebrated around the spring equinox which ushered in a period of renewal, fecundity of the earth, and fertility that was represented by the Germanic pagan goddess, Ostara or Eostre. Saint Bede, in his work de temporum ratione, writes of the original name that the English people gave to the Paschal month, which was Eosturmonath or month of the goddess Eostre. Today, Easter is of course more commonly celebrated as the day of Christ’s resurrection.
In Catholic Church liturgy during the Easter Vigil, one of the primary liturgical action is that of the Paschal candle which once it is lit by the blessed fire, is thrice submerged into the baptismal water font symbolic of Christ rising out from darkness of death. In his paschal homily, Saint Hippolytus preaches:
“Now the holy rays of the light of Christ shine forth, the pure stars of the pure Spirit rise, the heavenly treasures of glory and divinity lie open. In this splendor the long dark night has been swallowed up and the dreary shadows of death have vanished. Life is offered everyone; the whole world is filled with glory. A heavenly light more brilliant than all others sheds its radiance everywhere, and he who was begotten before the morning star and all the stars of heaven, Christ, might and immortal, shines upon all creatures more brightly than the sun.”
From this Paschal light blazing in the dark, we are to see our own lives lit up by Christ who died, was buried, and rose from the dead and who now shines in radiant glory.
"If today's procession and passion are considered together, in the one Jesus appears as sublime and glorious, in the other as lowly and suffering. The procession makes us think of the honor reserved for a king, whereas the passion shows us the punishment due to a thief.
... In the [procession] he is welcomed to Jerusalem as a just king and savior, in the other he is thrown out of the city as a criminal, condemned as an imposter. In the one he is mounted on an ass and accorded every mark of honor; in the other he hangs on the wood of the cross, torn by whips, pierced with wounds, and abandoned by his own. If, then, we want to follow our leader without stumbling through prosperity and through adversity, let us keep our eyes upon him, honored in the procession, undergoing ignominy and suffering in the passion, yet unshakably steadfast in all such changes of fortune.
Lord, Jesus you are the joy and salvation of the whole world; whether we see you seated on an ass or hanging on the cross, let each one of us bless and praise you, so that when we see you reigning on high we may praise you forever and ever, for to you belong praise and honor throughout all ages. Amen."
~ From Sermon 3 on Palm Sunday by
12th century Cistercian father,
Blessed Guerric of Igny
This set of photos was recently taken by our brother photographer of various scenes around our monastery here in Northern California. The subject of these photographs range from fruits and flowers to stones and wine all captured through monastic lens. The same slideshow can also be viewed on our homepage.