The Confirmation. The final phase of the election is characteristically monastic. You may have noticed already how different this is from a national election. One very important element, not mentioned so far, forms the preparation: discernment with prayer. That began for us at Holy Cross Abbey months ago, as a community exercise and, probably years ago on the part of individual monks.
After an abbot has been elected and the election confirmed by the Abbot General, the community reassembles again under the Presidency of Dom Damian. This time, the solemnly professed monks, the Witnesses and the Notary, are joined by any monks in formation and in-house retreatants. The Cantor reads to the assembly Chapter Two from Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, “What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be.” Dom Damian then declares to the Abbot elect and his community: I Brother Damian, in virtue of the authority which I exercise declare you confirmed as true abbot of this monastery of Our lady of the Holy Cross and set you over it. The Abbot elect then makes his profession of faith, according to the Nicene Creed, and takes the oath of fidelity, according to the norms of the Holy See. Dom Damian presents the Abbot with the keys of the church and the seal of the monastery. The Abbot’s pectoral cross may also be given him at this time. The specifically religious dimension is, I believe, very clear here.
The Community. The next step is particularly monastic. Each of the solemnly professed monks, in seniority, go to the new Abbot to renew his promise of obedience, saying: Father, I promise you obedience to the Rule of Saint Benedict until death. And the Abbot embraces each one saying: And may God grant you eternal life. Personally, I find this interchange the most moving moment in the election process. It summarizes, from one perspective, what we come to the monastery for and demands abandonment, trust and hope and can only be accomplished with self-forgetfulness, removing any hindrance to God’s love.
The others present, who are not solemnly professed members of this community, also come up to greet the new Abbot.
The Installation. Then all process to the church, the Abbot President and Abbot elect coming last. The Abbot elect takes the abbot’s stall–which has been empty since Vigils–and the Abbot President offers the concluding Prayer: Almighty everlasting God, who alone perform great marvels, send upon your servant N., and upon the community entrusted to him, the Spirit of saving grace; and, that he may in all truth be pleasing to you, pour upon him the everlasting dew of your blessing. Through Christ our Lord. After a brief pause, the Abbot elect gives the signal to begin Midday Prayer.
Then we go to the refectory for a celebratory buffet and, in typical monastic fashion, resume our normal work day.