On Becoming an Oblate
Orthodox monasticism is frequently referred to as the Angelic Life since it is an attempt to transcend the bodily passions in order to free the soul thus allowing it to make its way to God. Not everyone is able to enter a monastery in order to live one’s Orthodox Faith in this intensity. Yet throughout the history of Christian monasticism the faithful have made their pilgrimages to various monasteries. Not so few Orthodox Christian laity have taken up residence in some geographic proximity to monasteries wherever they may be found. In the ancient Orthodox West, this need for an affinity to and spiritual guidance of monks was recognized as early as the ninth century. Prior to this, both in the Rule of St. Benedict (Art. 59) and in the writings of St. Gregory the Great we find the practice of noble families dedicating one of their sons to God by allowing him to be raised and educated in the monastery. Such is the term “oblation”, to offer unto God. We hear this in word used in the Eastern Liturgy regarding the Holy Eucharist, “We offer this oblation of peace”. Eventually, in Western monasticism there developed “Intern oblates” who were layman who lived and worked in the monastery as monks except that these had not taken vows. Then there were the “Extern Oblates”, those who had attached themselves by affinity and guidance of a monastery but lived their Christian life in-the-world.It is possible today, though rarely, to find Intern Oblates of some form thereof in Orthodox monasteries. By far the common and easiest connection the average Orthodox layman can make with the monastic life is as an Extern Oblate.
One who qualifies as a candidate to the Oblates of St Benedict are Orthodox Christians who are, at least, 17 years old. They may be either married or single, layman or clergy in good standing with their ruling bishop.
They have completed a one year novitiate as an Oblate Novice under the guidance of the Vicar for Oblates or the Abbot of the monastery to which one will be attached.
During this one year of training, the Oblate Novice becomes familiar with the Rule of Saint Benedict and its application to an Oblate’s life, learns to pray the Divine Office in Gregorian Chant and meditates in the fashion of Lectio Divina. One learns about what is particular to Benedictine Spirituality and its connection to the Orthodox Christian way of life. Additionally, the novice reads the life of St. Benedict, Benedictine history and martyrology.
This is the standard novitiate as observed at the Abbey of the Holy Name in West Milford, New Jersey.
Upon completion of the novitiate the Vicar for Oblates or the Abbot considers the candidate’s ability and dedication in fulfilling this vocation of oblation. If accepted, the candidate graduates by means of a Service of Oblation or the tonsure of an oblate. This para-liturgical Service is one’s initiation and acceptance before God and His Church into a deeper observance of the traditional Orthodox Christian Faith.
If you feel you have a vocation to serve God through His Church or if you wish simply to become an Orthodox Christian Oblate you are welcome to correspond with us.