Letter of Stephen of Lexington to the Community of Suir. (Letter 62)
Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
Again to the community of Suir, greetings.
Your Devotion has implored us through Brother J., your monk, the bearer of this letter, to delay our coming to your house until the arrival of the Justiciar. Indeed, we would kindly agree to your request if there was any reason why it should be granted. But before we received your letter, we had summoned many abbots to come to your house, and with their counsel as well as with your own we might engage in the reformation of your house as we can and ought, in accordance with the office enjoined on us. For we are not prepared to arrange of to dispose of anything on our own as if we alone were deciding, but our preparedness is from God and from the counsel of prudent and God-fearing men. In addition, the [time of] arrival of the Justiciar is not certain, while this matter requires instant attention and delay produces danger. Consequently, we have arranged, the Lord willing, to come to your house on a day within the week immediately after the feast of St. Bartholomew.
Be prepared in true repentance as sons of God and not vessels of dischord or dissension to take up again very earnestly the powerful weapons of obedience, namely patience and humility and the others, as the apostle writes, of by chance you have foolishly thrown these away at any time, or if perhaps you have made use of them but with little fervour. Direct the gaze of your mind to God alone and to the patrons of our Order, Blessed Benedict and Bernard, and so meditate on these that the attention of your heart is fixed not on things which are visible but on those which are invisible. For visible things are temporal while those which are invisible are eternal, either in the punishment of hell or the glory of heaven.
Be prepared at the same time to encourage the beloved in Christ, Brother D., your prior, to be of a high and devout mind, for which we kindly supplicate with the Most High, that in mercy and compassion the kind and merciful Lord may remember him and draw his heart to a perfect knowledge of Himself and to true and humble repentance. For indeed, although he has departed with the prodigal son for a distant country, if he still returns to his heart and desires to be restored to grace with the Great Father, as is right and proper, we are prepared with all fondness to grant the grace of absolution to him and to restore him to the favour of the Order, and also, as God is our witness, to provide for his salvation of soul and peace of mind, with the counsel of worthy men, in as much as we can and ought. But let it not happen that a Christian man, and especially a religious and monk of the Cistercian order which is accepted before God and the angels and is so resplendent with the fame of renown among men, that he neglect his Creator and the Order and fly for refuge and place his trust in secular powers as if he were an apostate or infidel. For it is much better to trust in the Lord than to trust in men, and to put hope in the spiritual arrows of prayer rather than in perishable secular weapons. For it is written: An armed people without God is unarmed. Again: The name of the Lord alone is a most strongly fortified tower, there the just man takes refuge and is freed.
Brothers, consider what danger you daily celebrate [the divine service], in what risk of soul you live daily while you are not fully in the grace of the Order. For God’s sake, hasten from imminent shipwreck to the safe harbour of the Order, seek the cure for the former disease, give your attention to the Most High Father who is offering you the robe and ring, look at your mother, the religious life, which has borne you in Christ, has nourished and nurtured you, and regard the sad and weeping bosom of mercy still opening wide to infants, that is, to humble penitents, and with all the bowels of compassion, with your whole heart and a willing soul, produce fruits worthy of repentance from now on. For we are preparing to visit you only in the simplicity of the Order, not with secular power, being ready, if it pleases the Lord, not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for himself and the laws of our fathers, Saints Benedict and Bernard, just as we and our companions are obliged to do by virtue of obedience and remission of sins. For whatever befalls us while we follow the office of obedience will always be for our good. Death and life, peace and disturbance, all merit is ours for the present and for the future glory and the crown.
We draw each and all of these things to the attention of the beloved in Christ, Brother D., your prior, and, the Lord knows, we have not refrained from writing to him by name out of malice, for we would devoutly and kindly write a letter directly to him if it were allowed. If he comes to us in person, as we have ordered, we acknowledge with great trust in the help of God that we will make proper provision for his health of soul and peace of mind. But whatever you have failed to do so far, give attention to making up for this future.
Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229, translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O'Dwyer (Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan) pp. 124 - 126
These extracts are reproduced with the kind permission of Liturgical Press: www.cistercianpublications.org
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