Local visitors and visitors from far away might be interested to know that the Abbey of New Clairvaux will be holding the annual blessing of the grapes ceremony this Friday on August 3, 2012. The blessing itself will begin at 5:30 p.m. followed by two new wine release at the wine-tasting room: 2010 St. James Block Tempranillo and Vino Dolce (a port). The public is invited to gather under the shade of our old walnut trees right in front of our St. James vineyard where the blessing will take place. We look forward to see all of you because your support and presence are the gifts that God continues to bless us with. Join the monks, then, in thanksgiving as we pray for another successful year of our grape harvest.
Snippets of Saint Benedict's life appear in the hymns that we sing in the Divine Office of Lauds and Vespers. In our liturgy, we sing of a man who is very much a loving father, a patient teacher, and model for monks. It is in the Dialogues written by Saint Gregory that we find the life of Benedict, a life patterned after the life of the one whom he followed, namely, Jesus, the Christ. In the Dialogues, we find a man who renounced worldly ambitions, struggled with temptation, and worked signs and wonders. We find a man who agreed to become an abbot because he responded to the needs of monks who desired to lead a strict way of life. Later, he escaped death from the hands of those same monks who attempted to murder him...twice. He saved the lives of several of his monks, one from drowning and one he raised back to life. And, he wrote his "little rule" for beginners. But in the end, we find a man, a Christian of the 6th century, who set out running, "hastening on to the perfection of monastic life," a man of experience and spiritual teaching. As monks of the 21st century, we, too, rouse ourselves and quicken as we hear the words:
"Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice..." (From the Prologue of the Rule)
On this hot summer month of July, the Abbey of New Clairvaux celebrates 57 years of Trappist-Cistercian monastic life on California soil. In the old Roman calendar, the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was on July 2nd. New Clairvaux Abbey was founded on July 2, 1955. But how was it possible for Mary to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with Saint John the Baptist in July when Saint John had already been born on June 24? So the feast of the Visitation was moved to May in the revised calendar. The monks of New Clairvaux, however, kept the old date on which to honor our founding Fathers and Brothers now deceased and resting in the cemetery. A candle stands in their place today to remind us of these brothers who lived their lives as monks to the very end.