Vigils Reading – SS Robert, Alberic, & Stephen

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Vigils Reading – SS Robert, Alberic, & Stephen

January 26

A Reading on the Holy Founders Journey to the Wilderness of Citeaux5
from the Exordium Magnum of Conrad of Eberbach

In the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1098, Dom Robert, the abbot of the Abbey of Molesme…and with him went those brothers whose hearts God had touched, set out from Molesme, making the same choice as their father Saint Benedict, to tire themselves out in working for God rather than settling down in a comfortable way of life. They hurried eagerly to that place which by the grace of God had been offered them beforehand as suitable to their endeavor, that is, to the wilderness called Citeaux. Situated in the diocese of Chalon, it was at that time a place but seldom approached by human beings because of the woods and dense briars and inhabited only by wild beasts.

The men of God arrived at this place of horror and vast solitude; and thought it quite suitable for the sort of religious observance which they had long had in mind and for which they had come, all the more so when they realized that the density of woods and briars would make the monastery remote and cut off, quite forgotten by and inaccessible to the world. So by the will of the bishop of Chalon and the consent of the person to whom the place belonged, they began to build there… on 21 March, that is, on the solemnity of the birth [to eternal life] of Saint Benedict, which was also Palm Sunday and therefore celebrated with double joy, to the rejoicing of angels and the casting down of demons…By a happy omen, those who had decided to arrange the ordering of their life and the guidelines for divine services according to the form prescribed in the Rule began this undertaking on the birthday of the very person who had, through the life-giving Spirit, given the saving law to many.

…Just as at the beginning of grace, when Christ our Lord and Savior was born, the world, while it knew him not, received a pledge of new redemption, of ancient reconciliation, of eternal happiness, so too in these last days, when charity is cold and iniquity everywhere abounds, the almighty and merciful Lord planted the seed of that same grace in the wilderness of Citeaux. Watered by the rain of the Holy Spirit, it gathered an incredibly plentiful harvest of spiritual riches, growing and developing into a great tree so surpassingly beautiful and fruitful that people of various nations, tribes, and tongues delighted to rest in its shade and satisfy themselves with its fruits. Yet although this fruit makes bitter the stomach of carnal desire by the work of repentance, it is as sweet as honey in the mouth of the developing conscience.

Moreover, the lord archbishop, legate of the apostolic see, acknowledged this solid foundation by his blessing, advice, and authority. Taking note of the poverty of the servants of God, moreover, and the fact that in the barren place they were living in they were able neither to subsist nor to construct a building unless they had the support of some powerful person, he wrote to the illustrious prince Odo, then Duke of Burgundy, asking and urging him to support the poor men of Christ who were so zealous for the Rule and monastic way of life, and to grant them his protection and come to their help with what they needed, as becomes the generosity of a prince. To this request and advice Lord Odo…agreed, and he was delighted by the fervor and devotion of the brothers; at his own cost he completely finished the wooden monastery they had begun in their poverty, procured for them everything they needed, and supported them abundantly with lands and livestock.

5 Conrad of Eberbach. The Great Beginnning of Citeaux: A Narrative of the Beginning of the Cistercian Order: The Exordium Magnum of Conrad of Eberbach. CF 72. Trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG, and Paul Savage. Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications, 2012. 75-78.


January 26
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