Friday 28 October 2005

Vows of the Tonsure to the Great Schema

[Update, May 14 2007: A complete translation of the service of the Tonsure to the Great Schema is now available at our post here. We comment on the meaning of the vows presented below in this post and discuss their broader implications in this post.]
We here provide that part of the service of the Tonsure to the Great Schema which comprises the vows, including the catechism. We hope to provide at some time a complete translation of the service. We will in subsequent posts comment on the vows. It is important to consider the following text in light of the fact that monasticism is an ascetic battle against the eight passions that we have surveyed in the last week or so. The catechism teaches the postulant not only the goal of the monastic life but also some of the ascetic means.
The Priest catechizes the postulant, speaking as follows:
Open the ears of your heart, Brother, and hear the voice of the Lord saying: ‘Come to me all who are toiling and who are burdened and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find refreshment in your souls.’ Therefore, render now to God with fear and joy the proper answer to each of the questions. Know surely, then, that our Saviour himself is here present, with his most-hymned Mother and his Saints, listening to the words which are coming forth from you; so that, when he comes to judge the living and the dead, he may render to you, not according to what you are about to renounce and profess, but according to whether you guard what you profess. Now, therefore, if you are coming in truth to God, with care answer us what you are about to be asked.
Then the Priest inquires of him, saying:
Question: Why have you come, Brother, falling down before the Holy Altar, and before this holy Brotherhood?
Answer: I desire the life of asceticism, Reverend Father.
Question: Do you desire to be worthy of the Angelic Habit and to be enrolled in the choir of the Monastics?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
The Priest:
Truly, you have chosen a good and blessed work, but only if you complete it. Good things are acquired with toil and achieved with pain.
Question: Do you come to the Lord of your free will?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
Question: Not from any necessity or violence?
Answer: No, Reverend Father.
Question: Do you renounce the world and the things which are in the world, according to the commandment of the Lord?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
Question: Will you remain in the Monastery and in the ascesis up to your last breath?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
Question: Will you preserve unto death obedience to the Superior, and to the whole Brotherhood in Christ?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
Question: Will you endure every affliction and deprivation of the Monastic life for the sake of the Kingdom of the Heavens?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
Question: Will you preserve yourself in virginity and chastity and piety?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
And the Catechism is immediately begun by the Priest, as follows:
See, child, what agreements you have given to the Master Christ. Angels are here invisibly present recording this your profession, which is going to be required of you in the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am now narrating, therefore, the most perfect life, in which the way of life of the Lord is shown forth, bearing witness what things it is necessary for you to embrace and what things you must avoid. This renunciation, then, for him who has made it is nothing other than a profession of the cross and death.
Know, then, that from this present day you have been crucified and put to death to the world through the most perfect renunciation. For you have renounced parents, brothers, wife, children, forefathers, relatives, associations, friends, habits, the tumults in the world, cares, possessions, goods, empty and vain pleasure and glory; and you are renouncing not only those things which have just been said, but even your own life, according to the voice of the Lord which says: ‘Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ If therefore you truly seek to follow him, and if without lies you ardently desire to be called his disciple, from the present moment prepare yourself not towards ease, not towards freedom from care, not towards sensual pleasures, not towards anything else of those pleasures and enjoyments which are on the earth, but towards spiritual struggles, towards temperance of the flesh, towards purification of the soul, towards mean poverty, towards the good grief, towards all the sorrowful and painful things of that life according to God which brings joy. For you have to hunger and to thirst and to go naked and to be reviled and ridiculed, to be reproached and persecuted and to be tempted in many sorrowful things, in which things the life according to God is characterized. And when you suffer all of these things, ‘Rejoice,’ it is said, ‘for great is your wage in the Heavens.’
Rejoice therefore with joy and exult with exultation, for today the Lord God has selected you and set you apart from life in the world, and has set you, as before his face, in the post of the Monastic order, in the service of the angelic life, in the height of the life which imitates Heaven, to worship him angelically, to serve him wholly and completely, to seek those things which are above. ‘For our way of life,’ according to the Apostle, ‘is in the Heavens.’
O the new call! O the gift of the Mystery! You are receiving a second Baptism today, Brother, in the wealth of the gifts of God who loves mankind, and you shall be cleansed of your sins, and you shall become a son of Light, and Christ himself our God rejoices together with his holy Angels over your repentance, slaughtering for you the fattened calf. Walk worthily therefore of your call; rid yourself of the attachment to vain things; hate the desire that draws you towards those things which are below; turn your own ardent desire towards Heavenly things; by no means whatsoever turn back, so that you not become a pillar of salt like the wife of Lot or like a dog returning to its own vomit, and the word of the Lord be fulfilled in you: ‘No one putting his hand to the plough and having turned towards the rear is fit for the Kingdom of the Heavens.’ For the danger for you is not little, having now professed that you will guard all the aforesaid things, afterwards to make little of the profession or even to run back to the previous way of life, or to separate yourself from the Father and the Brothers who are engaged with you in ascesis, or, remaining, to live your days contemptuously. For you will have weightier responsibilities than previously before the unerring tribunal of Christ, as much as you now enjoy more grace. And it would be better for you, as the saying goes, not to vow than to vow and not to render your vows. And, again, do not at all think that in the previous time of your sojourn in this place you have adequately struggled against the invisible powers of the Enemy, but know rather that from now there will succeed to you greater struggles in the battle against him, but that he will in no way prevail against you if he finds you fenced about by a strong faith and love for him who is guiding you and by sincerity in your obedience and humility.
For this reason, put away from yourself refusal to listen, contradiction, pride, strife, jealousy, envy, anger, clamour, blasphemy, secret eating, boldness of manner, special friendship, talkativeness, wrangling, grumbling, whispering, personal acquisition of any miserable thing, and all the other sorts of vice through which the wrath of God comes on those who practice them and the Destroyer of souls begins to take root in those who practise them. Rather, then, instead of those things, acquire these things which are fitting to Saints: friendship, stillness, leniency, piety, meditation on the divine words, reading, keeping of the heart from filthy thoughts, labour according to strength, temperance, patient endurance up to death, and perfect confession of those things which are in your heart to the Father to whom you previously gave your vows, as the divine testaments relate: ‘They were baptized,’ it says, ‘confessing their sins.’
Question: Do you thus profess all these things in the hope of the strength of God and do you agree to persevere in these promises until the end of life, by the grace of Christ?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.

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