Cistercian monastic life has always been lived at a distance from society and yet involved in work within the monastery which was of use to everyone else, traditionally agriculture. The Cistercian communities of today have retained their solitude and have been able to strengthen their contemplative spirit in the midst of a noisy and busy contemporary life. But the huge upheavals of society in the West during the past half century have meant that it has been much more difficult to have a monastic work which was viable. More than that. The developments in science, medicine and technology have eroded traditional religious beliefs, allowing many people to say, thankfully, that they can live without the old constraints of religion. It is in this climate that the traditional communities have been unable to attract women and men who, as with fifty years ago, might have found in them their true Christian calling. In the past, community life has waxed and waned as the church and society faced new challenges. It has also been taken for granted that after some crisis the pendulum would swing back to the former glories of monastic life. Today that is now probably impossible. We are at a point in history when the institutions of Christianity will undergo a climactic change or else disappear and rise in another form in the future.
So the present time is a time of hope, a time of new life. Here at Ewell we have lived through this turbulent period and, looking back, have changed over the years to enable a renewed theological outlook to influence our life and worship. We were fortunate at the outset, in 1966, to be able to share in the revised eucharistic rite of St Mary’s Abbey in which many of the old theological controversies were bypassed. We knew at the time that we could have begun our monastic life nowhere else! Then, gradually, over the years, through our reading and study and with help from friends, we have been able to mature in our thinking and commitment to, and about, the person of Christ. The Rule of Benedict indeed has at its heart the

essential raison d’etre that monks should prefer nothing to the love of Christ and to follow the gospel as guide.
Simplicity marked our daily Offices from the very beginning with space and prayerfulness. They have also been noted for their brevity! It has never seemed to us that length of services was a good criterion for worship. In fact we have a saying here, ‘There is no such thing as services, there is only worship’! So in the ambience of Cistercian life, with its integration of silence, worship, reading and realistic work we became aware of the need to go behind the protestant emphasis on worship as teaching and the catholic approach to worship through properly performed rites. The reality of the gospel is that the crucified and risen Lord is present to us and to the world in a transcendent but actual way. Such a faith leads to worship. It is joy and celebration with the Lord!

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Aelred on New Life
Tim on One World

New Life

Ewell Cistercians 2004