The Monastic ABC

Abbot/Abbess 

From the Greek: "abbas", father. The Abbot (monks) or Abbess (nuns) is the (Father/Mother) Superior of an independent Benedictine house (Abbey) and is usually elected for life.

 

Abbey

Independent convent of monks or nuns, Canons Regular or canonesses, under the guidance of an abbot or abbess.

 

Ambo

Lectern in the church

 

Antiphonary

(from the Latin antiphonarium, antiphonarius) One of the present Catholic liturgical books. It contains all of the texts and music for the Divine Office, and was originally characterized, as its name implies, by the assignment to it principally of the antiphons used in various parts of the Roman liturgy.

 

Benedictines 

The oldest monastic Order in the Western Church. Benedictines place particular emphasis on the Divine Office. Motto: Ora et Labora, pray and work.

 

Cell (from the Latin cella, = chamber) The room of a nun or monk. 

 

Clothing

The ceremonial presentation of a habit within religious Orders.

 

Choir

In ancient Greece, the choir was originally the space reserved on stage for dances. In an ecclesiastical context, the choir (quire) is the part of the church where the choir sits, usually in the western part of the chancel between the nave and the sanctuary (which houses the altar). The Divine Office is sung here.

 

Compline (from the Latin completes, = complete, finished) 

Evening prayer; the last service of the Divine Office. 

 

Convent (from the Latin conventus, = gathering; congregation) 

A convent is either a community of priests, religious brothers, religious sisters, or nuns, or the building used by the community. Also: assemblage of all voting members in the community. 

 

Chorale (from the Latin cantus choralis, = choral singing) 

Since the late Middle Ages, monophonic Gregorian Chant. Derived from the choir of monks in the quire of the church. 

 

Cowl (from the Latin cuculla, = little house; hood) 

An item of clothing consisting of a long, hooded garment with wide sleeves. Part of a monk’s clothing in certain Orders. Various styles according to Order or Society.  

 

Divine Office (from the Latin, officium = duty, office

The official set of daily prayers, recited daily at the canonical hours.  The Divine Office (Matins, Lauds, Midday prayer, Vespers, Compline) consists primarily of psalms, usually sung, supplemented by hymns and readings

 

Enclosure (from the Latin claustra, = seal, barrier) 

Closed area within a monastery, reserved exclusively for members of the Order. A sign of seclusion and separation from the world.

 

Gregorian Chant

Western plainchant, a form of monophonic liturgical music, named after Pope Gregory I, Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604. 

 

Habit (from the Latin habitus, = condition, bearing, state, appearance, dress, attire”) 

A long, wide-fitting, distinctive set of garments worn by members of a religious order.  Outward sign of membership of a particular monastic Order. 

 

Lauds (from the Latin. laudationem (nom. Laudation,) = a praising, commendation,) 

Morning prayer; part of the Divine Office. 

 

Liturgy (from the Greek leitourgia, = a liturgy; public duty, ministration, ministry,) 

Collective term for the fixed services of the Christian Church 

 

Liturgy of the Hours (Latin: Liturgia Horarum) or Divine Office (Latin: Officium Divinum) 

The official set of daily prayers, recited daily at the canonical hours.  The Divine Office (Matins, Lauds, Midday prayer, Vespers, Compline) consists primarily of psalms, usually sung, supplemented by hymns and readings.

 

Mass

From Old English masse, messe, Old English mæsse. Late Latin missa, from Latin mittere, missum, = to send, dismiss. The Mass is celebrated in memory of the Last Supper and of Christ’s sacrifice. 

 

Midday prayer

Originally, work in monasteries was interrupted every three hours by prayer (see: Divine Office): At sunrise, prime; around 9am, terce, at midday, sext; and none. In order to fit in with modern life, terce, sext and none have been amalgamated into Midday Prayer in the abbey here. Prime has merged with lauds. 

 

Monastery

Originally a group of buildings, consisting of a church, living quarters and outbuildings, surrounded by a wall. Communal residence of members of a spiritual community who live by a Rule. 

 

Monastic Rule

Summary of the aims, conduct and rules of a religious Order, primarily monastic orders. The basis is usually the counsels of poverty (communal ownership of property), celibacy and obedience. 

 

Monk  (from the Greek monachós, = hermit) 

A male member of a monastic order who has devoted his life to religious service.

 

Novitiate (From Medieval Latin novitiatus, = a novitiate; from Latin novicius, novitius, = a novice.

A period of preparation and testing of novices required by Catholic Church law, usually lasting two years.

 

Nun

A female member of a monastery; a woman who has taken vows committing her life to her religion.  

 

Oblate

Men and women who wish to participate in the monastic life but who cannot, or do not wish to, enter a monastery. Oblates bind themselves to a monastery as lay members. Further information… 

 

Ora et labora (Latin, = "Pray and Work!") Old monastic rule. 

 

Order (from the Latin, ordo = order, rule

A lineage of spiritual communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion. Also, the confirmation of a spiritual Order by a bishop or the Pope. 

 

Postulancy (from the Latin postulatio, = petition, application) 

A time of probation, preceding the novitiate, for a postulant to learn more about the monastic life before committing him or herself. 

 

Prior (from the Latin prior, = prior, superior

Deputy to the Abbot or Abbess. In monasteries which have no abbot, the Prior is the head of the monastery. 

 

Profession (from the Latin profiteri, = promise

Public profession of vows within a monastic order; temporary vows (for 3-5 years) and final vows (for life).

 

Recreation

Communal time of relaxation 

 

Refectory

Communal dining area in a monastery (from the Latin reficere, = remake, restore). 

  

Silentium (from the Latin sileo, = I am quiet, I am silent

Designated times and places of silence within a monastic community, dictated by rule and custom. 

 

Spiritual exercises (from the Latin exercitation, = exercise) 

Spiritual exercises, including silence, personal meditation, spiritual dialogue and the celebration of the Mass. The content of the exercises is determined by Holy Scripture and one’s own life. Their classical form originates from St. Ignatius of Loyola, though nowadays they take a diverse form as spiritual paths to God. 

  

Statio

Brief assembly of monks or nuns before or after prayers. 

 

Table reading

The reading of scripture or an extract from the Rule during communal meals, which are otherwise spent in silence. The reading takes various forms in different monastic communities. 

 

Vespers (from the Latin vespera, = evening

Vespers is the sunset evening prayer. Part of the Divine Office. 

 

Vigil (from the Latin vigilia, = night watch, vigil

Night prayers