Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation

 

COMMENTARY ON THE
RITUAL OF MONASTIC PROFESSION (1984)

 

CHAPTER III
THE RITE OF PERPETUAL PROFESSION

1.     Gathering of Candidates (nos. 27-28)

In keeping with custom first established by the Capitulary of Theodore,15 dating from the seventh or eighth century, and repeated by the Romano-Germanic Pontifical of the mid-tenth century,16 the rite of perpetual profession takes place within the context of a Eucharistic celebration at which the abbot presides.

After the Gospel or homily the candidates gather before the abbot (no. 28). They may be escorted by the juniormaster -- a detail mentioned in some medieval rituals and taken up by Beuron. This is an appropriate gesture which gives liturgical expression to the juniormaster's spiritual role of leading the juniors to this decisive moment.

The Roman rite (RRP III, 53) allows candidates to be called by name. We exclude the practice because it is unfounded in monastic tradition and imitates ordination rites. The monastic vocation is not a call from the Church in the way ordination is. On the other hand, the singing of "Come, my sons" (no. 27), is encouraged because it functions well as an accompaniment to the action and contributes to the distinction between temporary and perpetual profession.17  The text consists of Ps. 33:12,518 The first verse is cited in the Prolog to the Rule (RB Prol. 12). The reference to enlightenment at the beginning of the ceremony finds an echo in the diaconal summons at its conclusion: "Awake, you who sleep, rise from the dead; Christ will enlighten you" (no. 56).

2.     Request (nos. 29-30)

In the Rule of the Master a novice expressed his desire to make profession in a stirring encounter with the abbot which took place after Prime. As the community began to leave the oratory, the novice cast himself at

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the feet of the abbot and declared: "I have something to say first of all to God and this oratory, then to you and the community." The abbot replied: "Tell us what it is." The novice announced: "I desire to serve God by the discipline of the rule which has been read to me in this monastery" (RM 89: 3- 8).

Benedict, ignoring this dramatic flourish in his principal literary source, states with typical restraint that if after hearing the Rule, a novice "promises to observe everything and to obey every command given him, let him then be received into the community" (RB 58: 14). Benedict's rite, therefore, begins with the promise (see RB 58: 17-19). Similarly the Beuronese ritual of 1931 contains no preliminary dialog. After a brief abbatial admonition it too moves to the promise.

Against this background the Roman rite's provision for a formal request on the part of those to be professed (RRP III, 54- 55) is seen as an innovation. We have nevertheless retained it, employing lines from the Rule (RB Prol. 50) as the candidates' response to the abbot's question (no. 29).

From a Benedictine point of view this element is not without any basis in tradition. Medieval sources sometimes give a form of request to be used in the chapter room prior to the actual profession ceremony. If the community decided to accept the candidate's request, he was authorized to write the document which he would later read in church at the beginning of the profession rite itself.

3.     Admonition (nos. 31-35)

The ritual offers a selection of three admonition formulas (nos. 32- 34) The first one (no. 32), from the Beuronese ritual,19 is a composite piece, the final line of which is drawn from Cassian (Inst. IV, 34).

The second (no. 33) is derived from the Rule of the Master (RM 89:11-16). Like the Beuronese formula, it cautions the candidate against making his profession without due consideration, seeing that he will be held accountable for it on Judgment Day. Saint Benedict, who repeatedly calls the abbot's attention to divine judgment,20 seems to have this in mind when he warns the monk that if he ever acts contrary to his profession, "he will surely be condemned by the One he mocks" (RB 59:18).

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The third formula (no. 45) is taken from the ritual of Abbot Oderisius of Monte Cassino,21 the only medieval source containing an admonition. Theological in character, it situates monastic life within the economy of salvation and interprets it with reference to baptism. The emphasis on conversion from sin and return to the Father recalls the opening paragraph of the Rule. Although the text is almost entirely proclamatory, the final line offers profound reassurance to one about to make profession.

The Roman rite (RRP Intro. 6b; III, 56-57) speaks of a homily or address at this point in the ceremony. Provision for this is made in no. 35 of our ritual. Nevertheless, certain reservations are in order with regard to this practice. A homily is addressed to the entire congregation and is an extension of the Scripture readings. Its content varies accordingly. An admonition is addressed exclusively to the candidates; has no necessary connection with the readings of the day; and as a word of caution to those who are about to make a decision with eternal consequences, is unchanging in content. The attempt to combine both in the same address risks violating the integrity of each; for either the abbot will address the congregation and, at least for the moment, ignore the candidates who have just gathered before him and made their request, or else he will speak to the candidates and pass over the congregation. For this reason it seems preferable for the abbot to preach a homily after the Gospel and then direct a pointed admonition to the candidates once they have assembled before him.

4.     Promise (nos. 36-37)

In the Rule we read that "when he is to be received, he makes a promise of stability, fidelity to the monastic life, and obedience ... He states his promise (promissio) in a document (petitio).... (RB 58: 17,19 ). Thus the act of profession comprises two elements:

the making of the promise, and
the writing of a document known as the petitio.

Of these the first was the more important, for as Cornelius Justice noted,

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At the time of St. Benedict, Roman law demanded the oral
declaration for validity, not the written. The custom of writing
the contract came into use in later Imperial times, from East to
West. Before that, the writing of a document was only for the
sake of the records.22

Benedict does not describe the manner by which the promise was made, but a ninth century manuscript from Albi bears precious witness to an interrogative rendition, technically known as a stipulatio contract in which the matter to be agreed upon is set out in the form of question and answer. It reads:

A brother who is to be received in the oratory, in the presence of all, is questioned thus:
'Do you promise your stability, the monastic way of life, and
obedience before God and his Saints?
Let the novice himself answer thus: With the help of God
and according to my understanding and capability, I promise.
Do you believe (credis) that if you should ever act otherwise you will be condemned by him whom you mock?
Let him answer: I believe (credo).23

The second member, employing the verb credere, recalls the interrogative creed which was the ancient Roman baptismal formula. Abbot Herwegen argued for the possibility that the archetype of this text originated in Rome and was sent to Albi during the first half of the seventh century along with a copy of the Rule of Saint Benedict, who is designated as "the Roman abbot."24 If this be so, it was composed only a century after Benedict. In any case, "it is the first Gallic example of Benedictine monasticism and is free from any Columban influence or from any explicit feudal features."25

Closely resembling the Albi formula is a triple interrogation found in the ritual of Abbot Oderisius of Monte Cassino. After the admonition, which we have already described, the candidates are asked:

Do you wish (vultis) to renounce the world and its pomps ?
They answer: We do (volumus).
Do you wish (vultis) to take up the monastic way of life and renounce and leave behind the affection of your own parents?
They answer: We do (volumus).
Do you wish (vultis) to profess obedience according to the Rule of Saint Benedict, renouncing even your own will?
They answer: We do (volumus).26

This formula, involving both renunciation and commitment, recalls the baptismal rejection of Satan and adherence to Christ.

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Unfortunately, the growing influence of feudalism put an end to the interrogative promise. In the feudal system a man became vassal' to a lord by kneeling before him and swearing fealty. This gave rise to a declarative form of promise, which, of course, is the form of the petitio or written document. Thus the stipulatio contract disappeared from the rite,27 and was eventually replaced by a simple reading of the document, already drafted beforehand. As a consequence the public reading of the document alone came to be considered as the essential element of profession.

The Benedictine revival of the last century returned to the primitive understanding and practice. Solesmes availed itself of the ancient text of Monte Cassino.28 Dom Delatte rightly recognized it as an oral promise, to be completed, but not replaced, by the reading of the document. He declares:

The candidate replies to a series of precise and plain questions by
the repetition of Volo, (I will). This oral promise is nowadays
completed by the reading of the document containing the vows.29

The ritual of Beuron incorporates the same Monte Cassino text, but to the three questions of the original, appends two others, 30 the last being the same as the first question of the Albi formula. From our study it is clear that these questions, used throughout the Federation until 1970, are intended to be an interrogative form of promissio. The candidates' response to these questions, together with their reading of the document, constitute the act of profession.

The Roman rite likewise provides a series of questions after the admonition, but conceives them in an entirely different way. Placed under the heading of Examination, their stated purpose is to assess the candidates' "readiness to dedicate themselves to God and to seek perfect charity, according to the rule or constitutions of the religious community" (RRP III, 57; see Intro. 6e). Of the five sample questions proposed, the first is rather superfluous since the candidates' resolution to make final profession has already been made known in the request (RRP III, 55).

The last three look toward the ultimate goals of religious life: perfect love of God, service of his people, union with him in prayer. Only the

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second question bears immediately upon the matter at hand: a life of perfect chastity, obedience, and poverty.

The questions, then, deal with a variety of subjects and their purpose is to examine whether the candidates are subjectively ready to make the act of profession which will be forthcoming only later: after the Litany of the Saints. In other words, the Roman rite regards the interrogation, like the litany, as a preliminary to profession. It restricts profession itself to the reading of the written document (RRP III, 64) which takes place after the Saints have been invoked. This is not the original Benedictine view. Nor is it our own.

According to our tradition the act of profession includes an oral promissio as well as a reading of the written document. The concrete shape given to the promissio is question and answer. Hence the interrogation is not an examination but a form of promise. It is not a preliminary to profession but an essential constituent of it. Its content should correspond as closely as possible to that of the written document, since these are complementary parts of the single act of profession.

Responsibility to our assigned task obliges us to maintain the genuine monastic tradition. Hence we have entitled this section of our ritual Promise, not Examination. As a formula (no. 36) we have chosen the terse but powerful questions of the ritual of Albi. If posed with the necessary gravity and deliberation, their impact cannot but be striking. The formula of Monte Cassino, to which we have appended a concluding question from the Beuronese ritual, is intended for temporary profession (no. 18), but may also be used at final profession (see :no. 37).

Before turning to the profession document it is necessary to entertain a brief digression. After the interrogation, the Roman rite directs the candidates to prostrate as the community recites the Litany of the Saints, the second half of which has been refashioned for use at religious profession (RRP 111, 60-63; see Intro. 6d). We are opposed to intercessory prayer at this point in the rite for three reasons:

1) It separates the interrogation from the reading of the document. This presents no problem for the Roman rite, which regards the interrogation

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and the litany as preliminaries to profession. But for Benedictines, who regard the interrogation as a form of Benedict's promissio, this arrangement involves separating the promise which the candidate makes in response to the abbot's questions from the same promise written in his own hand and read aloud in the hearing of all.

2) It separates the intercessory prayer of the community from the consecratory prayer of the abbot, and produces two moments of prayer: the first being a preparation for profession; 31 the second being a request for divine acceptance of the profession already made. Benedictines cannot dissociate the abbot from the community in this way. Their theological understanding of profession, to be explained later, requires that the two be kept together.

3) Most of all, the prostration of the candidate and intercessory prayer of the community at this point in the rite runs counter to the entire monastic tradition, which provides a single moment of prayer --  and that, following the suscipe. This tradition is rooted in the prescription of the Rule which states that after the suscipe the newly professed "prostrates himself at the feet of each monk to ask his prayers (Ut orent pro eo)" (RB 58:23).

We shall develop these topics at greater length in subsequent sections of the commentary. For the present, suffice it to say that we have eliminated the litany after the interrogation (promise) and restored the authentic Benedictine practice of joining community intercessions with the consecratory prayer of the abbot after the suscipe.

5. Reading of Profession Document (nos. 38-39)

The Constitutions of our Congregation, according to which profession is made, define the nature and scope of perpetual profession. Communities which desire to make these matters more explicit in the profession document may do so. The manner of reading the document varies in the monasteries of our Federation. In some houses it is read standing; in others kneeling. In most houses it is simply read, though in two it is sung.32 In some houses it is signed on the altar; in others on the gospel book.

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In some houses it is shown to the assembled community; in others not. The present ritual respects these local touches and refrains from specifying how the document is to be read (see no. 38).

As ordered by the Rule (RB 59: 20), the document is placed on the altar after it is read. This gesture had already been decreed by the Rule of the Master (RM 89: 17). Even the Roman rite states that after reading the document the newly professed may fittingly go to the altar, one by one, to place on it the formula of profession; if it can be done conveniently, each of them should sign the document of profession upon the altar itself (RRP III, 65).

Placing the document on the altar is of great importance, because the altar is a tangible sign of the presence of God, to whom the monk binds himself by contract. During the Middle Ages oaths were taken by placing both hands on the altar. There are records of deeds conveyancing lands, acts of manumission33 freeing bondsmen, etc., being also performed at the altar.

Besides making the engagement juridically binding,34 contact with the altar also invests it with a kind of consecration. Delatte writes:

The novice, even though he is a layman, signs his vow s on the altar itself, on the stone whereon Our Lord Jesus Christ offers and immolates Himself. And St. Benedict would have him deposit them there with his own hand. Thenceforth, the promise and offering of the novice are consecrated things.35

Since profession is made "before God and his Saints whose relics are here" (no. 39 see RB 58: 18-19), the relics possessed by the monastery might fittingly be exposed on the day of profession. The Saints, through the presence of their visible remains, witness the monk as he commits himself to a life of
testifying to the "victory of Christ's cross" (no. 32). They know what to look for because their own witness to the same reality has now attained perfection. Their bones are proof! Hence the relics of the Saints remind the monk of his own goal: that of being assimilated with them into the holiness of Christ.

Mention of God and his angels, found in some profession formulas, does not derive from the Rule, but from Cassian, who said: "Take heed to continue even to the end in that state of nakedness of which you made profession in the sight of God and his angels" (Inst. IV, 36, 2).

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6. Suscipe (nos. 40-41)

The suscipe figured in the profession rite outlined by the Rule of the Master (RM 89: 24). There it was recited but once. Benedict, always fond of triplets (see RB 35: 17-18; 38: 3), orders it to be recited three times and requires the community to repeat it each time, adding the doxology at the end (RB 58:22). This is a constant and universal element of Benedictine tradition.

The translation of the suscipe and, consequently, its interpretation calls for some attention. The text is from Ps. 118:116.36 In the Hebrew and Greek versions, the first word of the verse means "to prop up, to make secure, to support as with a staff." The "uphold" or "sustain" found in some contemporary Benedictine rituals as well as RRP III, 66 reflect the Hebrew and Greek. Benedict, however, was citing the Vulgate translation. The Latin verb suscipere can mean "to take upon oneself' in the sense of supporting and sustaining. But it can also mean "to take upon oneself' in the sense of acknowledging, recognizing, or accepting something as one's own. Although the first of these meanings corresponds to the Hebrew, and Greek, it is probably the second that Benedict has in mind. In other words, Benedict envisaged the suscipe as a prayer not for divine support, but for divine acceptance. For this reason we endorse the rendition given in RB 1980: "Accept me, O Lord" (no. 40). Delatte captures the sense of the verse quite well when he writes: "Grant that I may be really 'given' and really 'received,' truly received because truly given, and that both of us may be able to keep our word.37

Consistent with this interpretation, the act of monastic profession is understood. at least implicitly, as an oblation or sacrifice. In the suscipe the newly professed beg God to accept the offering which they make of themselves in response to his promise of eternal life (Mk. 10:28-30).38 By repeating the verse, the community joins them in their offering to the Father. This repetition also signifies that the newly professed have been incorporated into the community, accepted by the community. The resulting fellowship is the pledge and assurance of the eternal life which the newly professed seek and because of

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which they have left all things. It is also the visible manifestation of Gods answer to their prayer and hence of his acceptance of their offering.39

In the suscipe, therefore, the newly professed at one and the same time seal their self-renunciation and come to belong to the community and to God. Thus are they made holy, consecrated. This consecration of the newly professed, begun in the suscipe, is prolonged in the prostration and intercessory prayer of the community, and culminates in the consecratory prayer of the abbot. The rite of mystical burial will be yet another way of saying that at profession, as at baptism and Eucharist, the monk is assimilated to the sacrifice of Christ, and that he now belongs to God alone.

7. Prayer of the Community (nos. 42-45)

In preceding pages we have noted that the Roman rite locates community intercession between what it calls Examination and Profession, but what we term Promise and Reading of the Profession Document. We have already registered disagreement with this arrangement, and have given reasons for it. At this time we will explore the Rule and monastic tradition with a view to further clarification of the significance of intercessory prayer at this point in the ceremony: namely after the suscipe.

The Rule indicates that after the suscipe the newly professed are to prostrate at the feet of each of the brethren ut orent pro eo (RB 58: 23). Tradition has determined this to mean that the newly professed should lie on the floor before the brethren collectively. It has also been quite extravagant in prescribing the prayers to be recited. The prayer material of medieval rituals as well as that of Beuron falls into three categories: 1) Kyrie, Pater, and capitula, that is, versicles and responses excerpted from the Psalter; 2) one, three, seven, or twelve psalms; 3) a series of orations performed by the abbot.

It should be observed that the first two groupings represent the prayer of the brethren as such. Each is dialogical in form. Either the entire community responds to versicles intoned by a soloist, or else the community divides into two choirs and alternates verses of complete

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psalms. This dialogical form of intercessory prayer prolongs and intensifies within the community, the dialog between the newly professed, the community, and God which originated with the suscipe. Furthermore, the suscipe and the ensuing community intercession are both drawn from the same source: the Psalter. Finally, this growing crescendo of prayer climaxes in the orations of the abbot.

From this we see that the Ordo ad faciendum monachum, traditionally understood, consists of two main parts: profession and prayer. In the first part the candidates move toward God. Initially they are drawn forth in response to the abbot's questions. They continue on their own momentum, as it were, by reading the document which their own hands have written. In the second part God moves toward them. This presence is elicited by their prayer, then that of the community, and finally that of the abbot. The core of the rite, therefore, begins and ends with the abbot. It is he who calls forth the candidates' promise by his questions at the beginning; and it is he who calls forth the divine presence by his prayer at the end. Yet the abbot is never disassociated from the community. The questions he poses in the beginning set before the candidates the basis of the community's life; and the prayer which he makes at the end is but the culmination of the community's prayer.

It is precisely this internal structure of parts which the Roman rite has disturbed. The order can be restored only by placing the intercession after the suscipe. This enables the prayer of the candidates,
the prayer of the community, and the prayer of the abbot to succeed each other as a single coherent movement; and it enables the reading of the document to follow upon the oral promise as complementary parts of the single act of profession.

The present ritual offers three forms of community intercession (no. 42). The first is Psalm 50
(no. 43).  This is by far the most frequently used psalm in medieval profession rites. It is particularly appropriate because it solicits mercy, forgiveness, wisdom, purity of heart, a new spirit, joy. The concluding lines bring out the sacrificial character of the act of profession. Psalm 50 is a prayer entirely grounded in the covenant: the covenant of peace. In order to facilitate the participation

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of the whole congregation, a refrain maybe sung between the verses.

The second form (no. 44) consists of versicles and responses. Recited in solidarity with, and in the name of the newly professed, the texts remain in the first person singular -- as does the suscipe when repeated by the community. The first member of any given couplet may be chanted by a soloist, and the community may respond by chanting the second member; or both members may be rendered by a soloist, and the community may sing a refrain, such as "Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry come before you." The sources of the verses, taken from the Grail translation, are as follows: 1) Ps. 56:2; 2) Ps. 37:22; 3) Ps. 30:17; 4) Ps. 24:4; 5) Ps. 24:21; 6) Pss. 55:13 and 60:6; 7) Ps. 15:11.

The third form of intercession (no. 45) is an integral translation of the familiar Clementissime Dominator domine. The Maurist Dom Martene published it from the thirteenth century ritual of Aniane,40 from which Dom Gueranger took it for use in his Ceremonial of 1897. The compilers of the ritual of Beuron also availed themselves of it.41 Hence its generations of use in our Federation. Actually the text originated neither in the thirteenth century nor at Aniane. It is of Visigothic facture and first appears in the Liber Ordinum -- the ritual of the Mozarabic Church of Spain from the early eighth century until the end of the eleventh century.

Very carefully composed, it comprises an introduction, a series of petitions, and a concluding sentence which to some extent repeats the introductory request. It is not a general calling down of divine favors upon the newly professed, but is specifically concerned that they remain faithful to the call they have accepted and so preserve the credibility of their monastic life. This concern, expressed in the introduction, is summed up in the first petition: Sit vita probabilis. The other petitions enumerate the many traits which must characterize the monk's life if his profession is to appear plausible to the eyes of God and man. These are important because as the admonition warns, "you will have to give an account of it at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (no. 32). Infidelity to any of them may result in the monk's being condemned by him whom he mocks!

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In practice the introduction and conclusion may be given by the abbot. The petitions may be read or sung by another minister. The congregation's Amen is a sign of affirmation and support to the monk in his daily struggle to be faithful.

The Litany of the Saints has been eliminated from our ritual. It really would not be appropriate at the place we have provided for intercessory prayer. Besides, it is another unfortunate instance of the profession liturgy assimilating features of ordination rites.

8. Prayer of Consecration (no. 46)

The notion of consecration as applied to monastic profession is surrounded by a certain amount of ambiguity. If consecration is understood as a setting apart for God and a dedication to his service, becoming a monk has always had the character of consecration. If, on the other hand, it implies "an official act of the Church ... performed by one who has the power and jurisdiction -- a bishop, or, by delegation a priest,"43 then the element of consecration represents a theological development within the profession liturgy. Taken in the second sense, the consecration of the monk began in the East during the fifth century. It is described a century later by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite:

The priest stands before the Divine Altar and religiously pronounces the invocation for monks. The Monk stands behind the Priest, neither bends his knees, nor one of them. nor has upon his head the Divinely transmitted oracles; but only stands near the Priest while he pronounces upon him the mystical Benediction.44

Later the practice spread to the West. The Rule of Benedict foresaw only the prayer of the brethren at the profession ceremony, so there was no consecration in the technical sense. The seventh or eighth century Capitulary of Theodore is the first evidence in the West of profession taking place within a Mass celebrated by the abbot, who also recites three orations over the new monk.45 The Romano-Germanic Pontifical of the mid-tenth century repeats the canon of Theodore, then gives the texts of three prayers. They are:

 1) Dignare, domine quaesurnus, famulo tuo renuntianti;
 2) Clementissime dominator, domine;

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3) Omnipotens et misericors Deus, cuius sanctae religionis origo.46


As we have said, medieval rituals always provide several orations for the abbot to say at the conclusion of the prayer section of the rite. The orations of the pontifical, however, rarely appear among them, and never together. The extent to which these prayers were understood as consecratory in the strict sense is difficult to tell. 47 The words benedictio-benedicere occur with some frequency, especially in titles, but seem to apply to the rite as a whole rather than to a particular part. It is doubtful, therefore, whether our medieval forefathers had isolated the "moment of consecration."48

The ritual of Beuron contains the three orations of the pontifical.49 Alterations introduced into the third of these give evidence of its being intended as a formula of consecration. Besides being set to the melody of a Preface, the dialog of the Eucharistic prayer precedes it, and the original invocation,

Omnipotens et misericors Deus, is replaced by Vere dignum.

The Roman rite committed itself to an explicitly consecratory prayer. It is the solemn blessing or consecration of the professed, by which the Church accepts their vows, consecrates them to God, and asks the heavenly Father for abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit for the professed (RRP Intro. 6f).

It' provides two formulas for this purpose (RRP III, 67, 143). The prayer of consecration in the present ritual (no. 57) is an original composition, more monastic in character than the Roman ones.

It refrains from being didactic and adheres rather strictly to the biblical pattern of giving thanks to God for the wonderful work of his grace, which began with creation and reached completion in Christ. The memorial of the history of salvation provides the basis for petitioning God to intervene at the present moment in order to bring his plan for the world to its eschatological fulfillment. The consecration of the monk is thereby brought into relationship with the entire economy of salvation.

The prayer opens by mentioning the creation and fall of man, then recalls the promise made to Abraham (Gn. 12: 1-3) once the human race, in consequence of sin, had been dispersed in the aftermath of Babel (Gn. 11: 9). The Church and the monastic community, gathered together

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in obedience to God's word, reverses this scattering of mankind.

The next two paragraphs dwell on Moses (Si. 45: 1-6) and Elijah (Si. 48:1-9), each of whom saw God (Ex. 33:11; 1K 19:11 ff.) and so enjoy a privileged place in mystical theology. They are men of humility (Nb. 12: 3) and obedience (1K 17:1-18:46), to whom Benedict is frequently likened.

Recollection of the Tishbite leads naturally to another monastic favorite, John the Baptist, who is Elijah come again (Mt. 11: 14; 17:12-13). His call to repentance (Mk. 1:4-5) is the immediate preparation (Lk. 1:17) for the redemptive work of Christ sketched in the fourth paragraph (IP 2: 24). The gift of the spirit, intimately bound up with Christ's session at the right hand of the Father, is itself the blessing (AA 3:26) promised to Abraham, and creates the new humanity from which the Church and the cenobitic fraternity are born by baptism and profession respectively.

At this point thanksgiving and memorial give way to petition. In the name of the whole assembled community the abbot directs the attention of God to the newly professed whose prayer and offering with repentance and tears plead with him to fulfill his promise. Subsequent lines, drawn mainly from Saint Paul, formulate specific requests pertinent to a life of sanctity. The ultimate concern of the prayer is that the new monks, by patient perseverance, might be able to join the "great cloud of witnesses" (Hb. 12:1) in the heavenly Jerusalem on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Th. 3:13; Zc. 14:5). Reference to the angels "assembled for the feast" (Hb. 12: 22) evokes the Eucharist, soon to be celebrated as the foretaste and pledge of eschatological communion.

9. Sign of Perpetual Profession (nos. 47-50)

According to the Rule, after a newly professed brother has sought the prayer of the brethren, he is "stripped of everything that he is wearing (exuatur rebus propriis), and clothed in what belongs to the monastery (induatur rebus monasterii " (RB 58: 26). This action is not an appendage to the profession ceremony, but the climax of it. Profession is entirely oriented toward the reception of the habit. Moreover, use of the word res in this context indicates that Benedict is thinking of some

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thing more profound and inclusive than a mere change in dress. The exchange of clothing gives dramatic expression to the deepest significance of monastic profession; namely, that by it one is completely stripped of his former self and given a new truth or reality (res): that of being a monk. Benedict himself declares that after profession a monk "will not have even his body at his own disposal" (RB 58: 25; see 33:4).

For several reasons an exchange of clothing is uniquely capable of giving powerful expression to this total transformation. Clothing is a fundamental and basic human necessity; jewelry and ornaments are accessories. Unlike a pin, a medal, or a ring, clothing is not something one can easily remove and still go unnoticed; secondly, clothing is all embracing; it covers the entire body from head to foot. Ornaments, on the other hand, are extremely small and touch only a tiny segment of a single member of the body. Thirdly, conferral of clothing has a negative counterpart: the stripping off of what had been worn until then. Between the stripping and the presentation of new vesture, one is literally naked. This, according to Cassian, is the true condition of the monk at the moment of profession (Inst. IV, 36, 2). Contrasted with the exchange of clothing, then, any other sign of profession is bound to appear minimal.

What were the clothes presented to the new monk? Judging from Chapter 55 of the Rule, we may suppose them to have consisted of the tunic, the cowl, and possibly the scapulare, "a kind of strap worn over the shoulders to protect the tunic during work."50 Saint Benedict's word for "cowl" is cuculla, which means a round or conical shaped bag attached to a garment and destined to be worn on the head. The cuculla, in other words, was a hood. It was "gradually extended until it became a full-length garment,"51 which, of course, is our present understanding of the term.

We must recognize that the cuculla has an entirely different function in our day than if had in Benedict's time. For us it is a purely liturgical and ceremonial garment. For Benedict it was part of the monk's ordinary daily apparel. Furthermore, the design assumed by the cuculla in our Federation lacks the very feature which Benedict meant by the term: namely, the hood! Hence we should not be deceived into thinking that by

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conferring the cuculla in our sense of the word we are being faithful to the prescriptions of the Rule.

Obviously the full range of practical conclusions to be drawn from this brief historical sketch lie beyond the scope of our commentary. But the data itself certainly introduces complications into the way any given community chooses to handle this component of the profession rite.

The cuculla continues to be the most commonly employed sign of perpetual profession in our Federation. There is much to recommend it. It is an article of clothing; it is voluminous, and undeniably associated with final profession and full membership in the community. To maintain its full value as a sign, however, the cuculla must be worn with some regularity in the monastery; otherwise it will degenerate into a mere token, like a graduation robe.

Because of the widespread use of cucullas, the ritual accords it special mention (no. 47). The formula given in the Beuronese ritual for blessing the cuculla52 was used throughout the Middle Ages for blessing the monastic habit. We prefer to reserve it for that purpose (see no. 22) and so offer another one for blessing the cuculla (no. 48). It is found in English pontificals from the eighth through the tenth centuries.53 The prayer regards the cuculla as an objective sign of values into which the newly professed must grow. Reference to perseverance with a view to receiving the prize of life (Ph. 3:14) is especially fitting at perpetual profession.

Abbeys in which cucullas are no longer worn might consider the possibility of presenting a blessed habit on the day of final profession (see no. 50). A precedent for this is found in the thirteenth century. At that time Bernard of Monte Cassino lamented the fact that the monastic habit was conferred on novices. But he is quick to add: non tamen habitum bene dictum.54 He implies that a blessed habit was proper to the professed. A century later Peter Boherius mentions the blessing as one of several features which should distinguish the habit of the professed from that of novices. He states: ...scissura tamen, colore vel benedictione distingui debet hujusmodi habitus novitiorum ab habitu profesorum.55

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In English monasteries the blessing of the habit seems to have become so characteristic of profession, that when the novice was asked of his request, he replied: Benedictionem habitus mei.56 Another indication of the importance attached to this element is that in one branch of the tradition the habit is blessed at the very beginning of the service. The novice, having been stripped of his own clothing, then makes profession with a view to putting on the blessed habit.57

Adapting this practice to the present day would mean giving the monastic habit at temporary profession without a blessing; then replacing it with a blessed habit (or scapular) at final profession. The logic here is that just as the blessing or consecration of the monk himself is reserved for perpetual profession, so too is the blessing of the habit the latter being the sign of the former.

10. Kiss of Peace (no. 51)

Contrary to the Rule of the Master (RM 89: 26), Benedict makes no provision for the kiss of peace. Medieval rituals, however, mention it almost unanimously -- as does the ritual of Beuron and the Roman rite (RRP III, 70b). The ritual of Beuron directs the new brother to genuflect at the feet of each professed monk, saying: Ora pro me, Pater. Answering Proficiat tibi, Frater, the latter raises and embraces the new brother.58 The verbal formula was taken from the medieval ritual of Corbie,59 but genuflection is not mentioned there. Whatever be the historical origin of the practice, it obviously fuses the kiss of peace with Benedict's injunction relative to prostrating at the feet of the brethren and begging their prayer. The joining of these two elements, however, occasions a certain amount of misunderstanding, for it creates the impression that Benedict's prescription is realized during the kiss of peace, whereas more ancient tradition viewed the prostration and community intercession after the suscipe as the fulfillment of his words. This misunderstanding is only reinforced when, following the Roman rite, prostration and community intercession take place before the reading of the profession document, and the prayer of consecration alone is recited after the suscipe. In this case the gestures surrounding the kiss of peace are the sole vestige

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of Benedict's injunction.

Despite the possibility of misunderstanding, the custom of embracing the new monk only after he had genuflected and asked for prayer had the very distinct advantage of situating the kiss of peace within a religious framework which prevented it from degenerating into a purely humanistic expression of congratulations which it is rapidly becoming today. To arrest this trend it may be worthwhile to retain the Beuronese format. Benedict himself said with regard to receiving guests:

"First of all they pray together and are united in peace, but prayer must always precede the kiss of peace..."(RB 53: 4,5).

The kiss of peace should be bestowed by all perpetually professed monks, but by no one else: not those who are still in formation, and certainly not by family, friends, and guests. It is the sign whereby the permanent members of the community receive new brothers into the circle of their fellowship. In this sense it accomplishes what Benedict meant when he said: "... from that very day he is to be counted as one of the community" (RB 58: 23). Hence it should not be a display of well-wishing on the part of the entire assembly.

Similarly, the kiss of peace during the profession rite should not eliminate a general exchange of peace before communion. In the profession rite the kiss of peace is hierarchically bestowed from senior to junior as a gesture of welcome. Before communion it is exchanged by all the baptized as a sign of solidarity and mutual forgiveness.

11. Mystical Burial (nos. 52-59)

Nathan Mitchell cites the ritual of Montoliveto in 1445 as the first evidence of mystical burial at profession.60 Delatte points to the ritual of the Congregation of Saint Maur in 1666.61 Dom Gueranger preserved it at Solesmes, though he is reported to have stated in his conferences that it was "too theatrical."62 The monks of Beuron included it in their compilation, and so it has come down to us.

The remote origins of mystical burial are shrouded in obscurity. The custom of velatio, that is, veiling the heads of the newly professed with the cowl, and prostration, are the two items which seem to have

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given rise to it. Concerning the first of these, the famous canon of Theodore again seems to have been influential. After saying that the abbot should celebrate the profession Mass and recite three orations over the new monk, it orders the abbot to veil the new monks head with the hood and uncover it only after seven days. The canon recognizes that this custom is analogous to the practice of veiling the newly baptized for seven days. The reason is that monastic profession secundum baptismum est juxta judicium patrum, et omnia peccata dimittuntur sicut in baptismo.63 That baptism entails being clothed with Christ was already enunciated by Saint Paul (Ga. 3:27; see Eph. 4:21-24; Col. 3:8-10). The canon applies the idea to investiture with the monastic habit. The eventual covering of the newly professed with a pall is only a further extension of the covering implied by the giving of the habit.

Medieval rituals shorten the duration of velatio from seven to three days. Practically all of them state that after receiving the habit, the heads of the newly professed remain covered with the hood. On the third day the abbot, who usually celebrates the Eucharist again, lowers the hoods of the new monks just before giving them communion. This reduction permits a development in the significance of velatio. It is expressed in the ritual of Sens, which interprets the covering of the head for three days as a figure of the Lord's passion, If and the uncovering as an enactment of the day of the resurrection.64 Here it is not only the state of being veiled that is important, but the very acts of covering and uncovering. The intervening three days permits an explicit link with Christ's sojourn in the tomb. Thus the monastic velatio becomes less dependent on the baptismal velatio for its meaning. It now signifies personal union with Christ, buried and raised. Since this is what baptism signifies, profession is a second baptism. When the pall is forthcoming it will express not only "putting on Christ, but also joining him in his death and resurrection. Hence the chant from Col. 3: 3: "I have died and my life
is hidden with Christ in God" (no. 65).

The second element which seems to be bound up with the origin of mystical burial is prostration. The posture of lying motionless on the floor no doubt suggested death. The conviction that profession is a second

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baptism and that baptism implies being buried with Christ (Rm. 6:4; Col. 2:12) may have given rise to the custom of covering the newly professed with the funeral pall. Ordinarily prostration occurs after the suscipe and is accompanied by community intercession. But the Ceremonial of Bursfeld locates it at the end of the profession rite. Having been vested in the monastic habit and having been given the kiss of peace, the newly professed prostrate throughout the Offertory and Canon until the chanting of the Agnus Dei.65 This is the prostration around which the earliest rituals of Beuron fitted the elements of mystical burial.

The Ceremonial der heiligen Profess, published in 1868 apparently for the Abbey of Beuron itself, and the first ritual of the Congregation in 1895 both placed mystical burial at the very end of the profession rite. After receiving the kiss of peace, the newly professed prostrated and were covered with the funeral pall as the choir sang the responsory Mortuus sum. They remained there until after the abbot's communion when the deacon aroused them by singing: Surgite, qui dormitis et exurgite a mortuis, et illuminabit vos Christus.66

The American-Cassinese rituals of 1875 and 1907 show a different format. As soon as the newly professed prostrate after the suscipe they are covered with the pall and the Mortuus sum is sung. The intercessions and orations are said as usual, then the new monks are called to rise by the deacon's surgite. The blessing and conferral of the cuculla follow.67 The advantage of this arrangement is that the mystical burial coincides with the single prostration which tradition understood Benedict to have prescribed, and does not entail a second one. The disadvantage is that the singing of Mortuus sum separates the intercessions from the suscipe. As we have explained, these two elements should follow one another. Moreover the raw power of the mystical burial, especially in its classical form, tends to obliterate whatever else is happening, and so reduces the intercessory prayer to something of an interlude. Finally mystical burial has no link with clothing and velatio.

The Beuronese ritual of 1931 displays a surprising shift when compared with the two older editions. In the 1931 version the newly professed are covered when they prostrate after the suscipe, at which time Mortuus sum is chanted. This matches the American-Cassinese rendition.

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What is unexpected in the Beuronese ritual of 1931, however, is that the Surgite is sung immediately after Mortuus sum, and the cucullas are blessed and presented. Then the newly professed kneel and the intercessions take place.68 This, of course, was the usual practice in our Congregation. Unfortunately, in this schema the intercessions are even further removed from the suscipe than was the case in the American-Cassinese rituals. When they are finally forthcoming, the new monks are no longer prostrate, but merely kneeling. Thus the intercessions are disassociated not only from the suscipe, but also from the prostration which follows it and which they were originally devised to accompany! On the other hand, the prostration following the suscipe has been completely swallowed up by the mystical burial.

Our ritual offers three options for mystical burial (no. 52). The first (nos. 53- 57) is to have it after the suscipe as provided by the American Cassinese rituals of 1875 and 1907. This arrangement has already been described and evaluated.

The second option is to locate mystical burial after the prayer of consecration (no. 58). This solution respects the stated purpose of the prostration (Ut orent pro eo), and allows the community intercession and prayer of consecration to succeed the suscipe as early tradition would have it. Yet mystical burial, following upon the consecratory prayer, would still be attached to the prostration, though without entering into competition with community intercession. The principal deficiency of this arrangement -- and one which can be directed against the Beuronese ritual of 1931 -- is that when the Surgite is sounded immediately after the Mortuus sum, the newly professed emerge from the "tomb" too quickly.

In view of this we offer another option.

The third option (no. 59) is based on the Ceremonial der heiligen Profess of 1868 and the first Beuronese ritual of 1895. Its advantages are several. First, it allows the ancient profession rite to remain completely intact. Being a late-comer and somewhat illustrative in character, mystical burial does not interpose itself between the older constitutive elements of profession. Secondly, it extends and enlarges upon the theme already contained in the conferral of the cuculla or blessed habit, which

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is itself a covering over." Thirdly, it serves as a transition and bond between the profession rite and the Eucharistic celebration, the latter being a sacramental expression of full incorporation into the cenobitic fraternity. Just as baptism drives toward Eucharist, so too does profession. The sacrifice of self implied by profession likewise acquires a clearer link with the Eucharistic sacrifice. Benedict himself made this link when speaking of the offering of young boys: "...at the presentation of the gifts, they wrap the document itself and the boy's hand in the altar cloth. That is how they offer him" (RB 59: 2). Finally, it enables the deacon's Surgite to function once again as an invitation to communion, which seems to have been its original intent. Addressed to the newly professed just before communion, it is a call to be enlightened by the eschatological Lord who has passed beyond death, but who appears in the Church bringing fellowship in his risen life to those who have joined him in death.

A word must be said now about the color of the pall. A white pall suggests itself because white is the color of the baptismal garment as well as the present funeral pall. Nevertheless there may be a certain incongruity between this color, which bespeaks clarity, visibility and power, and the notion of being hidden, buried or asleep expressed in the responsory and diaconal summons. From this point of view the traditional black pall may be preferable in that black connotes invisibility, concealment, darkness and sleep. Since profession is a major rite of passage, it is instructive to learn that at the end of a lengthy comparative study of the use of color in the rituals of primitive peoples, Victor Turner concludes that black signifies "transition from one social status to another viewed as mystical death."69

On this entire matter of mystical burial the assumption is that each community will exercise responsible judgment in the shaping of details, and will not hesitate to fashion this element of the rite in the manner which it deems to be most expressive. The number of conceivable arrangements is almost without limit, and only three of them are described in the ritual. We trust that the commentary has furnished sufficient background and guidelines for evaluating other possibilities which are certain to arise at the local level.

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Footnotes

Web version: 4-March-2006; rev. 10-Mar-2007 | © 2007 by Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation | www.osb.org/swissam/ritual/commnotes.html