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Chapter XI.

Of the Spiritual Girdle and its Mystical Meaning.667667    Sacramentum.

Clad, therefore, in these vestments, the soldier of Christ should know first of all that he is protected by the girdle tied round him, not only that he may be ready in mind for all the work and business of the monastery, but also that he may always go without being hindered by his dress. For he will be proved to be the more ardent in purity of heart for spiritual progress and the knowledge of Divine things in proportion as he is the more earnest in his zeal for obedience and work. Secondly, he should realize that in the actual wearing of the girdle there is no small mystery declaring what is demanded of him. For the girding of the loins and binding them round with a dead skin signifies that he bears about the mortification of those members in which are contained the seeds of lust and lasciviousness, always knowing that the command of the gospel, which says, “Let your loins be girt about,”668668    S. Luke xii. 35. is applied to him by the Apostle’s interpretation; to wit, “Mortify your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil concupiscence.”669669    Col. iii. 5. And so we find in Holy Scripture that only those were girt with the girdle in whom the seeds of carnal lust are found to 205be destroyed, and who sing with might and main this utterance of the blessed David: “For I am become like a bottle in the frost,”670670    Ps. cxviii. (cxix.) 83. because when the sinful flesh is destroyed in the inmost parts they can distend by the power of the spirit the dead skin of the outward man. And therefore he significantly adds “in the frost,” because they are never satisfied merely with the mortification of the heart, but also have the motions of the outward man and the incentives of nature itself frozen by the approach of the frost of continence from without, if only, as the Apostle says, they no longer allow any reign of sin in their mortal body, nor wear a flesh that resists the spirit.671671    Cf. Rom. vi. 12; Gal. v. 17. S. Benedict’s rule about the dress of the monks is as follows: “Let the dress of the brethren be adapted to the character of the place or climate in which they live, as more clothing is required in cold than in hot countries. Hence we leave this to the abbot to determine. However, in temperate climates we are of the opinion that it will be enough for each monk to have a hood and a frock, a rough one for the winter, and in the summer a simple or old one; a scapular also for work; and the cover of the feet, shoes and socks. And the monks are not to complain of the colour or size of these articles, but to be satisfied with whatever can be found or got cheapest in the country where they live.” Regula S. Bened. c. lv.

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