Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 58:24-29

To be read: April 13, August 13, December 13

If [the one received] has any possessions, he should first either give them to the poor, or formally donate them to the monastery, reserving nothing for himself  25as indeed he should know that from that day onward he will no longer have power even over his own body. 26Then, in the oratory, he is to be divested at once of the garments with which he is clothed, and be vested in the garb of the monastery. 27But let the clothes of which he was divested be laid by in the wardrobe to be preserved, 28so that, if he were to ever agree with the devil’s suggestion and leave the monastery (which God forbid) he can be then stripped of his monastic habit and cast out. 29But let him not receive the document of his profession which the Abbot took from the altar, but let it be preserved in the monastery. 

The early Church practice in the sacrament of baptism would be difficult for us in modern society to reclaim.  The candidates for baptism would gather at the riverside and disrobe.  They would then walk into the river, be baptized, and wade ashore on the far side of the river where they would be clothed in new, white robes.  Removing our old clothing and being vested in the new garments was a sign of our shedding our worldly lives and being clothed anew with the garments of salvation.  This practice is what Benedict claimed for new converts to the monastic community as well.  He says that the novice “is to be divested at once of the garments with which he is clothed, and be vested in the garb of the monastery.”  

St. Paul says that “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor 15:49).  And again, in his second epistle to Corinth, “For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (5:4).  And St. John describes the sanctified Church in heaven with these words: “it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Rev. 19:8).  We are to “bear the image of the man of heaven”, the Imago Christi.  St. Paul urges the Church at Rome to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (13:12-14).

By pursuing the promises of stability, fidelity, and obedience we can begin to divest ourselves of the soiled garments of this world, and begin to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”.  

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