Cistercian Rite

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This entry discusses the history and development of the pre-Vatican II Cistercian Rite, and its form of the Divine Office and Mass.

Divine Office. The Cistercian Office is basically that of the Rule of St. Benedict. Before the founding of Cîteaux this Office had become so overlaid with additional psalms, little offices, litanies, processions, and commemorations that the monks were spending the greater part of their day in choir and had little or no time for manual labor. In the first half of the 12th century the Cistercians swept aside these accretions and boasted of having returned to the balanced monastic day that St. Benedict had intended. Yet the second half of the century witnessed the same process of elaboration of the choral service. First an office of the dead was to be said in choir on most days, then a daily office of Our Lady; processions were multiplied, and common commemorations introduced. Only in the 20th century was this process brought to a halt and measures taken to reform the Office to its historical simplicity.

Traditionally, on ferial days Vigils (Matins) had two nocturns, each with six psalms, the first nocturn containing either three lessons or one short lesson. On Sundays and feasts there were three nocturns, the first two each containing six psalms and four lessons, the third having three canticles and four lessons. Lauds and the Little Hours were similar in structure to those of the Roman rite. Vespers had only four psalms, and these were always ferial, that is, they did not vary for feasts. Compline began with a 15-minute reading in the cloister, consisting of Psalms 4, 90, and 133 every day, and lacked the familiar Confiteor, Nunc Dimittis, and In Manus Tuas of the Roman rite. Proper to the Cistercians were a commemoration of Our Lady before the hours, and the well-known Cistercian salve regina after Compline.

Mass. Since the Rule of St. Benedict did not give detailed instructions for the celebration of Mass, the first Cistercians appeared simply to have taken the rite of the ecclesiastical province of Lyons in which they were first situated, together with some Cluniac usages from Molesmes. In their desire for uniformity they made this rite obligatory for all houses, no matter where located. The early Cistercian Mass was characterized by simplicity. There were two categories of high Mass: the Sunday-feast-day Mass with deacon and subdeacon, and the ferial-day Mass with only one minister, either a deacon or a subdeacon. The dalmatic and tunic were not worn. Incense was used on Sundays and feasts, only at the Offertory. There were no acolytes, merely a server who came up from the choir when needed. Holy Communion was still being distributed at that time under both species, and the profound bow had not yet given way to the genuflection. Later centuries saw progressive embellishment in the form of added candles, incense, dalmatic and tunic, pontifical Masses, and a greater variety of chants. When at the end of the 16th century Pius V published his reformed Roman Missal, the ancient religious orders, although not required to adopt it, were invited to do so. The Cistercians, after much internal dissension, finally accepted the rubrics of the 1570 Missal.

Bibliography: p. guignard, Les Monuments primitifs de la règle cistercienne (Dijon 1878). h. sÉjalon, ed., Nomasticon cistercienne (new ed. Solesmes 1892). a. malet, La Liturgie

cistercienne (Westmalle 1921). a. a. king, Liturgies of the Religious Orders (Milwaukee 1955) 62156. l. j. lekai, The White Monks (Okauchee, Wis. 1953) 17l186. c. waddell, "The pre-Cistercian background of Cîteaux and the Cistercian liturgy," in e. r. elder, Goad and Nail: Studies in Medieval Cistercian History (Kalamazoo, Mich. 1985) 109132.

[t. boyd/eds.]