[quote="anode, post:7, topic:182341"]
The question, is it--hundreds of years old?
This is a Benedictine order, which to my knowledge is the oldest order, certainly ONE of the oldest orders--extant. Benedictine nuns traditionally date back to Benedict's (fraternal) twin, Scholastica, in the 6th century. Remember the legend, that she was living with her nuns in her own monastery when he visited herm and she caused a storm to keep him there; she died shortly afterward.
It is this 'wedding' ritual ancient? Is it really traditional in the Benedictine sense ? Any Benedictines on the forum know?
The cloistered Dominicans do not do this. The taking of the habit is in a small private ceremony and I don't think the taking of temporary or final vows involves this . (See the Summit NJ website and Sr. M. Catherine's comments on the novitiate ceremony). The Dominican nuns were founded by St. Dominic himself, before he founded his men's order for his friars, I believe, in the 12th c.
This is not a wedding ritual. The words of the ritual are very different from a wedding ritual. It can't be a wedding ritual, because you need two persons who make vows to each other. There are no vows made at this time. Many communities adopted this ritual as an external symbol. It is meant to remind the woman religious that she is surrendering her life to her beloved as a bride surrenders her life to her beloved.
It is not exclusively a Benedictine tradition. Many religious communities of women had this practice. Most have done away with it, because they want the emphasis to be on the reception of habit and the beginning of a new life, rather than on the pageantry. The pageantry can be distracting. In those cases where the superior feels that it is a distraction, the bridal gown is eliminated. It is not necessary even though it is beautiful.
The reason that you do not see a bridal outfit when a religious makes vows, either temporary or perpetual is because at that point the religious has already been invested in the habit of the community. At the end of the novitiate, the religious exchanges the habit of probation for the habit of the professed members of the community. In some communities the habit of probation is simply a different veil over the habit of the congregation or order. In other cases it may simply be a change in the symbol, such as receiving the crucifix or medal that the community wears over its habit.
For example, the Sisters of Life in New York receive a white veil with a white band. At the end of the novitiate they change the white band on the veil for a blue one. Franciscans, Dominicans and Carmelite women wear a white veil during the novitiate year. When they make temporary vows they exchange it for a black veil. As you can see, they are already invested in the habit of the community, because they are already members of the community. They become members of the community when they begin the novitiate.
It's important to keep in mind that the purpose of investiture is to vest or dress the religious in the habit of the community. The investiture takes place on the day that the man or woman enters the religious community. Postulants are not members of the community, but novices are canonical members. That is why the habit is given at the beginning of the novitiate.
Br. JR, OSF :)