The community Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 AM, Abbot Robert Barnes presiding and preaching. It is a non-work day and we follow the Sunday schedule with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament following Vespers (5:30 PM).
Why all the festivities in Lent? This morning after Lauds (7:00 AM) Abbot Robert will clothe Postulant Aelred Joseph in the Novice’s habit in a private ceremony in the Chapter Room.
The ceremony is traditionally a community matter; in the middle ages, it represented the candidate’s break from “the world”, using the vocabulary of St. John’s Gospel. In this sense, “the world” means that willful, human tendency to misuse creation for our sinful, self-serving ends rather than what it was created for–ultimately, to lead us to God. And the medieval European culture associated “the world” with society and the monastic community with an alternate option. Thus the clothing of a novice was a private ceremony.
At that time, a year and one day later, the novice would have professed solemn vows for life. Today, the novitiate is two years long, followed by at least three more years of discernment in “temporary” or “simple” vows. We live in a very different society and religious culture than Christians in the Twelfth Century!
The novices habit is not identical with the habit of the Order; the scapular is white, representing restored innocence, rather than black, representing conversion and penitence. The habit of the Order is the cowl, or all-encompassing long sleeved and hooded white robe worn over the scapular, tunic and belt. The novice is given, instead, a white, hooded mantle. In other words, it is a transitional garment introducing a transitional–hopefully transformative–stage. It therefore makes sense to celebrate this step at a private ceremony.
Please keep Br. Aelred Joseph in your prayers, not only today but through the two years of his novitiate.