Office for the Benediction of Hermits (16th century), translated by Frank Bottomley
This office is a translation from the Latin by the medieval and local historian Frank Bottomley. The full title of his translation is "Office for the Benediction of Hermits (and Widows) According to the Rule of St. Paul," and is reprinted from the Appendices and Bibliography section of his web-based monograph: "Yorkshire's Spiritual Athletes: Hermits & Other Solitaries." See bibliographical references below. This version does not include Bottomley's footnotes. Some minor editing has been made for web presentation.
My translation of the Latin rite is from a sixteenth century Pontifical used in the diocese of London (and perhaps Durham), printed in R.M. Clay: The Hermits and Anchorites of England (London, 1904), Appendix B (pp. 199-202. The whole was used for hermits following the so-called Rule of St. Paul while the first part, with appropriate changes of gender, was used for the profession of vowesses. Words printed within square brackets [...] are not represented in the original.
The form and manner whereby a man, having been in his heart turned from the world may make his profession as a hermit to the bishop (or his commissary). This profession should be formalised on some ecclesiastical feast-day [i.e. Holy Day] designated as the occasion when it will take place. On this day, the bishop (vested in the customary manner for the celebration of High Mass) shall proceed with the celebration until just before the Gospel.
[The Ceremonies within the Mass]
Then, during the singing of the Alleluia, Tract or Sequence which precedes the Gospel, the would-be hermit should come forward in a devout manner, dressed in the conventional habit and carrying over his left arm the scapular or other garment suitable to the hermit's vocation. He should advance, with bare feet, as far as the altar step and there kneel before the feet of the bishop (or his commissary).
Immediately [after the singing of the Gospel?] the bishop and those standing round him [in the quire and presbytery] should sing antiphonally the psalm "Miserere mei Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam," followed by the doxology (Glory be to the Father …).
When the psalm is finished the bishop, from his chair, should speak to the postulant about the intention to be chaste and examine him about [his understanding of] the implications of the Rule which he is about to accept and the necessity of making a public profession of his intention. He should also discuss all the matters which to him seem relevant to the spiritual health of the postulant.
When all this has been done in the light of godly fear the postulant should read his profession aloud or, if he be unable to read [Latin], he should repeat it after the bishop. Then the bishop, from his throne, should turn towards the congregation and repeat the profession after the following form:
I, (name of postulant), unmarried, make a vow and promise to God, blessed Mary, and to all the saints, in the presence of the reverend father in Christ (name of bishop) of perpetual chastity in accordance with the Rule of St. Paul.
Then the professed should mark the end of the written vow with the sign of the cross and hand the document to the bishop before lying prostrate while the bishop says the following prayers over him:
Let us pray.
Almighty God, we beseech Thee to be present with this thy servant (Name) who renounces the pomps of the world. Open the gates of thy grace to one who has fled from the despised devil (to fight) under the banner of Christ. Bid him come to thee to be received with a welcoming countenance so that the enemy might not triumph over him. Grant him the tireless support of thine arm. Armour his mind with the breastplate of faith that in purity, fortified by thy fortunate defence, he may rejoice to have escaped the enemy. Through ... [Jesus Christ our Lord who with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God for ever and ever.]
Let us pray.
O God who made the children of Israel to sojourn forty years in the desert solitude when you gave them manna for food, and also brought it about that thy Son lived like a hermit for forty days and forty nights, and also hast shown thyself pleased that prophets and saints passed time in the desert, be gracious to thy servant .N. who after his fashion has chosen a similar kind of life by assuming the hermit's vocation, (grant) that he may change his behaviour to what is seemly and become fitted by perseverance to his profession so that he may attain perfection in this way of life and be worthy to the joys of those made perfect. Through the same ...[Jesus Christ etc.]
The blessing of the habit follows:
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
O God whose promises of everlasting good things never fail and who art our ever reliable surety and hast promised to thy faithful the vesture of salvation and the apparel of joy, we humbly beseech thy clemency that these garments may be a symbol of a humble heart and contempt for the world by which thy servant gives visible form to his holy purpose. Vouchsafe, of thy grace, to bless them so that he may maintain through thy protection the habit of chastity that he has put on and that he whom thou hast dressed in the habit of a revered profession may be forever clothed in blessed immortality. Through our Lord Jesus Christ who with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God for ever and ever.
O God, the giver of all good things and the generous dispenser of all blessings, hear our prayers so that this garment with which thy servant clothes himself as a sign of his dedicated chastity, you may vouchsafe to bless and make holy to the praise and glory of thy holy name. Through Christ our Lord.
hen the bishop sprinkles the garment with holy water and then gives it to the hermit and as he puts it on he [the celebrant] says:
May the Lord strip off from thee the old man and clothe thee with the new man who according to God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
R. Thanks be to God.
Then the bishop speaks the following words to the professed if he is lettered [i.e. knows Latin], otherwise he gives them in the mother tongue:
Brother, behold we have bestowed upon you the dress of a hermit and, together with it, we admonish you to live in purity, sobriety and holiness. Pass your time in vigils, in fasting, in work and prayer, and in the works of mercy so that you may possess eternal life and so live for ever and ever. Amen.
To which the "conversus" makes this reply devoutly upon his knees:
And I, reverend father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ receive this habit, promising as far as in me lies to devote myself to God and, aided by the grace of God and the kindly prayer of his saints, to follow your precepts faithfully.
[Blessing and Invocation of Holy Spirit]
Then the conversus prostrates himself while the bishop says the following prayers over him.
Let us pray.
Defend, O Lord, with thy due compassion this thy servant that he may ever preserve intact the vow which by thy inspiration he has undertaken. Through our Lord ...
Let us pray.
Attend to our prayers, O Lord, that you may vouchsafe to bless this thy servant whom in thy holy name we have clothed in the religious habit. Grant, of thy generosity, that he may both stand devout and steadfast in thy Church and also that he may be worthy to attain eternal life. Through the same ...
Then the bishop, turning towards the East, shall intone this hymn: "Come thou Creator Spirit ..."
(The above form may be used thus far for the blessing of widows). [The vocation of a hermit was more difficult, with particular trials and a special rule, and so the order for the blessing of hermits continues with:]
[More Prayers & Blessings]
Then is said [sung]
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Our Father .... trespass against us
V. And lead us not into temptation
R. But deliver us from evil. Amen.
V. Grant salvation to thy servant.
R. Who puts his hope in thee, my God.
V. O Lord, send him help from thy holy place
R. And salvation out of Zion.
V. Lord, be to him a tower of strength
R. From the face of his enemy.
V. Lord hear my prayer
R. And let my cry come unto thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, we beseech thee be attentive to thy servant who trusts in thy mercy and keep him under thy protection so that, freed from all adversities, he may be found worthy of everlasting blessing. Through Christ the Lord.
O God who restores the offender to righteousness and does not desire the death of a sinner, we humbly beseech thy majesty that thou protect thy servant .N. who trusts in thy heavenly mercy. Of thy goodness keep him safe by thy unceasing defence that he may always remain thy servant and never be separated from thee by any temptation. Through Christ the Lord.
Almighty and ever-living God have mercy on thy servant and guide him according to thy kindness in the way of eternal salvation so that, giving himself to thee, he may desire what pleases thee and bring to perfection every virtue.
Then turning to the conversus, he says
And may almighty God bless thee and grant thee the grace to live well (in this life) and bring thee to the life eternal. Through Christ ...
Then the bishop blesses the conversus as he kneels [before him] in these words:
May almighty God bless thee: Fat + her, Son + , and Holy + Spirit.
[The crosses in the text indicate the threefold sign of the cross made over the kneeling hermit]
[Instruction on the Rule of St. Paul]
But before the hermit goes away he should be given an exposition of the general lifestyle of a hermit with some mention of the particular observances that he personally is to follow.
Firstly, the bishop should enjoin him openly and publicly to say the Lord's Prayer, the Ave Maria and the [Apostles'] Creed so that they might be heard clearly by everyone [in the church?].
Then the bishop should give him instructions about the way in which he should say his equivalent to the Church's monastic Hours and the number of prayers which he should devoutly offer for the salvation of his soul and that of each of his benefactors, namely:
For Vespers he should say the Lord's Prayer twenty times and the same number of
His Compline should consist of thirteen Our Fathers and the same number of Hail Marys.
For his Matins he should repeat both these prayers thirty times; for Lauds, fifteen and for Prime, twenty-four.
For the other Hours, namely Terce, Sext and Nones, he should repeat them fifteen times as a substitute for each.
[Like the religious houses, the hermit was held to have a responsibility of praying for
the departed and so he is enjoined:]
On weekdays for his Placebo, fifty Our Fathers and Hail Marys; for Dirige, thirty-three; for Commendation twenty-four.
He should also repeat the Creed thirteen times every day and every night and hear Mass daily.
If the hermit can read [Latin] then he is to say the Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the seven psalms, also the Litany with the Placebo and Dirige for the departed. In addition, he should append to each of these Hours three Paternosters and three Aves, together with half a Nocturn.
In place of the above, the hermit may recite the entire psalter once a day.
Because idleness is an enemy of the soul and to prevent the devil's discovering him without an occupation, the hermit is to provide himself with manual work to fill the time when he is not at prayer. This may involve the production of food or the maintenance and repair of roads and bridges.
During the season of Advent and in the forty and ten days before Pentecost, he must abstain from meat so that at the end of those fasts he might make his communion after first going to confession. On all Wednesdays he should eat fish or milk-products [i.e. no meat] while on Fridays he must fast on bread and water unless he is granted a dispensation on account of serious illness or overwork. He should also fast on Saturdays, satisfying himself with fish.
The wearing of linen [underclothes] is not permitted to hermits (except for the provision of 'leg-warmers.' Their footwear is limited to shoes/sandals and they are not allowed boots.
When his formal ecclesiastical dress has been bestowed by the bishop's arrangement, then let the hermit depart [to his hermitage] in peace and in the name of the Lord.
Text from Frank Bottomley's "Appendices and Bibliography" (pdf): http://www.zurgy.org/medieval/appendix.pdf. This is an addendum to his monograph "Yorkshire's Spiritual Athletes: Hermits & Other Solitaries" (pdf): http://www.zurgy.org/medieval/hermits.pdf.