Sunday, April 25, 2010

Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, France

France is justly known for its Benedictine Abbeys and other religious communities which have a close affinity to the usus antiquior, but as we have also shown most recently through the Communauté Saint-Martin, it also has its share of communities which are active within the reform of the reform context as well -- which is to say, working in relation to the modern form of the Roman liturgy and in a spirit of continuity with our liturgical tradition. Not, mind you, that these need be (or should be for that matter) mutually exclusive as a point of principle of course. More and more, particularly in the light of the liturgical reforms of Benedict XVI, there is a growing understanding of the important relationship which these movements and expressions have with and offer to one another, both in principle and in practice. Thus, as a matter of principle, we see some communities, even if they predominantly use one form, supporting and encouraging both initiatives; in still other instances, we see others taking up the practice of actively using both forms, either formally as a community, or at least informally insofar as they may have members who actively use both forms.

Today I wished to feature another community which we briefly showed some three years ago, and which I wished to draw your attention to yet again today. It is a community of Benedictine monks who are resident in the mediaeval town of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, located in the French duchy of Burgundy. I am speaking of the Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval.


For their solemn public liturgy, the Abbey uses the modern form of the Roman liturgy in a reform of the reform context; namely, celebrated in Latin (with vernacular readings), using Gregorian chant and celebrated ad orientem. In addition, many of the monks will additionally offer private Masses according to the more ancient form of the Roman liturgy. The Divine Office is likewise done in Latin and Gregorian chant, using the Breviarium Monasticum adapted to the modern Roman liturgical calendar.

As the website of the Abbey notes, Flavigny was the seat of a Benedictine abbey from the 7th century until the time of the French revolution. Of this original abbey little remains, but for the crypt.

The Carolingian era Crypt

What one sees at the abbey today are the 18th century buildings -- which are architecturally quite beautiful.

The Monastery

The Main Abbey Church

The choir and organ of the main church

The Oratory of St. Joseph

The monastery itself is of diocesan right since February 2, 1988, when it obtained canonical recognition from the Bishop of Dijon. In 1992 it was raised to the rank of an abbey at the request of the Holy See, and, similar to the recent proceedings we witnessed at Clear Creek Abbey, its founder, Dom Augustin Marie Joly (d. 2006), was then made the abbot of the community.

The current abbot is Dom Antoine Marie Beauchef and the community currently counts approximately fifty monks.

Some of the community with the Abbot

Lectio Divina

One of the noteworthy pursuits of the abbey is in the domain of the liturgical arts. Not only do they pursue iconography, they also have a noteworthy practice in relation to hand-crafted sculpture work. The abbey site comments:
For many centuries, monks have been in the service of the beauty which leads to God. Since the Lord is to be praised as much by the celebration of the Divine Office as by the work of the hands - a fortiori through religious art - Our Lady Help of Christians Workshop tries to raise hearts to God, by the realization of stone statues. Such work becomes prayer according to the word of the Psalmist: “Let the light of the Lord our God shine on us! Direct for our good the work of our hands” (PS 89, 17).

Virgin Maison-au-Donataire, realized in 2004 by the Abbey workshop. This is a copy of a 16th century statue.

The Work in Progress

Saint Egilius, realized in 2002 for the facade of the Abbey

Further examples of the work of the Abbey workshop are available here and this may be yet another good source to consider if your parish is looking to commission statuary work. Generally speaking the products of the Abbey are available for order online from the Abbey gift shop, Traditions Monastiques.

The Abbey also provides a monthly spiritual newsletter which is free of charge and which you can subscribe to here.

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