Our habit is a powerful way of communicating the professed brother’s values.
Our tunic is white or grey..
The black hooded scapular rests on the brother’s shoulders (scapulae in Latin) and over the tunic. Jesus said, ‘shoulder my yoke and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart… my yoke is easy and my burden light.’ It is not difficult to see this piece of material as deeply symbolic of Christ’s command. The brother makes a vow of obedience to his Prior, to imitate Christ who came to us, not to do his own, but his Father’s will, and so redeem us from our sins. By his obedience, the brother shares in this redemption in a real way, as part of the Body of Christ.
The hood is used most effectively in prayer as a way of focusing on Christ and repelling distractions. Symbolically, it makes you look straight ahead on the path to the kingdom of God, not looking to the left or the right for paths that lead him away from the goal.
Novices wear a black scapular without a hood before their profession.
The leather belt circles the waist and is a sign of the conversion of life the brother vows to follow. The belt stops the scapular from flowing about the body in an unruly way. In the same way, conversion of life is allowing the daily life in our community and its interactions with God and the brethren to encircle us and slowly, over a lifetime, change him into a saint.
Novices wear a leather belt underneath their scapular before their profession.
So, the monastic habit eloquently reminds the brother every moment of the way he should be living to fulfil his vows.
When the solemnly professed brother attends chapter meetings or during the Eucharist and our Opus Dei, when we are worshipping God, the brothers wear a cowl over his habit. This is a square-shaped white garment, reaching to the feet, with very long wide sleeves. It is a powerful reminder of the brother’s total dedication to the worship of God and of God enfolding him in love. The brother receives the cowl at his solemn profession, when the Prior clothes him symbolically in Christ. This graphically and visually makes present the brother’s Baptism, now to be lived very publicly as a consecrated religious, witnessing to the coming Kingdom of God.