Oblation (LIX)

CHAPTER LIX. Of the Sons of Nobles or of Poor Men that are offered
13 Apr. 13 Aug. 13 Dec.

If any nobleman shall perchance offer his son to God in the Monastery, let the parents, should the boy be still in infancy, make for him the written promise as aforesaid; and together with the oblation let them wrap that promise and the hand of the child in the altar-cloth and so offer him up. With respect to his property, they must in the same document promise under oath that they will never either themselves, or through any one else, or in any way whatever, give him anything, or the means of having anything. Or else, if they are unwilling to do this, and desire to offer something as an alms to the Monastery, for their own advantage, let them make a donation of whatever they please to the Monastery, reserving to themselves, if they will, the income thereof during their life. Thus let all possibility of expectation be excluded whereby the child might be deceived and so perish (which God forbid), as we have learnt by experience may happen. Let those who are poorer do in like manner. But those who have nothing whatever may simply make the promise in writing, and, with the oblation, offer their son before witnesses.

Chapter LIX continues the provisions of Chapter LVIII. In both chapters, it is clear that Saint Benedict presents the monastic consecration as a sacrificial oblation, a true sacrificium. In this, Saint Benedict follows the doctrine of Saint Augustine:

Man himself, consecrated in the name of God, and vowed to God, is a sacrifice in so far as he dies to the world that he may live to God.(The City of God, Book X, Chapter VI)

For the child oblate, as for the man who makes monastic profession, the deliberate placing of the written promise upon the altar is an essential element of the rite. The hand of the child is wrapped in the corporal, together with the written promise of oblation, making clear to all that the child is identified with the offerings of bread and wine, and assimilated to the Victim Christ in the Holy Sacrifice. The significance of the altar, the place of sacrifice, is no less central in the profession of a monk. The chart of profession placed upon the altar represents the monk himself, and his whole life, past, present, and future. The monk made over to God becomes one sacrificium with the Victim Christ.

In Chapter LVIII, the monk sings his chant of offering: Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum et vivam, et ne confundas me ab exspectatione mea, “Take Thou me unto Thyself, O Lord, according to Thy promise, and I shall live; let me not be confounded in this hope of mine,” (Psalm 118:116). The monk making profession offers himself to the embrace of the arms of the Cross. This is his participation in the hour of which Our Lord spoke: “Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee” (John 17:1). Like a little child asking to be lifted up, the monk offers himself to the Father, trusting that the embrace of the Father’s strong arms will never fail him. Then, in union with the crucified Jesus, inclinato capite (“with bowed head,” see Chapter VII, the 12th degree of humility) he says: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Finally, in union with Jesus waking from the sleep of death in the tomb, he says: “I rose up and am still with thee; thou hast laid thy hand upon me. Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me” (Psalm 138:18, 5, 6).

Learn well these three precious texts: the Suscipe me (Psalm 118:116); the Pater, in manus tuas (Luke 23:46); and the Resurrexi (Psalm 138:18, 5, 6). Let them accompany you through all the seasons and hours of your monastic life. Pray them according to the lifelong rhythm of being brought low and of rising that is your participation in the mystery of Christ. You may also discover, as I have discovered, that the first of these, the Suscipe me (Psalm 118:116), corresponds to the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. The second, Pater, in manus tuas (Luke 23:46), to the Sorrowful Mysteries. And the third, Resurrexi (Psalm 138:18, 5, 6), to the Glorious Mysteries. What is our monastic life is not this: Christ living His mysteries in us?

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