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I was struck today by Gospel of the Woman at the Well. This Gospel has been used as a reading for persons getting ready for Baptism at Easter since the beginning of Christianity. Parishes who have catechumens use this gospel and everyone uses it when we are in the year A cycle for Lent. Since we don't have catechumens at the abbey I am always happy when it is year A when we hear this gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Lent. I remember a literature professor commenting on this gospel saying that it was one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written.
As I strolled through our woods today I could not but help marveling at how our Cistercian 'cenobitic' life is a lived, vibrant community life. In our silence we are always in communion through our daily activities; Divine Office seven times a day, Lectio Divina, gatherings in the Chapter room for community dialogs and receiving the words of life from our Abbess' teachings; shared work, community meals and various celebrations throughout the year, and yet there are plenty of opportunities for solitude, a quiet aloneness which is so necessary in the midst of our community life.
I am about to go on a trip to two of our men's monasteries. One for a meeting and the other to pick up some equipment the monks are kindly giving to us for our candy business. What always is so nice when you go to another Cistercian monastery is that you kind of feel that you haven't left home at all. There is the sense that everything is the same but it is just a little different. After all we all live the same life, pray the office in choir every day, 7 times a day. What is going to be different is that I'm going south and I hear it is in the 70's in Georgia!
In the rule of St. Benedict it prescribes that every monk receive a book for Lent and that they should read it straight through. We still do that. On Ash Wednesday we each receive a book picked out by the abbess. We are free to give her suggestions but sometimes we are surprised. We also have 'Lenten reading' which is a half-hour set aside each day during Lent to read this book, over and above our usual reading. We do this reading together, usually in the library and one other place for people who want to take notes.