Congratulations to our master of ceremonies in Heiligenkreuz, Pater Cœlestin, who has been appointed secretary of the Liturgical Secretariat of the Cistercian Order. An excellent choice; Pater Cœlestin is a tremendously efficient, hard working, good humored fellow; a great lover of the beauty of the liturgy, but one with the practical skills to get things done. (How time flies! I remember when P. Cœlestin first came to the monastery as a guest, and asked me what Tu autem Domine means).
Pater Cœlestin’s first letter to the order as secretary has just been published in various languages, including English, and the original German. The English translation, by Fr. John of Dallas, is quite good, but it omits the most characteristic sentence of the whole text. In bewailing the fact that the Trappists of Westmalle no-longer print the beautiful books of Cistercian chant for which they were once famous, Pater Cœlestin writes, “Heute machen sie nur noch Bier” (today they only produce beer). The sentence is simply omitted in the translation.
The early Cistercians put a lot of emphasis on liturgical uniformity in the order, as witnessed by a line from the Charta Caritatis, which Pater Cœlestin put in the heading of his letter as a kind of motto: una caritate, una regula, similibus vivamus moribus. In context the line reads:
And because we receive all monks coming from other monasteries into ours, and they in like manner receive ours; it seems proper to us, that all our monasteries should have the same usage in chanting, and the same books for divine office day and night and the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, as we have in the New Monastery [Cîteaux]; that there may be no discord in our daily actions, but that we may all live together in the bond of charity under one rule, and in the practice of the same observances.
The vicissitudes of history, however, and especially ill-conceived attempts at aggiornamento following the last ecumenical council, have introduced a bewildering diversity into liturgical practice of the order. Thus, for example, Pater Cœlestin notes that 75% of Cistercian monasteries now celebrate the Divine Office in the vernacular (in direct opposition to Bl. Paul VI’s Sacrificium laudis). That makes the task of the Liturgical Secretariat difficult. It is to be hoped, however, that Pater Cœlestin will be able to realize some long contemplated projects: such as a new edition of the Cistercian Gradual.