Religious vows

Last updated
Perpetual vows and consecration of virgins in the Benedictine priory of Marienrode in Germany, 2006 Ewige Profess.jpg
Perpetual vows and consecration of virgins in the Benedictine priory of Marienrode in Germany, 2006

Religious vows are the public vows made by the members of religious communities pertaining to their conduct, practices, and views.

Contents

In the Buddhism tradition, in particular within the Mahayana and Vajrayana tradition, many different kinds of religious vows are taken by the lay community as well as by the monastic community, as they progress along the path of their practice. In the monastic tradition of all schools of Buddhism the Vinaya expounds the vows of the fully ordained Nuns and Monks.

In the Christian tradition, such public vows are made by the religious – cenobitic and eremitic – of the Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, whereby they confirm their public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience or Benedictine equivalent. The vows are regarded as the individual's free response to a call by God to follow Jesus Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit in a particular form of religious living. A person who lives a religious life according to vows they have made is called a votary or a votarist. The religious vow, being a public vow, is binding in Church law. One of its effects is that the person making it ceases to be free to marry. In the Catholic Church, by joining the consecrated life, one does not become a member of the hierarchy but becomes a member of a state of life which is neither clerical nor lay, the consecrated state. [1] Nevertheless, the members of the religious orders and those hermits who are in Holy Orders are members of the hierarchy. [2]

Christianity

In the Western Church

Since the 6th century, monks and nuns following the Rule of Saint Benedict have been making the Benedictine vow at their public profession of obedience (placing oneself under the direction of the abbot/abbess or prior/prioress), stability (committing oneself to a particular monastery), and "conversion of manners" (which includes forgoing private ownership and celibate chastity). [3]

During the 12th and 13th centuries mendicant orders emerged, such as the Franciscans and Dominicans, whose vocation emphasizing mobility and flexibility required them to drop the concept of "stability". They therefore profess chastity, poverty and obedience, like the members of many other orders and religious congregations founded subsequently. The public profession of these evangelical counsels (or counsels of perfection), confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, are now a requirement according to modern Church Law. [4]

The "clerks regular" of the 16th century and after, such as the Jesuits and Redemptorists, followed this same general format, though some added a "fourth vow", indicating some special apostolate or attitude within the order. Fully professed Jesuits (known as "the professed of the fourth vow" within the order), take a vow of particular obedience to the Pope to undertake any mission laid out in their Formula of the Institute. The Missionaries of Charity, founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta centuries later (1940s), are another example of this, in that her sisters take a fourth vow of special service to "the poorest of the poor".

In the Catholic Church

Scale of justice, canon law.svg
Part of a series on the
Canon law of the
Catholic Church
046CupolaSPietro.jpg Catholicismportal

In the Catholic Church, the vows of members of religious orders and congregations are regulated by canons 654-658 of the Code of Canon Law. These are public vows, meaning vows accepted by a superior in the name of the Church, [5] and they are usually of two durations: temporary, and, after a few years, final vows (permanent or "perpetual"). Depending on the order, temporary vows may be renewed a number of times before permission to take final vows is given. There are exceptions: the Jesuits' first vows are perpetual, for instance, and the Sisters of Charity take only temporary but renewable vows.

Religious vows are of two varieties: simple vows and solemn vows. The highest level of commitment is exemplified by those who have taken their solemn, perpetual vows. There once were significant technical differences between them in canon law; but these differences were suppressed by the current Code of Canon Law in 1983, although the nominal distinction is maintained. Only a limited number of religious congregations may invite their members to solemn vows; most religious congregations are only authorized to take simple vows. Even in congregations with solemn vows, some members with perpetual vows may have taken them simply rather than solemnly.

A perpetual vow can be superseded by the Pope, when he decides that a man under perpetual vows should become a Bishop of the Church. In these cases, the ties to the order the new Bishop had, are dissolved as if the Bishop had never been a member; hence, such a person as Pope Francis, for example, has had no formal ties to his old order for years. However, if the Bishop was a member in good standing, he will be regarded, informally, as "one of us", and he will always be welcome in any of the order's houses.

There are other forms of consecrated life in the Catholic Church for men and women. They make a public profession of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, regulated by canon law but live consecrated lives in the world (i.e. not as members of a religious institute). Such are the secular institutes, the hermits and the consecrated virgins (canon 604) These make a public profession of the evangelical counsels by a vow or other sacred bond. Also similar are the societies of apostolic life.

For Protestant criticism of monastic vows as practiced in the Catholic Church, see Augsburg Confession § Article XXVII: Of Monastic Vows

In particular, the vow of stability has been criticized by some activists for enhancing the interpersonal power of the individual running a particular monastery and for being too restrictive to personal freedom. [6]

In the Eastern Orthodox Church

Although the taking of vows was not a part of the earliest monastic foundations (the wearing of a particular monastic habit is the earliest recorded manifestation of those who had left the world), vows did come to be accepted as a normal part of the Tonsure service in the Christian East. Previously, one would simply find a spiritual father and live under his direction. Once one put on the monastic habit, it was understood that one had made a lifetime commitment to God and would remain steadfast in it to the end. Over time, however, the formal Tonsure and taking of vows was adopted to impress upon the monastic the seriousness of the commitment to the ascetic life he or she was adopting.

The vows taken by Orthodox monks are: Chastity, poverty, obedience, and stability. The vows are administered by the Abbot or Hieromonk who performs the service. Following a period of instruction and testing as a novice, a monk or nun may be tonsured with the permission of the candidate's spiritual father. There are three degrees of monasticism in the Orthodox Church: The Ryassaphore (one who wears the Ryassa – however, there are no vows at this level – the Stavrophore (one who wears the cross), and the Schema-monk (one who wears the Great Schema; i.e., the full monastic habit). The one administering the tonsure must be an ordained priest, and must be a monk of at least the rank he is tonsuring the candidate into. However a Bishop (who, in the Orthodox Church, must always be a monk) may tonsure a monk or nun into any degree regardless of his own monastic rank.

Jain ethics and five vows

Nishidhi stone, depicting the vow of sallekhana, 14th century, Karnataka Nishidhi stone with 14th century Old Kannada inscription from Tavanandi forest.JPG
Nishidhi stone, depicting the vow of sallekhana, 14th century, Karnataka

Jainism teaches five ethical duties, which it calls five vows. These are called anuvratas (small vows) for Jain laypersons, and mahavratas (great vows) for Jain mendicants. [7] For both, its moral precepts preface that the Jain has access to a guru (teacher, counsellor), deva (Jina, god), doctrine, and that the individual is free from five offences: doubts about the faith, indecisiveness about the truths of Jainism, sincere desire for Jain teachings, recognition of fellow Jains, and admiration for their spiritual pursuits. [8] Such a person undertakes the following Five vows of Jainism:

  1. Ahiṃsā , "intentional non-violence" or "noninjury": [8] The first major vow taken by Jains is to cause no harm to other human beings, as well as all living beings (particularly animals). [8] This is the highest ethical duty in Jainism, and it applies not only to one's actions, but demands that one be non-violent in one's speech and thoughts. [9] [10]
  2. Satya , "truth": This vow is to always speak the truth. Neither lie, nor speak what is not true, and do not encourage others or approve anyone who speaks an untruth. [9] [7]
  3. Asteya , "not stealing": A Jain layperson should not take anything that is not willingly given. [8] [11] Additionally, a Jain mendicant should ask for permission to take it if something is being given. [12]
  4. Brahmacharya , "celibacy": Abstinence from sex and sensual pleasures is prescribed for Jain monks and nuns. For laypersons, the vow means chastity, faithfulness to one's partner. [9] [7]
  5. Aparigraha , "non-possessiveness": This includes non-attachment to material and psychological possessions, avoiding craving and greed. [7] Jain monks and nuns completely renounce property and social relations, own nothing and are attached to no one. [13] [14]

Jainism also prescribes seven supplementary vows, including three guņa vratas (merit vows) and four śikşā vratas. [15] [16] The Sallekhana (or Santhara) vow is a "religious death" ritual vow observed at the end of life, historically by Jain monks and nuns, but rare in the modern age. [17] In this vow, there is voluntary and gradual reduction of food and liquid intake to end one's life by choice and with dispassion, [18] [19] In Jainism this is believed to reduce negative karma that affects a soul's future rebirths. [20]

Related Research Articles

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is an ancient Indian religion. Followers of Jainism are called "Jains", a word derived from the Sanskrit word jina (victor) referring to the path of victory in crossing over life's stream of rebirths by destroying karma through an ethical and spiritual life. Jainism is a transtheistic religion, and Jains trace their spiritual ideas and history through a succession of twenty-four leaders known as tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhanatha, who according to Jain tradition lived millions of years ago, the twenty-third Tirthankara Parshvanatha in 900 BCE, and the twenty-fourth Tirthankara the Mahāvīra around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology. Their religious texts are called Agamas.

Nun Member of a religious community of women

A nun is a member of a religious community of women, typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery. Communities of nuns exist in numerous religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, and Taoism.

A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of laypeople and, in some orders, clergy. Religious orders exist in many of the world's religions.

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.

Religious order (Catholic) Type of religious community in the Roman Catholic Church characterised by its members professing solemn vows

In the Catholic Church, a religious order is a type of religious community characterised by its members professing solemn vows. According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, they are classed as a type of religious institute.

In Catholic canon law, a solemn vow is a vow that the Church has recognized as such.

In the Catholic Church, a religious profession is the solemn admission of men or women into consecrated life by means of the pronouncement of religious vows, typically the evangelical counsels.

Consecrated virgin Consecrated by the church to a life of perpetual virginity as an exclusive spouse of Christ.

In the Catholic Church, a consecrated virgin is a woman which has been consecrated by the church to a life of perpetual virginity as a spouse of Christ. Consecrated virgins are consecrated by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite. The consecrated virgins are to spend their time in works of penance and mercy, in apostolic activity and in prayer, according to their state of life and spiritual gifts.

A religious is, in the terminology of many Western Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion, what in common language one would call a "monk" or "nun", as opposed to an ordained "priest". A religious may also be a priest if he has undergone ordination, but in general he is not.

Consecrated life is a state of life in the Catholic Church lived by believers who wish to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it "is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in a stable state of life recognized by the Church". The Code of Canon Law defines it as "a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to his honour, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory."

The Dominican Sisters of the Heart of Jesus are located in Lockport, Louisiana.

Religious habit Distinctive set of garments worn by members of a religious order

A religious habit is a distinctive set of religious clothing worn by members of a religious order. Traditionally some plain garb recognizable as a religious habit has also been worn by those leading the religious eremitic and anchoritic life, although in their case without conformity to a particular uniform style.

An institute of consecrated life is an association of faithful in the Catholic Church erected by canon law whose members profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience by vows or other sacred bonds. They are defined in the Code of Canon Law under canons 573–730.

A religious congregation is a type of religious institute in the Catholic Church. They are legally distinguished from religious orders – the other major type of religious institute – in that members take simple vows, whereas members of religious orders take solemn vows.

Evangelical counsels Chastity, poverty (perfect charity) and obedience

The three evangelical counsels or counsels of perfection in Christianity are chastity, poverty, and obedience. As Jesus of Nazareth stated in the Canonical gospels, they are counsels for those who desire to become "perfect". The Catholic Church interprets this to mean that they are not binding upon all and hence not necessary conditions to attain eternal life (heaven). Rather they are "acts of supererogation" that exceed the minimum stipulated in the Commandments in the Bible. Catholics that have made a public profession to order their life by the evangelical counsels, and confirmed this by a public religious vow before their competent church authority, are recognised as members of the consecrated life.

Enclosed religious orders Christian religious orders separated from the external world

Enclosed religious orders of the Christian churches have solemn vows with a strict separation from the affairs of the external world. The term cloistered is synonymous with enclosed. In the Catholic Church enclosure is regulated by the code of canon law, either the Latin code or the Oriental code, and also by subsidiary legislation. It is practised with a variety of customs according to the nature and charism of the community in question.

Degrees of Eastern Orthodox monasticism

The degrees of Eastern Orthodox monasticism are the stages an Eastern Orthodox monk or nun passes through in their religious vocation.

A religious brother is a member of a Christian religious institute or religious order who commits himself to following Christ in consecrated life of the Church, usually by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He is a layman, in the sense of not being ordained as a deacon or priest, and usually lives in a religious community and works in a ministry appropriate to his capabilities. A brother might practice any secular occupation. The term "brother" is used as he is expected to be as a brother to others. Brothers are members of a variety of religious communities, which may be contemplative, monastic, or apostolic in character. Some religious institutes are composed only of brothers; others are so-called "mixed" communities that are made up of brothers and clerics.

A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church where its members take religious vows and lead a life in community with fellow members. Religious institutes are one of the two types of institutes of consecrated life; the other is that of the secular institute, where its members are "living in the world".

Religious sister (Catholic) Woman who has taken public vows in a religious institute

A religious sister in the Catholic Church is a woman who has taken public vows in a religious institute dedicated to apostolic works, as distinguished from a nun who lives a cloistered monastic life dedicated to prayer. Both nuns and sisters use the term "sister" as a form of address.

References

Citations

  1. 1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 588
  2. Chart showing the place of those making religious vows among the People of God
  3. Rule of St Benedict, ch. 58:17.
  4. In the Roman Catholic Church, see canons 573, 603 and 654 of the Code of Canon Law 1983; only the Benedictines continue to make the equivalent Benedictine vow.
  5. Code of Canon Law, canon 1192 §2
  6. Vow of stability, concordatwatch.eu website
  7. 1 2 3 4 von Glasenapp 1925, pp. 228–231.
  8. 1 2 3 4 von Glasenapp 1925, p. 228.
  9. 1 2 3 Shah, Pravin K (2011), Five Great Vows (Maha-vratas) of Jainism, Harvard University Literature Center, archived from the original on 31 December 2014, retrieved 7 May 2017
  10. Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 33.
  11. Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 68.
  12. von Glasenapp 1925, p. 231.
  13. Natubhai Shah 2004, p. 112.
  14. Long 2009, p. 109.
  15. Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 87–88.
  16. Tukol 1976, p. 5.
  17. Dundas 2002, pp. 179–180.
  18. Jaini 2000, p. 16.
  19. Tukol 1976, p. 7.
  20. Williams 1991, pp. 166–167.

Sources