I have been very kindly invited to give you a salutatio. I do this with great pleasure, in my own name, and in the name of the Order which I represent. Let me begin on a very serious note. I looked up in the dictionary the meaning and use of the word salutatio. I found two, and I do not know if they apply to this situation. In the Roman world, a salutatio was the respectful greeting given to an Emperor, that is "Salve, Cæsar!" On the Ahand, Seneca has a phrase which could be applied to our present subject: per diversas domos salutationem meritoriam circumferre ; that is, translated into the language of today ; ‘to go and visit others homes' in order to be invited to a meal. If today you invite me to share in a meal, I will not need to visit anywhere else to get my food for today. So that is rather an amusing expression, but I hope you will not treat it just as a joke.
Traditional Benedictine-Cistercian Monasticism is becoming something of a rara avis in certain countries of the western North Atlantic world, a rare species, beginning to disappear. In view of this fact, whether we reject it it or admit it, there are two possibilities : to begin to sing our swan-song, or to re-evangelise our Monastic Life more deeply. Personally, I have chosen the latter. I would like to share my hopes with you now.
Monastic re-evangelisation implies three distinct realities, that are closely linked : to refound, to renew, and to reform.
Re-foundation calls to mind the fact that our existence is firmly based on the mystical experience which brought about the Monastic phenomenon : a transforming encounter with the Absolute. If our personal and community life does not have its foundation on the solid rock of a mystical encounter with Jesus Christ, sooner or later it will crash to the ground. Our search and encounter take their shape in the passionate desire for his presence, a preence which becomes a reality through the Eucharist, the Opus Dei, Lectio Divina, and the intentio cordis.
Renewal refers to new covenant being deeply rooted in our hearts, with its new commandment : to love God, and to love one's neighbour as oneself. An unparalleled two-fold command which finds its unity in the act of preferring nothing to Christ. Absolutely nothing, and the proof will be in that ardent measureless love we have for others, knowing that he, the Lord, will likewise lead us all to Eternal Life.
Reform concerns that historic or institutional form, taken by our monastic life which is of cultural or counter-cultural significance. History shows us that the experience of the founders rapidly sought institutional forms in order to last, and the make itself communicable and of significance. These institutional forms are always transitory, and are conditioned by time and place. Their worth can be verified by a double criterion : the ability to continue the experience of the founder, and the possibility of bearing witness in a meaningful way to the Church and to the world.
Today we are invited to be creative, in order to be faithful to Him who gives the charisms in the Church. More concreretly, it means modifyingour buildings according to the way that the Community is now : to adapt our economy in a world of globalization and of marginalization, without becoming ‘globalized' in our turn, and without marginalizing the poor ; to adapt our work so that it is put to the service of the spiritual objective of our existence ; to inculturate our liturgy so that it expresses more deeply our worship of God, in spirit and in truth ; to simplify our ministry of authority so that it becomes good news ; to examine the meaning of many of our symbols, language and customs ; to find new ways of living some of our traditional values such as fasting, poverty, austerity of life, solitude, silence, fraternal correction.
Brothers and sisters, we monks have a long history to relate, and it is the wil of God that we should have a long history to discover. In purgatory there are more monks who sinned by a servile fiedlity to tradition, than monks who sinned by creativity, who were not afraid to pass on this tradition by enriching it. May those who can understand this, understand !