Traditionally, in the Latin Church, the title nun was used to designate a woman who took solemn vows in a contemplative religious order. Though the distinction between solemn vows and simple vows is not made in the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church, the term nun applies properly to members of religious orders who by tradition still profess solemn vows and who observe some form of enclosure. Even though the Code does not define the term as such, it is used throughout the postconciliar document Ecclesiae Sanctae II to designate religious women with solemn vows. In popular parlance, however, the term is used at present for any member of an institute of consecrated life, as well as a member of a society of apostolic life.
In the Eastern Christian tradition, monastic life is given pride of place before other forms of consecrated life since it was the prototype of all cenobitical religious life. The term nun does not appear as such, but female members of monasteries, orders and congregations are referred to by the generic term "religious."
Perfectae Caritatis, the Vatican II Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life abolished the distinction formerly made in women's institutes between choir sisters and lay sisters. "Unless circumstances do really suggest otherwise, it should be the aim to arrive at but one category of sisters in women's institutes" (Perfectae Caritatis,15). It is left to the constitutions of each order to define those nuns who are bound to the choral recitation of the Divine Office. Similar norms oblige religious women in the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Bibliography: Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Latin-English (Washington, D.C. 2001). v. pospishil, Eastern Catholic Church Law, 2nd rev. and aug. ed. (New York 1996). j. beal, et al, New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York/Mahwah, NJ 2000). r. mcdermott, "Two Approaches to Consecrated Life: The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and the Code of Canon Law" Studia Canonica 29 (1995) 193–239.
nun / nən/ • n. a member of a religious community of women, esp. a cloistered one, living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. ∎ any of a number of birds whose plumage resembles a nun's habit, esp. an Asian mannikin. ∎ a pigeon of a breed with a crest on its neck. DERIVATIVES: nun·like / -ˌlīk/ adj. nun·nish adj.
NUN (Heb. נ, ן ;נוּן), the fourteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; its numerical value is 50. The earliest representation of this letter is a pictograph of a serpent , which developed into the early Phoenician . The later variants are Hebrew (Samaritan ),Phoenician , and Aramaic . During the late fifth century b.c.e. and after, in Aramaic cursive in the medial position the downstroke bent leftward . Thus the Jewish medial and final nun forms developed. The Nabatean cursive medial nun became more and more similar to medial bet, yod, and taw; in Arabic diacritic marks distinguish nun from ba (), ya (), and ta (). The ancestor of the Latin "N", the Archaic Greek , developed from the early Phoenician nun. See *Alphabet, Hebrew.