C. The innovation in the spiritual heritage

On account of the above descriptions and findings we now are able to see the elements, which the Order of St. John brought as innovations through its foundation and Rule into the history of the religious institutes, of the church and of the world. Thus we reached the finishing straight of our description.

1. The vow of chastity

A substantial new element of the spiritual heritage of the Order of St. John is the demand in the Rule to vow chastity. No Founder of a religious Order had demanded this yet explicitly in his Rule. That does not mean, that previous orders would not have known or demanded chastity, but in the Rule itself this vow appears for the first time with the Order of St. John.

The Rule of St. Augustine contains in its fourth chapter clear statements on how to keep chastity. It demands, to pleasantly stand out in moral habits, to behave according to the holy status, neither to desire women, nor to wish being desired by them, nor to star at them in an unchaste manner.

In the Rule of St. Benedict too, there are statements about chastity: "to love chastity" is a tool for good works and the abbot must be chaste, too.

Chastity appears for the first time in the formula for the religious vows about AD 1148 in the monastery (of canons of) St. Genevieve in Paris, when this was reformed on the suggestion of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whereas chastity was already counted amongst the duties of clerics in the "Aachen Rule for Clerics" in AD 816. Abbot Odo of St. Genevieve called these vows "chastity, community life and obedience." Raymond words it in the Rule of the Order of St. John: "the three things ..., which they have promised to God: that is to say, chastity and obedience, ... and to live without property of their own."

Through a development of the Rule of St. Augustine therefore the vow of chastity came into the Rule of the Order of St. John. The priests of the brotherhood of the hospital of Jerusalem, which was the forerunner of the Order, had a decisive influence on the emergence of the Rule. Thus canon 4 of the Lateran Synod of AD 1059, which was concerning secular priests, may have served as a basis for the canonising of the Rule. It reads: "Those clerics, who in obedience to our predecessor, kept chastity, should eat and sleep, share their income and lead an apostolic life at the churches they have been ordained for."

Blessed Gérard
This page is part of the publication: Blessed Gérard and his "everlasting brotherhood": The Order of St. John of Jerusalem

This page was last updated on Monday, 13 October 2014 14:40:01


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