Our Lady of the Holy Cross Abbey is a Roman Catholic monastery of the Cistercian Order, following the Rule of St Benedict.
An overview of our life follows this selection from the Abbot’s Lectio Notebook.
From the Abbot’s Lectio Notebook
Now that the day eagerly awaited has finally arrived, I wish you all a very blessed and holy Christmas filled with the Christ-Child’s gifts of peace, joy, and love. I also wish to thank you for your Christmas greetings and for your continued generosity to our community—your faithful friendship and support is deeply appreciated. In the spirit of today’s unique feast I offer the profound thoughts and words of encouragement from Pope Saint Leo the Great who writes: Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life. In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind. And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men? Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh. Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom. Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.
The Hours of Our Days
“Let nothing therefore be put before the Work of God.”
– Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries Chapter 43
The Work of God is the liturgical and communal prayer around which the life of a monastery revolves. At Holy Cross Abbey, then, as in every Cistercian monastery, the monks rise long before dawn for the night Office of Vigils, followed by some hours of silent prayer and Lectio divina–Scripture and other spiritual reading, personal prayer, and meditation. The Office of Lauds and the offering of Mass bring an end to the “great silence and begin the day in praise of God. After the morning’s work and simple noon meal the Meridian provides an hour for rest or reading, followed by Mid-Day Prayer and the afternoon’s work or study. The monks’ day comes to a close with the evening Office of Vespers, a light supper, and a time of quiet before the community’s final prayer together, the Office of Compline. Then, as the monks retire, the silence of the night begins, deepening that stillness they observe throughout the day.
The stillness and unchanging rhythms of the monastery provide for each monk an environment in which to respond to the living God in prayer, in the Scriptures, and in the ordinary experiences of community life.
“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading.”
– Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries Chapter 48
Manual labor is characteristic of Cistercian life. We work to realize our own financial support like the vast majority of persons who shoulder difficult conditions to earn a living. For the monks of Holy Cross Abbey this work includes the care of the land and buildings and the service of the community and our guests, in addition to the operation of the Monastery Bakery, Gift Shop, and Natural Cemetery, our chief means of support.
Hospitality and Prayer
Hospitality is as important a facet of monastic life as work. We welcome guests both in our Retreat House and Gift Shop / Porter’s Lodge. Most important of all, however, is sharing our prayer life with you. Inviting you to pray with us and with the whole Church in the liturgies of the Mass and the Divine Office, and then inviting you to join us in person, is the best way for us to share with you what is most precious to us.
A great place to start is to VISIT! This website is also an expression of our monastic hospitality in the spirit of St. Benedict. We are slowly learning about new conditions in our culture and new ways allow our monastic culture to have its impact on our world. Let us pray together that God’s kingdom may truly come.
Our Monastic Family
Those inquiring about our life may find insight by reading our history: the story of this community; the 900 years of Cistercian history, to which we belong; Cool Spring Farm; and a thumb-nail sketch of the Cool Spring property, its place in the Civil War, and the Cool Spring House.
Under Join Us, you can discover various ways of connecting with our life. First there is a description of our Monastic Life. Then there is material on our Vocation and how to begin the process of discerning a monastic vocation. But you don’t have to be thinking of a monastic vocation to spend some time with us. All are welcome in the Retreat House, and men who have the capacity for it can consider making a retreat within the community, under the Monastic Experience.
There are others who do not directly belong to the monastic community of Holy Cross Abbey, but who nonetheless are part of our monastic family. Be sure to look at the Lay Cistercian Page to learn more about these people and their way of life.