Sunday, October 21, 2007

Venia

There has been some discussion in the comments following Fr Augustine Thompson's most recent post on the Dominican rite regarding the ritual prostration known as the 'venia', from the Latin for 'pardon'. Rather than describe it, I thought the photo above from Leonard von Matt & Marie-Humbert Vicaire's 'St Dominic' (1957) would be more helpful.

As a novice, I was shown how to perform the 'venia', beginning by kneeling down, kissing one's scapular and then basically, assuming the position shown in the photo above. Or, as the Dominican nuns at Summit (who still perform the 'venia' regularly) put it: "One makes a prostration on one's right side with the right hand 'pillowing' the head and the left hand flat on the ground."

The 'venia' is certainly a mark of profound humility as well as an act of penance. Sadly, like so many of the penitential exercises of our religious life, the 'venia' has fallen into abeyance. However, there is a vestige that remains... Brothers still kiss their scapular if they have made a mistake in choir, or wish to ask the pardon or indulgence of another brother. This kind of self-awareness and humility is certainly good practice in religious life, although one does, on occasion, feel that the full sign of the 'venia' would be more desireable!