Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mar Rabbula, Bishop of Urhai : Some Early Rules for Syriac Monks

Admonitions concerning Monks, by Mar Rabbula, Bishop of Urhai

1. Before all things let the monks see to it that on no account women enter their monasteries.

2. Let not the brethren of the monastery enter the villages, except the Visitor of the monastery only, [and let him] observe the rules of decorum.

3. The Visitor who enters a village or a city shall not go about from house to house; and he shall not lodge with lay folk, but at the church, or at a monastery, if there be one at hand.

4. Let not the monks be drinking wine, lest they fall to blaspheming; rather let them avoid buying [wine] to drink.7

5. Let not the monks grow their hair long; and let them not wear or hang iron [upon their persons], except only those who are recluses, and do not go abroad anywhere.

6. Visitors who go abroad on the business of the monastery shall not wear garments of hair: nor any of the monks, [when] outside the monastery, lest they bring their venerable [monastic] habit into contempt.

7. Let none of the monks perform the anointing (i.e. of the sick), especially for women. If, however, there is one who is held in general esteem, let him give the anointing to men. And if there are any women who are suffering, let it (i.e. the oil) be sent to them through their relations.

8. Let not the commemorations [of the martyrs] be celebrated with large gatherings of people, but by the monks of the monastery only.

9. Let not the monks have possessions of sheep and goats, or of horses and mules or of other cattle,----unless it be an ass, for those who require one, or a single yoke of oxen, for those who sow [the fields].

10. Books, other than [those dealing with] the Faith of the Church shall not be kept in the monasteries.

11. Let there be no traffic of buying and selling in the monasteries; save only what is sufficient for their need, without avarice.

12. Let no one of the brethren who are in the monasteries acquire anything as his private property, apart from what is common to the brotherhood and under the control of the superior.

13. Let not the superiors of the monasteries allow the brethren to have interviews with their relations, or to go out and pay them visits, lest they become demoralised.

14. Let not the brethren, on the plea of sickness, leave their monasteries and wander about in the cities or villages; but let them bear their sufferings inside their monasteries for the love of God.

15. Let not the monks leave their own locality and, under an assumed personality, obtain judgments by bribery. And let them not go into the cities or to the judges.

16. The monks shall not, on the plea of [other] occupation or work, neglect the seasons fixed for [divine] service by day and night,

17. Let them receive strangers lovingly: and let them not shut the door in the face of any of the brethren.

18. No one of the brethren shall dwell as a solitary except such an one that has given proof of his manners for a considerable time

19. Let no monk take an oracle out of a book for any one.

20. Let not any brother who is not a priest or a deacon dare to give the Sacrament (lit.,the Holy Thing).

21. Those who have been made priests and deacons in the monasteries, and have been entrusted with churches in the villages, shall appoint as superiors in the monasteries those who have shewn proof [of their capacity] and are able to rule the brotherhood; and they themselves shall remain in charge of their churches.

22. Let not any bones of the martyrs be found in the monasteries; but whosoever has any such, let him bring them before us, and if they are genuine they may be venerated in the chapel of the Martyrs;13 otherwise let them be buried

23. Those of the monks who wish to make for themselves urns for the dead must bury them in the ground so that they cannot in any wise be seen.

24. If a brother, or a superior of one of the monasteries, departs this world, let only the brethren of the same monastery bury him, and that quietly. If they are not enough, let them invite with them the brethren of a neighbouring monastery; but let them not assemble to the funeral lay people from the villages.

25. If any one is buying corn for the use of the monastery, let him not receive anything over and above; hut according to the current charge of the threshing-floor, so shall he buy, and not be acting avariciously in the name of the monastery.

26. Let no one receive a brother who moves about from one monastery to another, without the permission of the superior with whom he was [before].

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