Sts,—Our attention has been drawn to the query of " An Anglican Reader " in a recent issue of your paper, as to whether the Cistercian Order still possesses a proper rite.
From the 12th to the 17th century the Order maintained intact its own distinctive liturgy. The Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Pius V in the 16th century did not affect the Cistercian Rite, as Pius V not only expressly authorised all liturgies which had been in existence for 200 years, but actually decreed that the Cistercians were to follow their own Rite both for the Mass and the Divine Office.
Unfortunately, however, in the following century certain religious of the Order were carried away by the general movement of enthusiasm for the reformed Roman Rite, and little by little concessions in this direction were made by the General Chapter, until in 1657 the new Cistercian Missal juxta Roma/tem appeared, which is still in use. The Roman "Ordo Mane " was then definitively adopted by the Order. The Ritual published in 168.9 completed the work of reform by more or less successfully adapting the particular usages and ceremonial of the Order to the new Cistercian-Roman Rite. From that time down to our day there have been elements of confusion resulting from this blending of two distinct rites. To eliminate these, and to conform to a Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (1913), the rubrics of the Missal have now undergone a revision, the result of which has been that many ancient usages have been restored.
The most noticeable differences between the Cistercian Mass and the Roman Mass are the absence of sequences and the fewness of proper Prefaces. At conventual Masses the first stanza of the " 0 Salutaris" is sung after the Elevation. Besides, of course, proper Masses for certain feasts, there are divergences in the text of the sung portions of many of the Masses of the Proprium de Tempers and others; chiefly, but not exclusively, in the case of the alieleiatic verses. The divergences o.re much greater in the case of ceremonies not actually forming part of the Mass, such as the Blessing of Ashes, the Blessing of the Palms and the procession on Palm Sunday, the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday, the Blessing of the Fire and Prophecies on Holy Saturday, all of which represent in varying degrees a blending of the two rites. The differences in the Rubrics are too numerous to be mentioned here—we may instance the privileged position or the daily Mass of Our Lady, even on Maundy Thursday, and always with the Gloria in Excelsis; and the Mass of Easter Day celebrated as the first of the two conventual Masses on all Sundays of Paschal Time.
The Cistercian Order has other liturgical customs of its own; for instance, during Lent the purple curtain is hung before the sanctuary; the Statues and crucifixes are covered from the first Sunday of Lent, and on Ascension Day the Paschal candle is not extinguished until after Compline. Moreover, Cistercians follow their own rite in the administration of the sacraments, using for instance the old short form of the Confiteor.
Decisions of the Holy See in modern times have recognised the legitimacy of the Cistercian Rite, and it is not impossible that it may one day be restored in its integrity. The ancient Rite survived intact in the Cistercian Congregation of Castile down to the Revolution of 1835. and the nuns of that Congregation still celebrate the Divine Office according to that Rite.
Your correspondent's query appears to concern the Missal. The reform of the Divine Office was less drastic, and the Cistercian Breviary (except on the last three days of Holy Week, when the Roman Rite is followed) still adheresi closely to the Rule of St. Benedict, with certain minor modifications.
Holy Cross Abbey, Stapehill, Dorset.