This past Wednesday was our annual vow service. It is one of the most beautiful nights of the year. The church, still clothed in Christmas garb, glows with the warmth of candle light. The vowed Community, robed with white scapulars, fill the seats on either side of the aisle the candidate will walk. And the candidate, this year already robed and making final vows, exudes a light that comes with saying Yes.
I find everything about the service moving, from the hymns, to the speaking of the vows, to the moment where the candidate prostrates him or herself at the foot of the altar in a moment of total vulnerability and surrender. It’s an event where the ever-moving stream of history is almost palpable and the unity with monastics across time and space is humbling to say the least. And it is a moment that reminds each of us of our own call.
The most beautiful moment to me, is the chanting of the Suscipe — an ancient and traditional chant for the final vows in a Benedictine Community. The newly vowed sings it once on their own and then, in a chorus of support, the entire vowed community repeats it. It is as though, through the Latin text, we are pledging to stand with the newly professed, and they with us — a bond of obedience and dependence on God. And we sing it, knowing we will stumble, that sometimes we will want to quit, and that sometimes, we just need to stand still.
“Suscipe me Domine, secundum eloquium tuum at vivam; et non confundas me, ab expectatione mea.”
Uphold me, Lord, according to your word, and do not disappoint me in my hope.