From the day of our clothing to the day of our burial, the habit acts as a powerful sign of our common life and identity that we should cherish. It manifests not only our membership in this Society but our solidarity with men and women following the monastic way the world over. It expresses a precious continuity linking us through the centuries to the beginning of the monastic movement in the Church of Christ.
This clothing, dense with meaning, is a source of joy. We have put on Christ in Baptism and the habit can remind us of our present union with him. The triple-cord round our waists is an ancient sign of readiness that can summon us to be prepared to meet Christ whenever he should come. The knots tied in the cord at profession are signs to the hand and eye of the vows we have made to abide faithfully until he comes.
Each house of the Society shall have its own guidelines about when the habit will be worn at home. Sometimes when we are away on mission wearing our habits may be a valuable witness to our calling, but whenever the habit is likely to be a barrier in our dealings with others we should wear ordinary clothing. The habit loses its spiritual value if it is used for ostentation or to imply a false distinction between ourselves and other Christians.
The cross of the Society is an emblem of our common life to be worn with ordinary clothing whenever we choose. It enables us to bear close to our heart a sign of the lifting up of Christ from the earth that he might draw all people to himself.
When we make our life profession, we are given as a further sign of our entire dedication to Christ a ring to be worn thereafter at all times. This ring is a sign of our espousal as lovers of God. It shows our solidarity with those who have made vows to meet the demands of love and faithfulness in marriage and dedicated partnership.
It is a joyful thing to have our lives enriched by these and other symbols, but their power will fade if we fail to renew our appreciation of their depths. The occasions when a brother is given the habit and cross, or puts on the ring, are opportunities when we can all re-experience the richness of these symbols, and from time to time we should meditate on them in our prayer. Our hallowing of these outward signs involves taking care of them, particularly making sure that our habits are clean and in good repair.