COMMENTARY ON THE
RITUAL OF MONASTIC PROFESSION

for the

Swiss American Congregation

 

 

1984

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Foreword. i

Introduction 1

CHAPTER I. RITE OF ADMITTANCE TO THE NOVITIATE 7

CHAPTER II. RITE OF TEMPORARY PROFESSION 12

CHAPTER III. RITE OF PERPETUAL PROFESSION 17

Footnotes 40

 

 

FOREWORD


The Swiss-American Federation has never possessed a ritual of its own. Lacking such a book, profession materials were usually borrowed from the Rituale Monasticum of the Beuronese Congregation. This ritual was first published in 1894, then revised in 1931 in order to conform to the Code of Canon Law which appeared in 1917.

On 2 February 1970 the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, responding to the wishes of the Second Vatican Council, issued a new Ordo professionis religiosae or, Rite of Religious Profession,1 for the Roman Church. The Introduction stated:

Religious families should adapt the rite so that it more clearly reflects and manifests the character and spirit of each institute. For this purpose the faculty of adapting the rite is given to each institute, the adaptation to be submitted to the Apostolic See (RRP, Intro., 14).


The Decree accompanying its promulgation likewise declared:

Since the rite of profession should express the spirit of the religious family, each institute should adapt the rite so as to bring out its own character. These adaptations should be presented as soon as possible for confirmation by this Congregation (RRP, p. 2).

In accordance with these requirements the General Chapter which met at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in 1975 stipulated that a ritual of monastic profession should be compiled for the Federation and presented for  approval at the General Chapter held at Saint Benedict's Abbey, Benet Lake, in August 1978.

Abbot David Melancon of Saint Joseph Abbey, President of the Federation, entrusted the drafting of the ritual to a committee comprised of Father Nathan Mitchell of Saint Meinrad Archabbey , Father Patrick Regan of Saint Joseph Abbey, and Father Nicholas Nittler of Mount Michael Abbey. Father Nathan was chairman of the committee until 4 February 1977, when other responsibilities prevented him from continuing in that capacity and Father Patrick succeeded him.

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After extensive study and consultation with the various abbeys of the Federation the committee issued a Ritual and Commentary. The Ritual contained rites for admittance to the novitiate; temporary profession, called first profession; perpetual profession, called final profession; and commitment. The option of making commitment instead of temporary profession at the end of novitiate had been offered by the Instruction Renovationis Causam on 6 January 1969. The General Chapter of 1978 approved the Ritual for three years of trial  use. Approval for another three years of trial use was given at the last General Chapter which met at Mount Angel in 1981. At the same Chapter Abbot Raphael DeSalvo of New Subiaco Abbey, who became President of the Federation in 1978, appointed a committee consisting of Father Patrick Regan, chairman, Father Nathan Mitchell, and Father Marcel Rooney of Conception Abbey, to review the Ritual prior to its being presented for final approval at the next General Chapter. Father Patrick was elected Abbot of Saint Joseph in June of 1982.

At the suggestion of the Abbot President and his Council, Abbot Patrick on 3 January 1983 wrote the two other members of the committee and the abbots of the Federation asking if they desired any modifications in the Ritual. In the replies received no changes were requested. When the new Code of Canon Law went into effect on 27 November 1983, however, the possibility of commitment at the end of novitiate was discontinued. Hence the Rite of Commitment has been removed from the Ritual.

Except for some minor adjustments the Rites of Admittance to the Novitiate, Temporary Profession and Perpetual Profession remain as they were when they were first approved in 1978. The Commentary accompanying the Ritual has been brought up to date and reorganized, but its content remains substantially unaltered. What is being sought, then, at the next General Chapter which will meet at Benet Lake on 19-25 July 1984 is final approval of the Ritual already accepted in 1978 and used on a trial basis throughout the Federation for the past six years. If approval is forthcoming, the Ritual will be forwarded to the appropriate Roman Congregation for confirmation.

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INTRODUCTION

1. Factors to Consider

The task entrusted to this committee was to adapt the Roman rite of religious profession in such a way as to express the character and spirit of the Benedictine monastic tradition as it had been received and was currently practiced by the Federation.

In executing this responsibility several factors had to be considered. First of all, the Rule of Benedict, unlike the charters of most modern religious congregations, already contains a ritual of profession consisting of an oral promise, written document, suscipe, prostration, intercessory prayer of the brethren, and clothing in the vesture of the monastery. These elements, therefore, must be taken as the fundamental constituents of any profession rite claiming to be Benedictine. It would be incongruous to disregard the ordinances of the Rule at the very moment when one is publicly professing to live according to it.

Secondly, the rite of profession originally laid down by the Rule has been transmitted and interpreted for succeeding generations by centuries of tradition. The immediate link between the Rule and the Middle Ages, on the one hand, and our Federation, on the other, has been the ritual of Beuron, which is by no means an original composition but rather a compilation of materials selected from medieval rituals bequeathed to the nineteenth century restorationists mainly by the great Maurist scholars.2 In other words, the tradition of Beuron, which is our tradition, too, is basically the medieval tradition.

For the most part the medieval and Beuronese usages represent developments which are fully consistent with the spirit of the Rule, and so form a rich source of inspiration. They offer details which are lacking in the Rule -- such as the text of the profession document -- or else supply other rites which were not envisaged by the Rule but which had become desirable or necessary with the passage of time. Principal among these are the rites of admittance to the novitiate, temporary profession, and the consecratory section of perpetual profession.

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Despite their obvious importance for the work of the committee, these elaborations must nevertheless be subjected to evaluation in light of current studies of the Rule itself and contemporary perspectives on monastic life. The essay entitled "Documentation and Proposals concerning Rite of Profession," presented to the General Chapter in 1975 by Father Nathan Mitchell, admirably sets forth the elements on continuity and discontinuity in the historical growth of profession practice. Addresses delivered at the first Monastic Institute in 1973 likewise provide critical reflections which are pertinent to the topic at hand.3

A third factor to be considered is the Roman rite of religious profession:

The general principles which it enunciates as well as the simplicity and clarity which it strives to achieve are worthy of imitation. The wording of prayers and dialog, however, lacks a characteristically Benedictine flavor, and the sequence of parts in the rite of final profession seriously differs from the Rule of Benedict. For this very reason the rites are expected to be modified by particular religious institutes. To do so intelligently requires mastery of the Benedictine tradition.

A final factor calling for consideration is that during the years between the appearance of the Roman rite of religious profession in 1970, and the request of the General Chapter in 1975 to elaborate a ritual for the Federation, each monastery of the Federation, on its own initiative, introduced modifications into its existing rituals. The ritual of the Federation, therefore, besides adapting the Roman rite to the Benedictine tradition as expressed first in the Rule and then in the rituals of the Middle Ages, was required to respect as much as possible the diverse modifications already enacted by the individual abbeys. To this end the committee obtained copies of the profession rites of all monasteries of the Federation and examined them carefully.

Profession material from the various abbeys revealed the greatest variety in those areas which are not described in the Rule: admittance to novitiate and mystical burial. Aside from the question of the monastic habit, most elements which find express mention in the Rule were attested with near unanimity. Many abbeys, however, had rearranged them in accordance with the order of parts in the Roman rite, thus deviating significantly from monastic tradition.

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2. Structure of the Rites

Given the complex state of affairs created by these several factors, it was necessary to undertake a comparative analysis of the complete inventory of professions rituals, past and present. This involved isolating component parts, observing their sequence, and calculating the rationale or significance which lay beneath them. This provided a basis for judging the relative merit of particular configurations, and enabled a characteristic pattern, design or structure to emerge for each rite.

The structure of final profession, derived from the Rule itself and best attested in tradition, has been adopted as the normative model. Designs for the other rites have been aligned with it. They may be outlined as follows:

Perpetual Profession

Temporary Profession

Admittance

Gathering

Gathering

Gathering

Request

Request

Request

Admonition

Admonition

Admonition

Promise

Promise

 

Reading of Document

Reading of Document

 

Suscipe

 

 

Prayer of Community

 

 

Prayer of Consecration

 

 

Sign

Sign

Sign
Presentation of Rule

 

 

Prayer

Peace

Peace 

Peace

Mystical Burial

 

 

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From this outline it is clear that the essential structural components of profession, whether perpetual or temporary, are the oral promise and the reading of the profession document. Perpetual profession, however, is structurally distinguished from temporary profession by the suscipe, intercessory prayer of the community, consecratory prayer of the abbot, and mystical burial. Reading and presentation of the Rule, plus an optional oration, are structurally characteristic of admittance to the novitiate.

Aside from these elements, which are obviously the most important ones, the rites begin in identical fashion: with the gathering of candidates before the abbot, the request, and the admonition. They also conclude in more or less the same way: with a sign proper to the occasion and the kiss of peace.

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Although the structural makeup of each rite is stable, it is broad enough to encompass all the component elements attested by the Rule, medieval tradition, the Roman rite, and the particular rituals used in monasteries of the Federation from 1970 to 1978 -- though not necessarily in the same order. Furthermore, the manner in which most of the component elements may be handled admits of considerable diversity.

Since the sign of admittance to the novitiate or temporary profession touches the delicate matter of monastic vesture, it has been left entirely to the discretion of individual communities. As a general principle, however, the less important an element is, the more it permits of diversity. Conversely, the more important an element is, the less it permits of diversity. For example, there are many ways in which candidates may gather to make their request, but there is only one way of singing the suscipe.

Elements which are less important -- such as the request, kiss of peace, or mystical burial -- may be omitted entirely. Similarly the relatively minor rite of admittance to the novitiate is deliberately looser and more flexible than the rite of perpetual profession which has major canonical significance. The descriptions of different approaches to the component elements of the proposed ritual pretend to be neither exhaustive nor exclusive.

Turning now to spoken formulae, it should be emphasized that the requests, admonitions, and prayers of the proposed ritual are intended only as model texts. Many are fresh translations or adaptations of medieval material already contained in the rituals of particular abbeys; a few, such as the admonition at admittance and the consecratory prayer at perpetual profession, are original compositions. All these texts have been selected and prepared with great care, but their use depends largely upon the decision of each monastery.

In a word, the existence of this ritual does not imply that each monastery will use it in exactly the same way or to the same extent. The ritual is conceived primarily as a paradigm or pattern. It contains a minimum of detail and allows a maximum of latitude in the treatment of component parts and in the choice of verbal formulae.

Finally, it might be of interest to know that quotations from the

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Rule of Benedict, whether in the ritual or commentary, are taken from the translation by the team of American Benedictines in 1981.4 The desirable uniformity of vocabulary between Rule and ritual, especially on such an important matter as the rendering of conversatio morum (RB 58: 17), is thereby assured.

3. Commentary

A frequently heard criticism of liturgical reforms is that the reasons for changes are not adequately communicated. Inability to fathom the rationale behind new models of celebrations leads inevitably to reluctant implementation, or worse, opposition. The present commentary is drafted with this in mind. For each structural component it reviews pertinent historical background, and explains the solution adopted in the ritual. Where alternatives are provided, the various options are evaluated. Occasionally theological reflections are offered. The aim, therefore, is to render the content and arrangement of the ritual more understandable, and so serve as a tool of instruction for future generations. Hopefully this will assure a more fruitful celebration of profession.

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CHAPTER I
RITE OF ADMITTANCE TO THE NOVITIATE


1. Data from the Rule of Benedict

Saint Benedict, like Cassian ( Inst.IV , 3, 1) and the Rule of the Master (RM 90: 1), decrees: "Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry" (RB 58: 1). From these words it can be gathered that the postulant aspires to the monastic way of life: conversatio. Nevertheless this way of life, at least as propounded by Benedict, is new and unfamiliar to him. He has no experience of it, and may not know what he is seeking. He may be driven by an enthusiasm which carried him beyond his real capabilities. Benedict does not refuse admittance, but states that it should not come easy; and in accord with I In. 4: 1, should be granted only after testing the spirits (RB 58: 2) This provokes a struggle at the door of the monastery (see RB 58: 3- 4) in which the fresh arrival continues his attempt to enter and is repeatedly rebuffed. If he patiently endures this harsh treatment and persists in his request, he gains admittance to the guest house and subsequently the novitiate. Full reception into the community will come only later, after more trials and a formal promise of obedience (RB 58: 14).

For Benedict, therefore, monastic conversatio is a way of life governed by the discipline of a rule. One does not simply take it up or enter upon it of oneself. Rather one must be permitted access to it, and this permission may be either granted or refused. Hence a decision must be issued by some authority -- a decision which hinges upon whether the candidate sufficiently satisfies definite requirements and expectations.

To be received as a full member of the community, a formal promise of obedience is required. To gain admittance to the novitiate, persistence and determination must be demonstrated. Viewed from the postulant's

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original aspiration, namely, undertaking monastic conversatio, the novitiate appears to be a deferment. But by accepting it, he learns to practice the perseverance, stability, and obedience which lie at the heart of monastic conversatio. In other words, in the novitiate he already begins to live the very "way of life" which apparently had been denied him! When at last he is allowed to make profession, he knows what he is entering (see RB 58: 12), and so his original desire as well as the Rule's prescriptions are simultaneously fulfilled.


2. Medieval and Beuronese Tradition

Although Saint Benedict clearly reserved the monastic habit for professed monks and supposed that novices would wear their own clothes for the duration of the novitiate, it had become customary by the middle of the ninth century in both East and West to confer some special garb at the beginning of the novitiate.5 Lacking any detailed description of this special garb, it is impossible to determine its appearance. suffice it to say that it was distinct from the habit of the professed and, as we shall see, was not blessed. Given this practice, medieval rites for receiving novices are basically rites of investiture.

The ritual of Beuron, compiled from medieval sources, stands in line with this tradition. At the outset the novicemaster informs the abbot of the presence of someone from the world "seeking the habit of holy religion." The abbot, having ordered the novicemaster to bring the candidate before him, asks:

Quid petis ? The candidate prostrates and answers: Misericordiam Dei et vestram con fraternitatem. In reply to a short admonition about the necessity of renunciation and obedience, he declares: Non ex mea sufficientia, sed Del fretus misericordia confido, me omnia adimpleturum. The abbot then washes the feet of the newcomer; invests him with tunic, belt, and short scapular; and prays for him. In conclusion the abbot pronounces a second admonition reminding the novice of his freedom to leave; then blesses him and imposes a new name. 6

Close examination of the postulant's reply to the abbot's first admonition reveals it to be a promise of obedience. The wording of

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this promise is strongly reminiscent of the one which the Rule of the Master expected of the postulant at the moment of arrival (RM 87: 3- 4) and after two months in the guest house (RM 89: 2). Benedict did not require this promise "to observe everything, and to obey every command given him" (RB 58: 14) until the period of testing had come to an end.
In the Beuronese ritual this preliminary promise enables the postulant to gain entrance to the novitiate and to receive the habit.

3. The Roman Rite

The Initiation into the Religious Life presented in the Roman Rite of Religious Profession reflects a fundamentally different outlook. Since it deliberately avoids "anything that may seem to diminish the novices' freedom of choice or obscure the true meaning of a noviceship or time of testing" (RRP 1 ,4 ), it elicits no promise or engagement of any sort. Consistent with this position, it reverts to the more ancient practice of deferring the bestowal of the habit until temporary profession. 7 Hence it cannot be understood as a rite of investiture. The stated aim of the ceremony is "to ask God's grace for achieving the special purpose of the novitiate" (RRP 1 , 1; see Intro. 4). In simplest terms it is a prayer service or celebration of the word, prefaced by the briefest of transactions in which the postulants, either on their own initiative, or in response to a question, tell the superior of their desire to experience and learn religious life with a view to possible entrance.

While fully agreeing with the intent of the Roman approach, we judge the ritual statement itself to be rather weak - It rightly refrains from calling forth any kind of commitment from the postulants. But it does not provide for any decision on the part of the superior either -even with regard to admitting the candidates to the novitiate. Furthermore the rite consists entirely of words, and is devoid of any powerful gestures expressive of petition (such as prostration), or of welcome (such as footwashing ), or of renunciation and admittance (such as investiture).

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4. Structure of the Present Rite

Although the intentionality of the Beuronese and Roman rites is totally different, they share several structural features in common: The question of the superior; the response of the candidate; an address or admonition; prayer. These elements have been retained in our rite. To them we have added the reading and presentation of the Rule (nos. 7-8) for reasons to be explained later. Since many abbeys, though not all, continue to invest novices with either the monastic habit, the short scapular or a choir robe, our rite allows this practice as a sign of admittance. Following the ritual of Beuron it also permits the abbot to wash the feet of the novices either in addition to or instead of investing them with the habit.

From the viewpoint of intentionality this rite can no longer be conceived in medieval or Beuronese fashion as being primarily a ceremony of investiture, because some abbeys will not be conferring the habit. Yet it is considerably more than the prayer service or celebration of the word envisaged by the Roman rite.

5. A Rite of Admittance

Following the lead of the Rule, our rite is conceived primarily as a rite of admittance. This theme is first sounded during the request (nos. 2-3); then developed at greater length in the abbot's admonition (no. 4). As in the Rule, the postulants are portrayed as seeking to enter upon conversatio: the monastic way of life. Using phrases from RB 58: 1-2 ,7 - 8, the abbot replies that their request cannot be granted immediately. They must first accept a period of testing in the novitiate, which, when compared to their ultimate goal, is not exactly what was sought. He permits them to remain in the monastery for this purpose. Since the admonition in the ritual is only a model text, the Beuronese formula may be substituted for it or the abbot may address the postulants in his own words (see no. 5).

As a sign of admittance, the abbot may wash the feet of the novices (no. 6). Besides signifying the hospitality which Benedict accorded

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to guests (RB 53: 13), it gives the novices an example of self-abasement and humility which they must imitate. Provision is also made for investing novices with the habit, the scapular, or some other distinctive garb (no. 6). It must be remembered, however, that both the Rule and the Roman rite oppose this practice. for it bespeaks a type of renunciation and commitment which the novices have not yet made.

Since the reason for admittance to the monastery is for the novices to learn to live under the Rule and be tested in their ability to do so, it is fitting for the abbot or novicemaster to read to them the opening paragraph of the Prolog (no. 7), perhaps prefacing this reading with a few words of introduction. He may also present the novices with a copy of the Rule (no. 8). The Roman rite recommends that this be done at temporary profession (RRP II, 32). Saint Benedict, however, insisted that his Rule be read  three times during the novitiate (RB 58: 9,12,13). For this reason it seems preferable for Benedictines to present the Rule at the beginning of the period of probation, rather than at its end. The formula provided for this purpose expresses the wish that the novices may adopt  the Rule as their "way of life (no. 8). They will have the opportunity to do so at the end of the year when the abbot again confronts them with the Rule and declares: ii if you can keep it, enter. If not, you are free to leave" (nos. 16, 28; see RB 58:10).

The rite may be concluded with the kiss of peace (no. 11). Discretion must be exercised in this matter, however, lest the gesture lose its significance through overuse. We recommend reserving it for perpetual profession.

The rite of admittance may be used as an independent service or it may be incorporated into Vespers. This will determine whether the prayer (no. 9) is recited.

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CHAPTER II
RITE OF TEMPORARY PROFESSION

1. Temporary Profession


Saint Benedict legislated for a single profession occurring at the end of the novitiate and understood to be perpetual. This discipline remained in force until modern times when the Holy See stipulated that no religious may make final profession unless he had spent at least three years in temporary vows. The Instruction Renovationis Causam of 6 January 1969 modified this statute. While maintaining that a period of continuing formation must elapse between the completion of novitiate and final profession, it allowed temporary vows to be replaced "with some other kind of commitment as, for example, a promise made to the Institute.8 Consequently the Rite of Religious Profession distinguished between the Rite of Temporary Profession and the Rite of a Promise.

The new Code of Canon Law in 1983, however, eliminated the possibility of commitment, saying: "On the completion of the novitiate, a novice, if judged suitable, is to be admitted to temporary profession; otherwise the novice is to be dismissed" (Can. 653, 2).

Temporary profession may be made at Mass (RRP Intro., 5). But this is not required. Some abbeys may prefer to have it at Vespers. Since the Rite of Religious Profession declares that "the celebration of several rites in the same liturgical action is to be avoided completely" (Intro., 8), if a community wanted to have temporary and perpetual profession on the same day, a convenient arrangement would be to have perpetual profession at Mass and temporary profession at Vespers.

The rite of temporary profession follows the structure of perpetual profession in that it includes the traditional interrogative promise and reading of the profession document. It is distinct in so far as it omits the suscipe, community intercession, prayer of consecration and mystical burial.

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2.    Gathering of Candidates (no. 12)

After the Gospel or homily at Mass, or after the reading at Vespers (see no. 26) the novices may either gather before the abbot or else be presented to him with an appropriate word from the novicemaster (no. 12). They should not be summoned by name, since this is a feature of ordination liturgy, and monastic profession is not an ecclesiastical call. The chanting of "Come, my sons" (no. 27) is reserved for final profession.

3.    Request (nos. 13 -14)

The dialog proposed here (no. 13) is the same as that given for admittance to the novitiate (no. 2). This is to emphasize that the novices persevere in their purpose and persist in their petition (see RB 58: 3,9,13)

4.    Admonition (nos. 15-17)

Benedict ordered the Rule to be read three times during the year of novitiate, at the end of which a promise of obedience was elicited (RB 58: 14). The abbot's reading of the opening words of the Prolog at the rite of admittance (no. 7), followed by his reading of Chapter 72 at temporary profession (no. 15) recalls this discipline. The gesture of showing the Rule to
the novices (no. 16) -- taken from the ritual of Beuron9 -- indicates that the moment of decision has now arrived. "The accompanying formula is that which Benedict expected to be addressed to a postulant at the end of two months in the guest house (RB 58:10). Though succinct, it conveys all that need be said at this point. Obviously this action acquires its full strength when, as has been suggested, a copy of the Rule has been confided to the candidates at the beginning of novitiate (see no. 8).

5.    Promise (no. 18)

The promise in our rite (no. 18) is an ancient formula of Monte Cassino,10 to which has been appended a fourth question based on that found in the Beuronese ritual.'1 It stresses the negative aspect of

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renunciation as well as the positive aspect of dedication to monastic life,. both of which will be signified later by the exchange of clothing (see nos. 22-23).

At this point the Roman rite provides a Prayer for God's Grace (RRP II, 29). It is the counterpart of the Litany of the Saints at perpetual profession. since, as we will explain later, nothing should be interposed between the making of the promise and the reading of the document, we have eliminated this prayer from our ritual.11

6. Reading Of Profession Document (nos. 19-20)

The Constitutions of our Federation, according to which profession is made, define the nature and scope of temporary profession. Communities which desire to make these matters more explicit in the text of the profession document may do so.
The novice may read and display the document in whatever way is customary in the community (no. 19). The signed document, however, should be given to the abbot at temporary profession, and placed on the altar only at perpetual profession as is stipulated in the Rule. An economical way of accomplishing this at temporary profession would be for the novices to sign the document on the Rule or Gospel book placed on the abbot's knees. Once it is signed, an assisting minister or witness could remove both the book and the document.

In the ritual of Beuron the suscipe follows the reading of the document.12 However: it is sung only once. We will point out later that at perpetual profession the suscipe is the prayer which begins the intercessory and consecratory sections of the rite. Since the rite of temporary profession contains neither community intercession nor a prayer of consecration, it seems reasonable to omit the suscipe here and reserve it as one of the distinguishing elements of perpetual profession.

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7. Sign of Temporary Profession (nos. 2 1-23)

Practically all monasteries of the Federation confer either the long scapular or the entire habit at temporary profession. When the cuculla is given as a sign of final profession, the long scapular or habit will ordinarily be blessed at temporary profession. The prayer provided for this purpose (no. 22), rich in theological content, was used in almost every medieval ritual and was adopted by Beuron.13

The formula of investiture (no. 23) occurs with equal unanimity: in rituals of the Middle Ages. The words are appropriated from
Eph. 4:21-24; but the main verbs of the Latin text, exuat .•. induat, are also found in Benedict'ss sentence: "He is to be stripped of everything that he is wearing ( exuatur rebus propriis) and clothed in what belongs to the monastery (et induatur rebus monasterii )" (RB 58: 26). since Saint Benedict envisaged a change of clothing, it is important that novices, when making profession, wear the short scapular or coat and tie. At the moment of investiture the abbot should remove these garments from the newly professed and replace them by the long scapular or the entire monastic habit. The taking off of the old clothes and the putting on of the new ones. brings out the two aspects mentioned earlier in the promise: renunciation of one'ss former way of life, and dedication to monastic conversatio.

To avoid tedious repetition when several novices have made profession, the abbot may recite the formula once at the beginning of investiture. Of course, those abbeys which do not use the cuculla, and choose to bless the habit as a sign of perpetual profession (see no. 50), may still employ the formula of investiture at first profession even though the habit itself is not blessed.

8. Kiss of Peace (no. 24)

Although in many monasteries the abbot and community give the kiss of peace to the newly professed, neither the ritual of Beuron nor the Rite of Religious Profession provides for it. We recommend that it be reserved for perpetual profession.

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9. Conclusion (no. 25)

In the ritual of Beuron the rite concluded with Kyrie, Pater, versicles, and three orations. But temporary profession took place in the Chapter Room,14 not at Mass. When it takes place at Mass, the rite concludes with the general intercessions (no. 25, see RRP II, 36), in which the newly professed may be mentioned. When it takes place at Vespers, the Canticle of Mary follows the rite but the newly professed may be included in intercessory prayers at the conclusion of the hour (no. 26).

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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

1. Abbreviated RRP. The final English translation of this document was published in 1974, replacing the translation for interim use which appeared in 1971. Our references are to the final version.

2. The most extensive collection of medieval profession rites remains that of Dom Edmund Martine, De antiquis ecclesiae ritibus (4 vols.; Antwerp, 1736), II, 45 1-496; IV, 625-659. Subsequently this work will be abbreviated AER. Dom Gueranger also availed himself of materials from this collection. See Dom Paul Delatte, The Rule of St. Benedict, trans. Dom Justin McCann (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1921), p. 376, n. 1.

3. See Ambrose Wathen, O.S.B., "Monastic Institute of Federation of Americas 1973," The American Benedictine Review 25 2(1974), 236-286. Valuable papers on the same topic, delivered at a symposium sponsored by the Irish Cistercians in October 1976, appear in Cistercian Studies XII (1977), 3-100, 101-167.

4. RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, ed. Timothy Fry, O.S.B. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1981).

5. Martine, AER IV, 626A; Delatte, p. 375.

6. Rituale Monasticum (Beuron, 1931), pp. 77- 92.

7. "The rite of first profession provides for the presentation of the habit and other signs of religious life, following the very ancient custom of giving the habit at the end of the period of probation; for the habit is a sign of consecration." (RRP Intro. 5).

8. Instruction on the Renewal of Religious Formation, 34, 1 (United States Catholic Conference, 1969), p. 18.

9. Rituale Monasticum, p. 93.

10. Martene, AER IV, 640C.

11. Rituale Monasticum, p. 102.

12. Ibid., p. 95.

13. Ibid., p. 96.

14. Professio temporaria emittitur in Capitulo. Ibid., p. 93.

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15. Capitula Theodori, can. 2; ed. F. W.H. Wasserschlebcn, Die Bussordnungen der abendlandischen Kirche (reprint; Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsansalt, 1958), p. 145.

16. Pontificale Romano-Germanicum saeculi Decimi, XXIX, 1; ed. Cyrille Vogel and Reinhard Elze, Le Pontifical Romano-Germanique du dixieme siecle (2 vols., "Studi e Testi ," nos. 226, 227; Vatican City: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1963), I, 72.

17. This anthem is not found in the Beuronese ritual but has been part of the American-Cassinese profession rite since 1875.

18. Interesting patristic and medieval interpretations of these verses are available in J.M. Neale and R.F. Littledale, A Commentary on the Psalms (4th ed ; 4 vols.; London: Joseph Masters and Co., 1884), I, 533-536, 540-541. In the present essay the psalms are numbered according to the Vulgate.

19. Rituale Monasticum, p. 101.

20. See for example RB 2:6 ,9 ; 3:11; 55:22; 65:22.

21. Martene, AER IV, 640B.

22. Cornelius Justice, "Evolution of the Teaching of Commitment by Monastic Vow from New Testament Times to the Ninth Century,  Cistercian Studies XII (1977), 26, n. 27.

23. Martene, AER IV, 641C.

24. Ildefons Herwegen OSB, "Geschichte der benediktinischen Profeissformel," in Beitrage zur Geschichte des alten Monchtums und des Benediktinerordens III (Munster in Wesfalen : Aschendorff, 1912), 38- 39.

25. Justice, p. 29.

26. Martene, AER IV, 640C.

27. Justice, p. 30.

28. Delatte, p. 397, n. 1.

29. Ibid., p. 397.

30. Rituale Monasticum, p. 102.

31. The preparatory character of the litany as conceived by the Roman rite is made explicit in the concluding oration, which reads: "Lord, grant the prayers of your people. Prepare the hearts of your servants for consecration to your service." (RRP III, 63. Italics added).

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32. The singing of the petitio derives from the Ordinary of Jumieges, which says that the novices legant professiones in tone lectionis. See Martene, ABR II, 457E.

33. Justice, p. 26, n. 28.

34. In the thirteenth century Bernard of Monte Cassino distinguished three ways in which the monk is bound to God: by the word of his mouth, by the written document, and by the oath which placing the document on the altar signifies. He writes: Vide igitur quod quasi tribus modis se monachus obligat: 1) quidem se obligat verbo, 2) scripto, 3) quodammodojuramento. Primo in promissione voti, secundo in confessione ye! signatione scripti, tertio impositione ipsius scripturae super altare in qua est ostensio juramenti, vel con firmatio voti. Cited from Edmund Marteme, ed., S. P. Benedicti Regula cum Commentariis (PL 66, 826A).

>35. Delatte, p. 398.

36. Instructive comments on this verse from patristic and medieval literature maybe found in Neale-Littledale, IV, 108-109’.

37 Delatte, p. 398.

38. Hildemar explained the sense of the suscipe in this manner Domine, eloquium tuum est, quo dixisti, Qui reliquerit omnia quae possidet, centuplum accipiet, etc. Et ecce ego propter hoc eloquium, id est praeceptum tuum deserui saeculum, et omnibus meis abrenuntiavi; et nunc rogo ut suscipias me. Cited from Martene, Regula (PL 66, 826C).

39. See Delatte, pp. 398- 99.

40. AER IV, 648E- 649B.

41. Rituale Monasticum, pp. 108-110.

42. Dam Marius Ferotin, ed., Le Liber Ordinum ("Monumenta ecclesiae liturgica," Vol. 5; Paris: Firmin-Didot et Cie., 1904), cols. 83-84.

43. Justice, p. 37.

44. The Celestial and Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, Ch. 6; cited from Justice, p. 37.

45. Capitula Theodori, can. 2; ed. Wasserschleben, p. 145.

46. Pontificale Romano-Germanicum saeculi Decimi, XXIX, 1- 4; ed. Vogel- Elze I, 72-74.

47. For a comprehensive study of this question based on a thorough examination of eastern and western texts, see Odo Casel O.S.B., Die Monchsweihe, in Jahrbuch für Liturgiewissenschaft V (1925), 1-47.

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48. The notion of monastic consecration in the technical sense does not seem to have been common even in the early twentieth century. Delatte says nothing of it in the body of his commentary, and appears in fact to exclude the idea when he remarks: "According to the ancient monastic canons, the Abbot should himself celebrate the Mass, if he can, and receive the profession, thus performing the 'blessing' of the monk. In liturgical parlance it is not a 'consecration' for monks do not form part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy... " (p. 394, n. 2).

49. Rituale Monasticum,  pp. 108-117.

50. Claude Peifer, O.S.B., Monastic Spirituality (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1966), p. 176.

51. Ibid.

52. Rituale Monasticum, p. 105.

53. Martene, AER II, 453 C; 455B. It is also attested in the Pontificale Romano-Germanicum saeculi Decimi, XXVIII, 2; ed. Vogel- Elze, I, 70.

54. Cited from Martene, Regula (PL 66, 837C).

55. Ibid.,  (PL 66, 837D).

56. Delatte, p. 399. The seeds of this dialog are present in the Statutes of Lanfranc, Ch. 19 (Martene, AER IV, 646A-D).

57. see the Pontificale Romano-Germanicum saeculi Decimi, XXVIII; ed. Vogel - Elze, I, 70-72.

58. Rituale Monasticum, p. 119.

59. Martene, AER IV, 655A.

60. Nathan Mitchell, 0.S.B., "Documentation and Proposals concerning Rite of Profession, Historical Synopsis," Presentation to the 1975 General Chapter at Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Typewritten copy, p. 10.

61. Delatte, p. 401, n. 3.

62. Ibid., p. 40l.

63. The entire text reads: In monachi ordinatione abbas debet missam agere et tres orationes complere super caput ejus et VII dies velat caput suum cocollo suo et septimo die abbas tollat velamen id de capite monachi, sicut in baptismo presbyter septimo die velamen infantium abstullit, ita et abbas debet monacho, quia secundum baptismum est juxta judicium patrum, et omnia peccata dimittuntur sicut in baptismo. Capitula Theodori, can. 2; ed. Wasserschleben, p. 145.

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64. Martene, AER II, 462D.

65 Ibid., 657A.

66. Nathan Mitchell, O.S.B., "More Recent History of the Rites of Monastic Profession," Presentation to the 1975 General Chapter at Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Typewritten copy, pp. 1, 3-4.

67. Ibid., pp. 2, 5.

68. Rituale Monasticum,  p. 104-107.

69. Victor Turner, "Color Classification in Ndembu Ritual: A Problem of Classification," in The Foresta! Symbols (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), p. 89.

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