The reason why those who are admitted to a monastery are not permitted to mix at once with the congregation of the brethren, but are first committed to the guest house.
When, then, any one has been received and proved by that persistence of which we have spoken, and, laying aside his own garments, has been clad in those of the monastery, he is not allowed to mix at once with the congregation of the brethren, but is given into the charge of an Elder, who lodges apart not far from the entrance of the monastery, and is entrusted with the care of strangers and guests, and bestows all his diligence in receiving them kindly. And when he has served there for a whole year without any complaint, and has given evidence of service towards strangers, 761 being thus initiated in the first rudiments p. 221 of humility and patience, and by long practice in it acknowledged, when he is to be admitted from this into the congregation of the brethren he is handed over to another Elder, who is placed over ten of the juniors, who are entrusted to him by the Abbot, and whom he both teaches and governs in accordance with the arrangement which we read of in Exodus as made by Moses. 762
In the same way the Rule of S. Benedict (c. lviii.) directs that the novice is to be placed in the guest house for a few days, while that of S. Isidore is more precise in ordering him to be placed there “for three months,” and to wait on the guests there. Two months is the period fixed by other rules, but a few days was all that was ultimately required, and Cassian stands alone in mentioning a full year as the duration of this service, though Sozomen speaks of the monks of Tabenna as having to undergo a probation of three years. H. E., III. xiv.221:762
Cf. Exod. xviii. 25. The office of “Dean” (Decanus) which is here spoken of by Cassian, is also referred to by Augustine (De Mor. Eccl. xxxi.) and Jerome (Ep. xxii. ad Eustoch.), and recognized by the Rule of S. Benedict, c. xxi., where directions for his appointment are given.