ORDER OF ANGLICAN CISTERCIANS

An uncloistered dispersed Religious Order in the Church of England
of ordained and lay men

“Vacate et Videte” [1] 

INTRODUCTION

1. The Benedictine Influence on Anglicanism

T

he Benedictine tradition dominated the spiritual landscape of pre-Reformation England, and had a profound influence on the development of Anglican Spirituality. Marked by moderation and good sense, Benedictines discouraged extremes of outlook and behaviour. With the Incarnation as its starting point, Benedictine spirituality seeks to draw out the invisible divine presence in the visible world and a deep, single-minded attachment to the person of Jesus Christ. Everything points to that figure of Christ asking to be received, listened to, loved, followed. “In the Rule [RB], Saint Benedict is giving us practical help towards creating space for the presence of Christ in our lives. He offers us the opportunity of finding Christ, of experiencing his love.”[2]

2. Concerning Anglican Spirituality

A

nglicans have inherited English spirituality, our roots are Benedictine, and we identify ourselves not through a doctrine or catechism but through worship. What most Anglicans believe, can be found in The Book of Common Prayer. The importance of worship to our Christian life is a Benedictine concept that was passed down to us over the centuries. Though the Rule itself is brief, Benedict explains, in meticulous detail, the order of worship, the psalms, the canticles, and the responses to be used in the Divine Office. This monastic tradition, also called the "Office" or the "Daily Office," brought the monks together seven times a day[3] - as it still does - for corporate prayer, beginning long before dawn and continuing into the evening. During the Reformation of the sixteenth century, many reformed churches dismissed the idea of corporate prayer as too "papist". However, Thomas Cranmer restored the Daily Office to the people and to its place in the Church when he included Morning and Evening Prayer – “Matins" and "Evensong" – in the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549. This tradition has continued in the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer in the Church of England’s own Common Worship – Daily Prayer today. This prayer book also provides "descendants" of the early Offices in the ‘Prayer during the Day’ as well as a late-evening service called Night Prayer (‘Compline’). Though these services were not in the early Anglican prayer books, they were restored in the twentieth century.[4] These Offices provide ways of punctuating each day of the week with praise, prayer and attention to Scripture. Thus, as George Herbert put it, ‘seven whole days not one in seven’[5] will we praise God, pray for God’s world and allow ourselves to be formed and re-formed by God’s word.[6]

Anglican liturgical prayer books are specifically Benedictine. Anglican writer Martin Thornton points out that the spirituality of the Rule is built on three key moments: the Eucharist, the Divine Office, and personal prayer – the very same priorities as our prayer book.[7]

Peter Anson, a Roman Catholic, and A. W. Campbell, an Anglican, who studied religious communities in the Anglican Communion, note that the Anglican Church is a kind of generalised monastic community. Our Prayer Books have preserved the foundations of Christian monastic prayer, but simplifies it for contemporary use.[8]

3. The Benedictine Spirit of Anglicanism 

C

ommunity, so important in the Rule of Benedict, is also important in the Anglican tradition. In what Robert Hale calls a leitmotif (a dominant or recurring theme), "the church terms itself the Anglican Communion; its key liturgical text that unites the faithful is the Book of Common Prayer; and the traditional Anglican designation of the central, unifying sacrament is Holy Communion.[9] To be in community is an essential part of Benedictine life and thought. It's easy to see why many Anglicans are so comfortable with the Rule of Benedict.[10]

THE RULE

A1. Of The Order

The Order of Anglican Cistercians consists of uncloistered and dispersed[11] professed men of eighteen years or over; laity who are confirmed and communicant Anglicans, and priests. The Order is open to celibate, single or married men who live within the jurisdiction of an Anglican diocese in Great Britain (i.e., England, Scotland, and Wales). The brothers seek to be inspired by the Cistercian charism.

A.2 Of our Aim  

Our main aim is to promote and endeavour to live our daily life according to the Rule of Saint Benedict, as expressed in the reformed (Cistercian Trappist) tradition of Cîteaux and our own Rule in the parishes where we live. We aspire to a life-long desire to seek God through silence, contemplation, Lectio and the daily Offices.  We want to improve our relationship with those with whom we share our lives day by day, as well as with those whom we encounter every day. We undertake to commit ourselves to daily prayer with our fellow brothers and with Cistercians worldwide. We hope to establish a School for the Lord’s service, based on the monastic Rule of Saint Benedict. We aim to live this out by the grace of God.

A3. Of our Patroness

Traditionally, all Cistercian Abbeys are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The patroness of the Order of Anglican Cistercians is Our Lady of Hailes. We annually celebrate the day of the Dedication of her Gloucestershire Abbey, which is the 5th November. [12]

A4. Of our Motto

The Order’s motto “Vacate et Videte” – “Be Still and Know” [Psalm 46:10] reflects that we are a contemplative Order. It could also be interpreted as “Be Empty and See”. In contemplative silence we want to listen what God wants to communicate to us; to realize his presence, and in silence to listen to his message in each present time.[13]

A5. Of our Vows[14]

a.      A brother makes the vow of Stability[15]: In stabilitatas cordis (stability of the heart)[16] in respect of our Order, our Brothers of the Order, and the Cistercian charism as expressed in the reformed tradition of Cîteaux.

b.   A brother makes the vow of Conversatio[17] (Conversion of Life): The daily step by step following in the monastically inspired life, and the gradual transformation of ourselves into the likeness of Christ[18] in the scola charitatis (school of love).[19]

c.         A brother makes the vow of Obedience[20]: To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, acknowledging Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour; The articles of faith contained in Scripture, Creeds and Tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church[21]; Our Charter; The directives of a ‘Father in God’ when such will be elected or appointed. In addition, for ordained priests: his Ordination Vows[22].

A6. Of the Life of a Brother 

It shall be the objective of a brother to live deliberately and actively, corporately and singly, in such a manner that his every living moment may be an exemplification of Saint Benedict’s motto: “Christo omnino nihil præponantTo prefer nothing whatever to Christ”[23] so that those persons who may come to know him may by his example be brought the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A brother must endeavour to witness to our Redeemer's love with quietness, silence, patience, humility, charity, courage and prayer, knowing that it is not he who shall finally bring the Light, but only that he shall become a messenger for the One who is the Light.

A7. Of the Life of the Order

A brother shall make a careful examination of conscience[24] as to his observance of the Rule.

It is the obligation of a brother to support the work of his fellow brothers in his own witness to the gospel. Every brother is vital to the Order and is an integral member of the body[25]. Let none be lost through negligence, ignorance or pride; but let each be continually fortified and strengthened with brotherly love one toward another[26].

A8. Of the Opus Dei of the Order

It is the work of the Order to witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus, which has been freely bestowed upon us and upon all of creation. This witness grows and is nurtured by a life listening to God and in conversation with God, and is nourished daily by active prayer and meditation[27], while living fully in the secular world[28]. A brother will develop the talents given to him by God in his service in the work and worship of the Church. A brother shall use these talents to the best of his ability in the apostolate and ministry to which he is called.

A9. Of Common Worship – and Perseverance 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[29]. 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 [30] 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.[31]

A10. Of being United in Prayer 

As the brother wants to imitate the love of Christ and its message[32], so he wants to live in a warm and affectionate loving way with all those around him. He is to be a witness of Christ’s love[33], and he wants to share and promote God’s love[34]. This love will be expressed by each brother in his own environment; in the immediate family, amongst friends, at work, at leisure, in the neighbourhood, in the parish, and in relation to everyone he encounters day by day. He wants to make an extra effort having in mind those who, for one reason or another, are experiencing difficulties[35].

A11. Of Individual Renewal

All brothers shall try and organize a short retreat at a time closest to the patronal festival of the Order (Our Lady of Hailes, 5th November[36]), and at the Embertides. Priests should also consider a day’s retreat on the anniversary of his ordination, preferably attending the Eucharist at the Cathedral Church of his ordination. He ought to reflect on his Ordination Vows, his Profession and prayerfully consider where to make improvements in his priestly and professed life.

A12. Of Faithfully Listening to God’s Word[37]

According to his own daily commitments, a brother will, on a regular basis, at a quiet pre-arranged time, read the Holy Scriptures, the Patristics, and other suitable sacred reading, prayerfully, known as the Lectio divina[38], and give this a place in his daily occupations and routines. Consequently, he will be able to draw strength from this in his daily life. Especially the biblical readings appointed for the daily Eucharist are to be recommended. A brother is required to meditate and to sit down for lectio each day, unless he is to hear or deliver a sermon or homily on that day. A Spiritual Director, such as a specially appointed monk, or priest, can be of help with this. Each brother works out the most suitable frequencies of lectio, according to his own circumstances. We also emphasize the importance for the brothers to read our Cistercian Fathers. The Rule of Saint Benedict itself forms an important part of lectio – tested through the many centuries the RB remains a constant source of inspiration, as well as a useful source for living with God, our fellow human beings, and our society. We recommend reading the Rule every day, using the customary system whereby the whole Rule is read three times per annum. The strength of the Order is dependent on the prayer life of each brother.[39]

A13. Of Choosing for Simplicity 

Simplicity has been central for a monk of the Cistercian life[40]. So too, living the Christian life, the brother who follows the Rule, lives by purposefully making an effort to distance himself from our consumer-driven society. A brother ought to develop a more ecological conscience and attitude, in order to reduce wastefulness, whilst at all times seeking ways in which he can personally reduce consumption and energy, and inspire others tactfully to do likewise. He endeavours to live a different life and life-style by not giving in to the pressures of advertising, nor shall he be influenced by what public opinion tries to prescribe. Instead, he will live in solidarity with the poor and oppressed[41].

A14. Of Exercising Care and Conscious Attention when at Work

Work[42], being our share in creation and partnership with God in that creation, can be sanctified. All labour is equal in glory, honour and importance and the work of a brother should bear these qualities. Keeping in mind that all talents are gifts of the Holy Spirit, the work of all brothers must be to the greater glory of God. Work is an oblation to God, as is service to our fellow man. We must therefore give the best that we can offer.

A brother will regard it as paramount that he dedicates all his work with due attention and with love. Thus, his personal work situation and his spirituality can be interwoven. He will perform all his tasks, even the minute and seemingly insignificant or boring, with respect and dedication. He does not want to become a slave to any form of needless over-activity.

A15. Postscript

Those who feel called to committing themselves to this form of monasticism “outside the cloister” will have to examine seriously their inner soul in deciding whether this Order is a real vocation.[43] After such a period of at least eighteen months, one can – in consultation with the Director of Vocations – negotiate entering a Novitiate period of at least three years, and after successfully completing the novitiate, a Contract of Profession with Almighty God will be publicly signed. This will take place during a specially designed Service. The newly professed Anglican Cistercian brother will also receive a Token of Commitment and Unity. The Vows of Stability, Conversatio and Obedience will be renewed on a regular basis.


[1] “Be Still and Know”, Motto of the Order (Psalm 46:10)

[2] Esther de Waal, “Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality”, Canterbury Press 1989, p.39

[3] Psalm 119:164 & RB Chapter 16

[4] Jane Tomaine, “St Benedict’s Toolbox”, Morehouse 2005, p.22

[5] George Herbert, “The Complete English Poems”, Ed. John Tobin, Penguin Books 1991, p.137f

[6] General Introduction to “Common Worship: Daily Prayers”, Church House Publishing, 2005

[7] See Robert Hale, “Discovering Consanguinity: The Monastic-Benedictine Spirit of Anglicanism”, in Canterbury & Rome, Sister Churches (Ramsey, N.Y.: Paulist Press, 1982), p.97

[8]  Ibid, p.91

[9] Ibid, p.97; Italics in original

[10] Jane Tomaine, “St Benedict’s Toolbox”, Morehouse 2005, p.23

[11] Psalm 133:1, Acts 2:43, 4:32, Phil 1:27, 2:2, 1 Peter 3:8.  Augustine’s commentary on Ps 133:1 dates from 407; its whole flavour is monastic. This is where he introduced his curious etymology of monachus as signifying that Monks are those who live together in such a way that they form a single person, so that what was written is true of them: “They have one soul and one heart”. There are many bodies but not many souls. There are many bodies but not many hearts. Rightly is monos applied to them for they are “one alone”

[12] Date of Dedication of Hailes Abbey, Gloucestershire, in 1251. The Salve statue of this abbey has a place of honour in the Chapter House of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire, where our Order was founded.

[13] “Be Still and know that I am God” [Ps 46:10], ‘Come, behold…’ means ‘Use your insight to grasp the meaning of…’; ‘To stop’, that is, be still, relax, think, learn.’ Dr G.A.F. Knight , ‘The Psalms’, Vol.1. Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, 1982

[14] Rule of Saint Benedict [RB] 58:17

[15] RB 4:78, 58:17

[16] RB 20:3-4, 58:9-29

[17] RB Prologue:38 (Ezekiel 33:11), 49 (Psalm 119:32),  7:30

[18] Ecclesiasticus 34:3, Ephesians 4:24

[19] RB Prologue:45

[20] RB Prologue: 3, RB 5

[21] The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

[22] See Appendix 1

[23] RB 72:11

[24] Psalm 26:2, Lamentations 3:40, Ecclesiasticus 8:20, 2 Corinthians 13:5

[25] Romans 12:5

[26] 1 Thessalonians  5:11

[27] RB 7:63, 16, 19:2, 43:1,52:2, 58:7, 67:2

[28] What Basil Hume OSB referred to as “the market-place” in “Searching  for God – Monastic Formation”, p.21 

[29] “To prostrate frequently in prayer” [RB 4:56 – see also RB 16, RB 20:3-4 & RB 28:4][29]

[30] The Community prays from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Breviary (SECOND Edition), The praying of (at least five) Offices (known as the Opus Dei, the Work of God) as this best reflects the Cistercian [OCSO] Opus Dei, i.e., Vigils, Lauds, Vespers, Compline, and at least one of the Little Hours: Tierce, Sext, None. The Office of Vigils is to be prayed as early in the day as possible. It is most appropriate (and traditional) to pray this Office as the rest of the world is still asleep or at dawn.

[31] RB 4:21

[32] “They should practice fraternal charity with a pure love…” [RB 72:8 – see also RB 53:15, RB 58:6 & RB 72:3-7]

[33] Acts 22:15

[34] Acts 1:17, Gal 6:6, Phil 1:26, Eph 4:15-17

[35] James 5:16

[36] Date of Dedication of Hailes Abbey, Gloucestershire, in 1251. The Salve statue of this abbey has a place of honour in the Chapter House of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire, where our Order was founded.

[37] “Listen, O my son… and incline the ear of your heart.” [RB Prologue 1 – see also RB 4:55, RB 48:15 & RB Prologue 49]

[38] RB 48:1

[39]  Galatians 6:2, Ephesians 4:2, 1 John 4:7

[40] [RB 39:9] “Our Lord says: ‘See that your hearts are not weighed down through overindulgence’ [Luke 21:34] – see also RB 4:20, RB 4:36,    RB 33:6, RB 34:3-4, RB 55:7 & RB 55:18]

[41] Deuteronomy 15:11, Job 5:16,, 29:11,  Psalm 12:5, 41:11, 72:4, 140:12, Proverbs 14:21, 31, Luke 13:13, James 2:5

[42] “… for they are then truly monks when they live by the labour of their hands…” [RB 48:8 – see also RB 48:1 & RB 48:7]

[43] RB Prologue:21