Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Dormitionists - Taking the Vow

I have been in receipt of further communications regarding that obscure, little-known, yea, self-effacing and most retiring Order, the Canons Regular of the Dormition (not to mention their parallel Second Order for women, the Dormitionistine Canonesses).

Having handled enquiries on their behalf some time ago regarding the question of layfolk affiliating with them as Third Order Oblates, now I am in a position to pass on some details relevant to their holy charism, suitable even for those condemned to live in this miserable and naughty world earning their keep by the sweat of their brow (for as a wise man told me in New Zealand, we only work for fear of poverty)...


Some taste of their contemplative vocation may be gained from considering the outwardly simple yet significant ritual marking their reception of new members, who have, as it were, said in gratitude to the Lord, Convertere, anima mea, in requiem tuam, quia Dominus benefecit tibi ("Turn, O my soul, into thy rest: for the Lord hath been bountiful to thee") – Ps 114:7.

In a Dormitionist chapel, after the period of novitiate has expired, at the nod of the superior testifying to their worthiness, those to take the vow (for like Dominicans they take only one, considered as summing up their entire gift of self in obedience to God, as a whole burnt offering) come forward, prostrate themselves before the chapel altar, and pronounce in a low, humble mumble:
Introibo in tabernaculum domus meæ, ascendam in lectum strati mei: dedam somnum oculis meis, et palpebris meis dormitationem, et requiem temporibus meis: quoniam inveni locum Domini, tabernaculum Dei nostri.
("I shall enter into the tabernacle of my house: I shall go up into the bed wherein I lie: I shall give sleep to my eyes, and slumber to my eyelids, and rest to my temples: for I have found the place of the Lord, the tabernacle of our God" - cf. Ps 131:3-5a)
The vow speaks of "my house" because Dormitionists include in their vow the promise of stability, nevermore to leave their chosen tabernacle unless to enter the adjoining cemetery: it speaks of their rest in the Lord there as their freely chosen share in God's blessings as a holy religious, just as the priests and Levites of old had no share in the Promised Land but for their habitations, the Lord Himself being their heritage.

The vow made (to God Alone), thereupon the choir of canons sings Hæc requies mea in sæculum sæculi: hic habitabo quoniam elegi eam ("This is my rest for ever and ever, here I will dwell, for I have chosen it" - Ps 131:14), signifying that God deigns not merely to rest in His holy place, but in his holy temple, the heart of the just man.  (In passing, it may be noted how the prophetic Psalm 131 is here realized in concrete terms in these days of the New Testament, the Church being the New Israel.)

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