Outline summary

Line-numbers are given for each paragraph. Click on the highlighted paragraph-number to go to the relevant section of the edited text.

Recti diligunt te: three kinds of rightness, grammatical, geometrical, theological, the third comprising two rules, directing inner disposition and external conduct.

The author will discuss these rules, since his dear sisters have long been requesting a rule.

The first is charity, which rules the heart.

The second, which is subordinate, regulates outward observances.

The inner rule, which is divinely ordained, is the same for all; but the corporal observances of the outer rule may be adapted for individual anchoresses on their confessor's advice.

They should commit themselves by a vow only to obedience, chastity, and stability of abode, not to any external observances.

If asked what order they belong to, and whether it is black or white, they should say the order of St James; the author interprets the definition of the religious life (religio) in Jas. 1: 27 as including prelates and preachers in the world as well as those who withdraw themselves from it, and emphasises that James makes no mention of black or white clothing. Religio is a matter of inner disposition, not outward attire, and although a uniform habit may serve to reflect the inner unity of religious communities, it is unnecessary for recluses.

Ancrene Wisse is divided into eight parts (distinctiones): i) devotions ii) the custody of the senses iii) a comparison of recluses to birds based on Ps. 101: 7 iv) temptation v) confession vi) penance vii) purity of heart and the love of Christ viii) the outer rule.