Cistercian Canonical Observance
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Numerous monastic traditions have come down through the ages to modern Western society. From the early Desert Fathers there was the simple yet deep spirit of devotion to the Diety. Their lives in the wilderness of Asia Minor inspired many imitators and followers. Out of this early tradition grew the first monastic communities. The cenobites, monks in communities, as opposed to anchorite hermits, set up rules and laws to guide their lives. One of the most successful of these Rules was that of St. Benedict. It is from the followers of his rule that the great community of Benedictines has grown. The Benedictine family has sent out many branches and roots in the form of various Orders. All of them subscribe to the same Rule but there are many different interpretations of that document. Chief among them since the middle of the Middle Ages has been the Cistercian Order. In an examination of this Order an attempt will be made to show how the Rule has been applied to the Divine Office. The work of the Divine Office is the vocation which in essence is the core of Western monastic observance. The Cistercian interpretation of the obligations of this office through the years will hopefully show how one group has interpreted this flexible document, and how it has shaped the "Office " obligations of the Order. In working toward this end the Divine Office will be examined as it is presented by Benedict in his Rule. This will show how the earliest Cistercians fulfilled their obligations according to the Rule's tenets. After the establishment of this early scheme some of the Cistercian safeguards for maintaining uniformity in the Divine Office will be examined as well as additions to duties that the Cistercians made. Finally an attempt will be made to establish the obligations of modern era Cistercians to the Rule as it applies to the Divine Office. It will become apparent in the examination of the facets of the Cistercian interpretation how they, like all of their predecessors, must continually struggle to maintain the purity and consistency of their interpretation through the centuries since their founding in the wilderness of medieval Burgundy.