Finally, by obedience the monk dares to conform himself to Christ who was, as Saint Paul said, obedient unto death. Obedient to what? “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me,” that is, obedient to the Father. As a monk, you conform your will to the truth, which is God’s will manifested most clearly in the will of the community of monks you are a member of. Obedience frees the monk from his compulsions so he can freely live for others, doing what is good not just for himself, but also for the others.

The voluminous Cistercian cowl is in the shape of a cross, and that says one thing. It is white, and that says something else. Death and resurrection, this is the story of every Christian, and the monk is that story’s proclamation. “No speech, no word, no voice is heard,” yet the message goes out through all the earth (see Psalm 19).