Anglican Cistercians? Who and what are we?
For a number of years we have been, and still are, of the opinion that the unique Cistercian charism and the contemplative life has so much to offer the Church of England, and – after much "fasting & prayer" – we have founded a new religious Order in order to effectively attempt to fill that gap in the chaos that is the current Church of England.
We had a brief meeting with the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, at Lambeth, and he was very supportive of this idea of founding a new dispersed and uncloistered religious Order (open to both male priests and laity, whether single, celibate or married).
We confirmed the outline of our vision in writing, and the Archbishop passed this letter, together with our Rule, to the Bishop of Dudley (+David Walker), who chairs the Advisory Council on the Relations of Bishops and Religious Communities. This Council has since appointed Abbot Stuart Burns OSB (formerly Abbot of Burford, and now, since the community relocated there, of Mucknell Abbey in Worcestershire) to be our Consultant, whilst we slowly travel on the road to full official recognition as a new religious Order by the House of Bishops.
We prepared very detailed Governing Documents, containing our proposed Charter, Rule and Customary. These we have subsequently adopted as our Constitution at a Chapter meeting at Mount St Bernard RC Cistercian Abbey (November 2010).
We invited the Bishop of Horsham (Chichester Diocese) to consider becoming our Episcopal Visitor, and we were delighted when, after due consideration, the Rt Revd Mark C.R. Sowerby graciously accepted our invitation.
On the 8th September 2011, on the Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, three of our number made their Temporary Vows and were clothed in the Cistercian habit before Abbot Stuart Burns OSB, in the presence of our Episcopal Visitor, Bishop Mark Sowerby, who also presided at the Profession Eucharist. Our preacher was the Acting Chairman of the Archbishop's Advisory Council, Bishop David Walker.
From ancient times the Church has had the custom of celebrating each day the liturgy of the hours. In this way the Church fulfills the Lord’s precept to pray without ceasing, at once offering its praise to God the Father and interceding for the salvation of the world.
Our new Order currently consists of four professed brothers, two novices, one postulant and several inquirers (i.e., potential postulants awaiting to be interviewed by our Deans' Council at a future Chapter meeting).
We have fostered a formal ecumenical link with the wider Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, whose Generality is based in Rome. This link is expressed in our special relationship with the RC Cistercian Abbey of Mount Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, and the link is a continuation of a former link that existed between the RC Order of Cistercians (OCSO) and the former Anglican Cistercian Monastery at Ewell (1966-2004). When this community began in 1966 it was clear that modern Anglican Cistercian life would need to be seen as Anglican rather than a copy of a Roman Catholic model. They were accepted as Cistercians on this basis and were voted by the Cistercian Order to be in spiritual communion with our Roman Catholic Cistercian sisters and brothers. What counts for everything is the real call to live the life of a Cistercian in the Anglican Church.
We are an Anglican religious order of lay and ordained brothers and we consider ourselves part of the larger Cistercian family which traces its origin to 1098. As Cistercians we follow the Rule of St Benedict and thus we are part of the Benedictine family as well. Our lives are dedicated to seeking union with God, through Jesus Christ whilst living a dispersed and uncloistered form of monasticism.
All Cistercian monasteries are dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God-Incarnate. The foundation day of the Cistercian Abbey of Hailes in Gloucestershire (5 November) is the patronal feast of our Order, and our patroness is Our Lady of Hailes.
The Order is wholly ordered to contemplation and we derive our manner of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our spirituality from the following six sources:
1. The Rule of Saint Benedict
Our way of life is in substantial conformity with that mapped out in the Rule of Saint Benedict. The brothers celebrate each day the Liturgy of the Hours. The day is balanced between work, reading and study.
2. The Founders of the Order
Saints Robert, Alberic and Stephen founded the reformed monastery of Cîteaux (France) in 1098. Their aim was to refresh the institutional forms of monastic life and to bring them into closer conformity both with the Rule of Saint Benedict and with the aspirations of the age. In particular this involved an emphasis on simplicity even in the liturgy and manual work.. The prime documents of this period are the Exordium Parvum, describing the origins of the reform, and the Charter of Charity, giving its constitutional basis.
3. Saint Bernard and his Contemporaries
The Cistercian charism evolved greatly during the second and third generations, particularly as influenced by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (+ 1153). In this period there was particular interest in the interior or experiential quality of monastic life, and there was a new emphasis on the importance of both fraternal communion and contemplation.
4. The Reforms of Abbot Rancé
In the seventeenth century when various factors had caused decline and division in the Cistercian Order, the Abbot of La Trappe, Armand-Jean de Rancé initiated a strong reform movement, supported by his extensive writings and inspired by ancient monastic tradition. His principal emphasis was to insist on the austerity of Cistercian life and its contemplative character.
5. The Post-Reformation Revival of Religious Life in the Church of England
Christian communities are not new; from its earliest days the church has had at its heart groups who have chosen to make a common life of work, prayer and study. Dissolved by King Henry VIII they were born again in the Church of England in the nineteenth century focussing themselves on concerns such as health care and education for the needy or mission work at home and abroad, alongside their regular work of prayer.
The revival of the religious orders within the Church of England was a revival of the pre-Reformation system. One of the tangible results of the Oxford Movement—the revival of religious orders in the Anglican Communion. As long ago as 1839 E B Pusey wrote to J Keble that he and J H Newman had independently been led to recognise the desirability of some Sisters of Charity in the Anglican Church, and on Trinity Sunday, 1841 he received the vows of Marian Rebecca Hughes who in 1844 became the first Superior of the Convent of the Holy and Undivided Trinity at Oxford.
It was not until 1907 that, with the foundation of the first enclosed community, the Sisters of the Love of God, at Fairacres, Oxford, the ‘contemplative’ life was revived. In the previous year, however, the Sisters of the Community of the Holy Comforter, founded at Edmonton, London in 1891, decided to give up active work and adopt the rule of St. Benedict. After ten years at Baltonsborough, Somerset, they moved to Malling Abbey, Kent. Communities for men developed more slowly. The first religious order for men was the Society of St. John the Evangelist, founded in 1865 at Cowley by R.M. Benson. The Community of the Resurrection, founded in 1892 by C. Gore, has been, since 1898, established at Mirfield. The Society of the Sacred Mission, founded by H H Kelly in 1893 was at Kelham from 1903 to 1974; it is now based at Willen Priory, near Milton Keynes. It should be noted that one of the chief works of these two orders has been the training of Anglo-Catholic ordinands.
The Benedictine life for men was first revived by Joseph Leycester Lyne, Father Ignatius, in 1869. The oldest surviving community, now at Salisbury, (from 1926 to 1987 at Nashdom; from 1987-2010 at Elmore near Newbury), sprang from the Benedictine community at Caldey. The period immediately after the First World War saw the establishment of an Anglican Franciscan Order. In 1938 R C S Gofton- Salmond retired to a woodland property near Crawley, Sussex, where the Community of the Servants of the Will of God now follow a contemplative vocation of a semi-eremitical type. Walter Walsh, in his Secret History of the Oxford Movement, makes much of the influence of the Religious Orders of the Oxford Movement, particularly the Society of St. John the Evangelist and suggests they played a significant part in the development of the Oxford Movement within the Church of England.
The emergence of Religious communities in the mid-Victorian period took the Church of England bishops somewhat by surprise. Within the next fifty years, the number of both Religious and Religious communities increased not only in Great Britain, but in other parts of the Anglican Communion. From South Africa to North America, the Indian sub-continent to the Pacific, matters concerning the Religious Life began to be raised for Episcopal judgement. Form the communities’ point of view, their growth and increasing contribution to the Church’s ministry and witness entitled them to some formal recognition from the Episcopal authorities.
The Church of England recognises the importance of Religious communities in the Church and values their life and witness, but has no ecclesiastical law to protect and regulate them. The Advisory Council on the Relations of Bishops and Religious Communities was set up in 1935 to express the Church’s care for the Religious Life by providing a means of Episcopal oversight appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Church of England.
Now, in the 21st Century, there are numerous communities across the worldwide Anglican Communion; their spiritual roots may be catholic, Celtic, charismatic, or be elsewhere. Fresh expressions of religious community life are constantly being explored and new groups are formed even as some older ones complete their tasks.
6. The Rule of the Order of Anglican Cistercians
We endeavour to witness to our Redeemer's love with quietness, silence, patience, humility, charity, courage and prayers and commit ourselves to a form of monasticism "outside the cloister" and live under the three vows of Stability, Conversion of Character and Obedience.
The Divine Office
The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole People of God. In it, Christ himself “continues his priestly work through his Church.” His members participate according to their own place in the Church and the circumstances of their lives. The laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office either with the priests, among themselves, or individually. Like all monastic communities, the Order of Anglican Cistercians pray the Liturgy of the Hours at appointed times (see our Rule A.8. Of the Opus Dei of the Order; A.9. Of Common Worship – and Perseverance in Prayer; A.10. Of being United in Prayer). Each day the brother prays according to his own daily rhythm, and to the best of his ability, in subjection to the Lord, with those in his own close family and/or with those whose life he shares, as well as with Cistercians throughout the world. He also seeks to be aware of all that goes on in his immediate world, and world-wide. He focuses on the Eucharist and quiet contemplative prayer as a matter of priority. In common with our Cistercian brothers and sisters throughout the world he strives to mark the hours of the day in simple prayer, consecrating each part of the day by God’s grace to the Holy Spirit. Hence, he commits himself to praying at least five Offices of the Divine Office every day, adaptable to his family and work commitments. Thus, he seeks to be strengthened in his aim that nothing should take precedence over the love of God. Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
The celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours demands not only harmonizing the voice with the praying heart, but also a deeper understanding of the liturgy and of the Bible, especially of the Psalms. The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the Psalms into the age of the Church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day, the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. Moreover, the reading from the Word of God at each Hour with the subsequent responses or troparia and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters at certain Hours, reveal the deeper meanings of the mystery being celebrated, assist in understanding the Psalms, and help one prepare for silent prayer. The lectio divina, where the Word of God is so read and meditated that it becomes prayer, is thus rooted in the liturgical celebration.
The Liturgy of the Hours, which is like an extension of the Eucharistic celebration, does not exclude but rather (in a complementary way) calls forth the various devotions of the People of God.
The Liturgy of the Hours is the richest single prayer resource of the Christian Church. It provides prayers, Psalms and meditation for every hour of every day. It has existed from the earliest times, to fulfil the Lord's command to pray without ceasing.
The early Christians continued the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night. In the Psalms are found expressions like "in the morning I offer you my prayer"; "At midnight I will rise and thank you”; "Evening, morning and at noon I will cry and lament"; "Seven times a day I praise you". The Apostles observed the Jewish custom of praying at the third, sixth and ninth hour and at midnight (Acts 10:3, 9; 16:25; etc.). The Christian prayer of that time consisted of almost the same elements as the Jewish: recital or chanting of Psalms, reading of the Old Testament, to which were soon added readings of the Gospels, Acts, and epistles, and canticles such as the Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Other elements were added later in the course of the centuries.
By the end of the fifth century, the Liturgy of the Hours was composed of seven offices, of which Compline seems to be the last to appear, since the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions VIII, iv, 34 do not mention it in the exhortation: "Offer up your prayers in the morning, at the third hour, the sixth, the ninth, the evening, and at cock-crowing".
An eight hour, Prime, was added by Our Father Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century. These eight hours are known by the following names:
Matins (during the night, at midnight with some), sometimes referred to as Vigils or Nocturns, or in monastic usage the Night Office; in the Breviary of Paul VI it has been replaced by the Office of Readings
Lauds or Dawn Prayer (at Dawn, or 3 a.m.)
Prime or Early Morning Prayer (First Hour = approximately 6 a.m.)
Tierce or Mid-Morning Prayer (Third Hour = approximately 9 a.m.)
Sext or Midday Prayer (Sixth Hour = approximately 12 p.m.)
None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Ninth Hour = approximately 3 p.m.)
Vespers or Evening Prayer ("at the lighting of the lamps", generally at 6 p.m.)
Compline or Night Prayer (before retiring, generally at 9 p.m.)
Saint Benedict of Nursia (c. 480 – 543) is credited with having given this organization to the Liturgy of the Hours. However, his scheme was taken from that described by John Cassian, in his two major spiritual works, the Institutes and the Conferences, in which he described the monastic practices of the Desert Fathers of Egypt.
Liturgy of the Hours of Paul VI
After the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI promulgated a new Roman Breviary, commonly referred to as "Liturgy of the Hours" or “Divine Office”. In this Breviary, the structure of the offices, the distribution of Psalms and the prayers themselves were heavily modified. Prime was suppressed entirely and Matins was replaced by the new Office of Readings (Vigils). Its usage focuses on three major hours and from two to four minor hours:
The Officium lectionis or Office of Readings (formerly Matins), major hour (Cistercians always refer to this Office as Vigils)
Lauds or Morning Prayer, major hour
Daytime Prayer, which can be one or all of:
Tierce or Mid-Morning Prayer
Sext or Midday Prayer
None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer
Vespers or Evening Prayer, major hour
Compline or Night Prayer
The Divine Office (non-ICEL)
The Divine Office was produced by a commission set up by the Episcopal Conferences of Australia, England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland. First published in 1974 by HarperCollins, this edition is the official English edition for use in the dioceses of the above countries, as well as many other dioceses around the world. This is the Liturgy of Hours the Order of Anglican Cistercians use for our Opus Dei. It is arranged in three volumes
Volume I: Advent, Christmastide & Weeks 1-9 of the Church Year
Volume II: Lent and Eastertide
Volume III: Weeks 6-34 of the Church Year
The Psalms are taken (slightly adapted) from the 1963 Grail Psalms, while the Scripture readings and non-Gospel canticles are taken from various versions of the Bible, including the Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem, the Good News Bible, the New English Bible and Ronald Knox's Translation of the Vulgate.
HarperCollins also publishes shorter editions of The Divine Office:
Daily Prayer - comprising the complete Divine Office, except for the Office of Readings (but the full Office of Readings are printed only for Christmas, Good Friday and Holy Saturday)
Morning & Evening Prayer - comprising the complete Morning, Evening and Night prayers from the Divine Office
Shorter Morning & Evening Prayer - comprising the Psalter for Morning, Evening and Night prayers and a selection of texts from the liturgical seasons and feasts.
Besides these shorter editions of The Divine Office, there exists also Prayer During the Day comprising the Psalter for the Middle Hours, published by the Catholic Truth Society. HarperCollins has also published a very useful companion to the three-volume Divine Office, The School of Prayer, An Introduction to the Divine Office for all Christians by John Brook.
Common Worship Daily Prayer
The Order of Anglican Cistercians sometimes also use the Common Worship Daily Prayer comprising Prayers During the Day, Morning and Evening Prayer and Night Prayer, especially when praying at our local parish churches or cathedrals.
Benedictine Daily Prayer
The Dean’s Council also recommends the Benedictine Daily Prayer – A Shorter Breviary (Columba Press) for occasional usage.
The Dean’s Council of the Anglican Order of Cistercians authorize both the three-volume Divine Office, the Book of Common Prayer  and the Common Worship Daily Prayer for use at the Opus Dei, but are also of the opinion that, because the latter publication does not include the lectionary readings appointed, nor the Patristic Readings, that the Roman Catholic Divine Office is to be recommended, and it is this Divine Office that is used by the community.