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Chapter I.637637    Cf. Basil’s Greater Monastic Rules, Q. xxii., from which a considerable portion of this chapter is taken.

Of the Monk’s Girdle.

As we are going to speak of the customs and rules of the monasteries, how by God’s grace can we better begin than with the actual dress of the monks, for we shall then be able to expound in due course their interior life when we have set their outward man before your eyes. A monk, then, as a soldier of Christ ever ready for battle, ought always to walk with his loins girded. For in this fashion, too, the authority of Holy Scripture shows that they walked who in the Old Testament started the original of this life,—I mean Elijah and Elisha; and, moreover, we know that the leaders and authors of the New Testament, viz., John, Peter, and Paul, and the others of the same rank, walked in the same manner. And of these the first-mentioned, who even in the Old Testament displayed the flowers of a virgin life and an example of chastity and continence, when he had been sent by the Lord to rebuke the messengers of Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, because when confined by sickness he had intended to consult Beelzebub, the god of Ekron, on the state of his health, and thereupon the said prophet had met them and said that he should not come down from the bed on which he lay,—this man was made known to the bed-ridden king by the description of the character of his clothing. For when the messengers returned to him and brought back the prophet’s message, he asked what the man who had met them and spoken such words was like and how he was dressed. “An hairy man,” they said, “and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins;” and by this dress the king at once saw that it was the man of God, and said: “It is Elijah the Tishbite:”638638    2 Kings i. 1–8. i.e., by the evidence of the girdle and the look of the hairy and unkempt body he recognized without the slightest doubt the man of God, because this was always attached to him as he dwelt among so many thousands of Israelites, as if it were impressed as some special sign of his own particular style. Of John also, who came as a sort of sacred boundary between the Old and New Testament, being both a beginning and an ending, we know by the testimony of the Evangelist that “the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair and a girdle of skin about his loins.”639639    S. Matt. iii. 4. When Peter also had been put in prison by Herod and was to be brought forth to be slain on the next day, when the angel stood by him he was charged: “Gird thyself and put on thy shoes.”640640    Acts xii. 8. And the angel of the Lord would certainly not have charged him to do this had he not seen that for the sake of his night’s rest he had for a while freed his wearied limbs from the girdle usually tied round them. Paul also, going up to Jerusalem and soon to be put in chains by the Jews, was met at Cæsarea by the prophet Agabus, who took his girdle and bound his hands and feet 202to show by his bodily actions the injuries which he was to suffer, and said: “So shall the Jews in Jerusalem bind the man whose girdle this is, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”641641    Acts xxi. 11. And surely the prophet would never have brought this forward, or have said “the man whose girdle this is,” unless Paul had always been accustomed to fasten it round his loins.


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