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
Father Paschal’s recent death is a timely reminder of our eternal destiny and that, in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, we have here no lasting city. However, death is not so much a rupture between this life and the life to come as it is the transitioning into the fullness of life and the natural outcome and grace-filled completion of baptism. Yves Congar explains it this way:
In Christian thought death is in friendly relationship with life; it is not thought of as separated from life, but as related to it. If the phrase is preferred, it is life’s end; not in the sense of its conclusion, but of its fulfillment. A Christian lives his life in this world with a view to death, (that is, to everlasting life), and the reason for this is that the present life has no intrinsic value, no value for its own sake, at least as primary, supreme, and ultimate reality, but is has value in relationship with everlasting life and for its own sake. For us Christians, to die is gain (Phil 1:21). Thus the pagan or purely natural idea of death is characterized by the factual separation of death from life, by a break created between the two. Christianity, however, provides the complete solution of the problem of a world in which life and death are never separated. For a Christian, death means an entry into life; it is the Passover, as expressed in Saint John’s words about our Lord (Jesus knowing that the hour had come to pass from this world to his Father); his transition to his Father, his return to his Father’s bosom as the home of mankind and to the fullness of life. For us, death is the moment when our temporal and earthly life has its final and conclusive encounter with the everlasting, heavenly, and intrinsically divine life, when the one is absorbed into the other; it is the fusion of two lives, that, for a more or less lengthy period have been constantly tangential, co-existent, and present to each other. The major fact responsible for a complete change of view, the fact that governs our idea of death is this tangency and presence of eternal life, of the real life of God, together with our human and temporal life. The major fact is that this present life is in immediate relationship with eternal life, and that both lives are always in contact. Death fulfills this relationship in a complete, final, and conclusive way; in that instant the relationship with eternal life which we then hold stands, and endures for ever. But it is only the last act of a drama which has been developing throughout life. All that death does is to impress a final and unalterable seal upon the relationship which in every moment of our earthly life we have been establishing with eternal life, uninterruptedly offered for our acceptance and at hand in all we have done. . . . When a man does what God wants him to do here and now, and gives him the grace to do, there is set up between him and God, a relationship of grace and holiness which fits him to enter into his rest, that is, his presence, his fellowship, and his bliss. Its ultimate achievement will be at his last moment, when he dies. No new factor will enter; this last moment will be like all the others, except for its finality and for the fact that it seals, consummates, and sums up all the others—for as one has lived, so will one die. . . . Christian life does not lead simply to a conclusion, a termination, a breaking off, as do all carnal things. It leads to an end in the sense of a goal attained, and the goal is God. Yves Congar: The Christian Understanding of Death
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.