The commitment to follow Christ, and allow all aspects of our lives to be molded by the Christ-Life, is a tall order. Sometimes, it can be helpful to look at individual facets of the way of Jesus, and to recommit ourselves to practice through vows or promises. Making such vows before other people also increases our accountability.
Vows are not confined to those who are in formal religious orders. I composed the little rite that follows for my own use, some years ago. Sitting in a garden in New York City, a friend from my community witnessed my taking of these vows. (Due to the public setting, we used a small cord that I tied around my neck, instead of a cincture.) While I haven’t always done very well in living up to these promises, and often have questions about how best to embody them in current circumstances, they are a touchstone in my spiritual life. Obviously, the language draws heavily on the Breastplate of St Patrick. I also borrowed from a form of these vows written by Phil Very.
Celebrant: Peace be with you
Candidate: And with your spirit.
Celebrant: What came you here to do?
Candidate: I bind myself today, through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness of the Creator of creation. (Candidate hands a cincture to the celebrant.)
Celebrant: What are the knots of the binding cord of sacrifice?
Candidate: They are three: poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Celebrant: If you will, you may freely bind yourself thus.
Candidate: I vow to be chaste, in accord with my station in life, to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind, and all the children of God as myself. May the flame that burns in me be as the eternal flame of the Spirit, the love which is strong as death. Mother of God, grant me the grace I need to be faithful to this vow.
Celebrant: Yea, so be it. (Ties first knot in cincture.)
Candidate: I vow to be obedient to the will of God, insofar as grace is given me. From this day forth, I will strive to think, to feel, and to will, such that I can say with St Paul, “It is not I who live, but Christ in me.” Lord Christ, receive me into your life.
Celebrant: Yea, so be it. (Ties second knot in cincture.)
Candidate: I vow poverty and humility, in imitation of the High Father, who pours himself out in creation and redemption. I will use whatever inner or outer treasures are given me, in service to the world. Father, give me your strength to abandon pride, and to always choose to be hidden in you.
Celebrant: Yea, so be it. (Ties third knot in cincture, and returns it to the candidate, who binds it around his/her waist.)
Celebrant: The Holy Trinity has shown you the way of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and turned you aside from the way of power, debauchery, and riches. May these vows you utter today work within you, making you a living unity of spirit, soul, and body, dwelling in the circling life of the Triune God. May you strive not for yourself, but for the earth and all its creatures, that we may all together return to Paradise in accord with God’s loving plan.
Candidate: Yea, so be it. Uphold me, Lord, according to your promise and I shall live. Uphold me, Lord, according to your promise, and I shall live. Uphold me, Lord, according to your promise, and I shall live. Let not my hope be in vain.
Celebrant: God bless and sustain you in the way you have begun. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Candidate: Amen, Amen, Amen.
A more elaborate vow practice is found in my book, Living Mysteries. (And, yes, the new edition is due very soon. I have seen proofs, the cover, etc. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on availability.)