Consecration definition

Consecration definition

1. (n) consecration (a solemn commitment of your life or your time to some cherished purpose (to a service or a goal)) "his consecration to study"
2. (n) consecration ((religion) sanctification of something by setting it apart (usually with religious rites) as dedicated to God) "the Cardinal attended the consecration of the church"
sanctification - a religious ceremony in which something is made holy. 3. (n) consecration (religion) the part of the Mass (Roman Catholic Church) after the sermon during which the bread and wine are believed to change into the Body and Blood of Christ

Consecrate and Consecration, What is Consecration?

Consecration, in general, is an act by which a thing is separated from a common and profane to a sacred use, or by which a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies. A technical definition of consecration means that you are to set yourself apart from evil, turn to the Lord, and be prepared to be used by God.

The Bible says, "You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 20:7).

In the Hebrew Law we find it applied to the entire people whom Moses, by a solemn act of consecration, designates as the People of God. As described in the Book of Exodus (24), the rite used on this occasion consisted

  • of the erection of an altar and twelve memorial stones (to represent the twelve tribes);

  • of the selection of twelve youths to perform the burnt-offering of the holocaust;

  • Moses read the covenant, and the people made their profession of obedience;

  • Moses sprinkled upon the people the blood reserved from the holocaust.

Later on we read of the consecration of the priests — Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29) — who had been previously elected (Exodus 28). Here we have the act of consecration consisting of purifying, investing, and anointing (Leviticus 8) as a preparation for their offering public sacrifice. The placing of the meat in their hands (Exodus 29) was considered an essential part of the ceremony of consecration, whence the expression filling the hand has been considered identical with consecrating. As to the oil used in this consecration, we find the particulars in Exodus (30:23-24; 37:29).

Distinct from the priestly consecration is that of the Levites (Numbers 3:6) who represent the first-born of all the tribes. The rite of their consecration is described in Numbers 8. Another kind of personal consecration among the Hebrews was that of the Nazarites (Numbers 6). It implied the voluntary separation from certain things, dedication to God, and a vow of special sanctity. Similarly, the rites of consecration of objects — such as temples, altars, firstfruits, spoils of war, etc. — are minutely described in the Old Testament.

The Church distinguishes consecration from blessing, both in regard to persons and to things. Hence the Roman Pontifical treats of the consecration of a bishop and of the blessing of an abbot, of the blessing of a corner-stone and the consecration of a church or altar. In both, the persons or things pass from a common, or profane, order to a new state, and become the subjects or the instruments of Divine protection. At a consecration the ceremonies are more solemn and elaborate than at a blessing. The ordinary minister of a consecration is a bishop, whilst the ordinary minister of a blessing is a priest. At every consecration the holy oils are used; at a blessing customarily on holy water. The new state to which consecration elevates persons or things is permanent, and the rite can never be repeated, which is not the case at a blessing; the graces attached to consecration are more numerous and efficacious than those attached to a blessing; the profanation of a consecrated person or thing carries with it a new species of sin, namely sacrilege, which the profanation of a blessed person or thing does not always do.

Of consecration proper the Roman Pontifical contains one of persons, that is of a bishop, and four of things, that is, of a fixed altar, of an altar-stone, of a church, and of a chalice and paten. To these might be probably added confirmation and Holy orders, for which, however, the Roman Pontifical, because they are distinct sacraments, has retained their proper names. If we except the consecration of a bishop, which is a sacrament — although there is a question among theologians, whether the sacrament and the character imprinted by it are distinct from the sacrament and character of the priesthood, or only a certain extension of the sacerdotal sacrament and character — all the other consecrations are sacramentals. These are inanimate things which are not susceptible of Divine grace, but are a medium of its communication, since by their consecration they acquire a certain spiritual power by which they are rendered in perpetuum fit and suitable for Divine worship. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theol., III:83:3, ad 3 and 4.)

When we speak of consecration without any special qualification, we ordinarily understand it as the act by which, in the celebration of Holy Mass, the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. It is called transubstantiation, for in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of bread and wine do not remain, but the entire substance of bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the entire substance of wine is changed into His blood, the species or outward semblance of bread and wine alone remaining. This change is produced in virtue of the words: This is my body and This is my blood, or This is the chalice of my blood etc., pronounced by the priest assuming the person of Christ and using the same ceremonies that Christ used at the Last Supper.

The Consecrated Life

What is Consecrated Life?

Consecrated life or religious life is the total and radical dedication of one’s life to God and his kingdom. This total dedication to God has as its goal the pursuit for perfection in charity by faithfully embracing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. In this sense, religious life is a free response to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ the poor, the celibate, the obedient son, more closely, thus becoming in this life a sign of the life to come. Consecrated life emanates from our baptismal call to be “witness” and servants of Christ and his kingdom. Religious or consecrated life can be lived out in community or individually but always as an expression of the Church’s life, mission and service.

What are the Evangelical Counsels?

The evangelical counsels are three: chastity, poverty, and obedience. These evangelical counsels are acts of supererogation. What does this mean? It means they are performed beyond what is required by God for our salvation. Hence, not necessary conditions without which eternal life cannot be attained.

Did you Know #1?

The Church distinguishes in the Gospel what Our Lord ordered everyone to do – an evangelical precept or command – and what He advised others to do if they feel a special call to be perfect – an evangelical counsel. The most important precept is to love God above everything and one’s neighbor as oneself. It is called the Precept of Charity, or New Commandment, that confirms the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament.

The Evangelical Counsels – “Poverty”

Poverty: dependence on God alone.

And Jesus seeing great multitudes about him, gave orders to pass over the water. And a certain scribe came and said to him: Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou shalt go. And Jesus saith to him: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests: but the son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said to him: Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him: Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.“ Matthew 8:18-22

And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith to him: All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me? Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19:16-22

No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [wealth]. Matthew 6:24

Poverty: through poverty the religious person empties himself or herself from the need to possess in order to be possessed by God alone, who alone is the true treasure found in the field (Matthew 13:44). Poverty is lived out through a simple life devoid of excesses and luxuries. The religious person only needs what is required to subsist and to carry his or her mission of service to the Church. In this way the religious person becomes dependent on God alone and his divine providence.

The Evangelical Counsels – “Chastity”

Chastity: To live for God alone.

For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.” Matthew 19:12

Then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have? And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.” Matthew 19:27-29

The ordering of one’s entire being and sexuality to the devotion, service and worship of God with an undivided concern and love for him. St. Paul says: “But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:32-34

The Evangelical Counsels – “Obedience”

Obedience: submission to God alone.

Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names”. Philippians 2:6-9

Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Through obedience the religious person subordinates his or her own personal plans or wants in order to be free to carry on the mission of the Church, wherever and whenever the Church’s mission of service needs him or her. Religious men or women are under the obedience of their religious superiors who are elected by the members of the religious community to guide and direct the mission of that particular religious community in the name of God and of the Church.

What are the forms of Consecrated Life?

The Eremitic or anchoritic life: Hermits or anchorites. Consecrated Virgins.
Monastic life: Monks, Nuns, Brothers.
Consecrated Lay persons and clerics: religious sisters, religious brothers, religious priests. Consecrated widows and widowers (Eastern Catholics).

Did you know #2?

Although in daily parlance we call all religious women nuns. There is a technical difference between a nun and a religious sister. A nun is a woman who has adopted the monastic life and lives cloistered in a convent living a contemplative life of prayer. She is the female equivalent of a monk. A religious sister on the other hand, is a woman who has an active apostolate in the world and is not confined to the monastic life of a convent. In this sense, all nuns are sisters but not all sisters are nuns. The male equivalent for a nun and religious sister is a religious brother. Brothers can be monastic or have an active apostolate in the world.

What are the two main expressions of consecrated life?

There are two main expressions of consecrated life: Active or apostolic. This means the religious person serves the church in a particular ministry, for example: education, healthcare, or prison ministry among others. Contemplative or monastic: the religious person lives a monastic life dedicated to prayer for the church and the monastic community. This also includes manual labor for self-sustenance. Whether active or contemplative all religious share three basic characteristics: 1.The profession of the evangelical counsels. 2. Separation from the mundane. 3. Community life.

How is the consecrated life structured?

Consecrated life is organized and structured through different institutes or societies. These are: Religious Institutes and Secular Institutes. A third, called Societies of Apostolic life although it shares many common elements with religious institutes of consecrated life is not technically a form of consecrated life.

What are religious institutes?

Religious institutes are communities of men and women religious who profess the evangelical counsels. They are divided into religious order and religious congregations.
Religious orders: These institutes are the major expression of consecrated life, these institutes are historically older than religious congregations, they appear at the beginning of the fourth century. Their members take solemn vows. Their members are called regulars, and if they are women they are called nuns.
Religious congregations: These institutes appeared at the end of the 16th century and in the 17th century. The members of these congregations take simple vows. Religious orders and congregations can be clerical or lay.

Characteristics of religious institutes

Religious institutes can be clerical or lay institutes. Clerical institutes are those governed by clerics, assume the exercise of sacred orders, and are recognized by the Church as clerical institutes. An example of this type of institute can be traced back to the 16th century, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and to the 18th century, the Congregation of the most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). Lay institutes: An institute of religious life whose spiritual heritage does not include the exercise of sacred orders. An example of this type of institute are all the institutes of women and brothers religious. Marist brothers from the 19th century is an example of this type of institute.

What are Secular Institutes?

Secular Institutes are the newest form of consecrated life within the Catholic Church. One can say: They are in the world, but not of the world, but for the world. Unlike religious institutes (orders and congregations), Secular institutes are not religious communities with a common house and public vows and financial responsibility for members. Instead, Secular institutes are organizations of like-minded Catholic laity or clerics who share a certain vision lived out personally, not communally. Unlike Societies of Apostolic Life, secular institutes are not an association with a singular missionary purpose in which all participate; instead they are committed to encouraging individuals striving for holiness in a vast variety of apostolates with common gospel values.

Secular Institutes

Secular Institutes were established in 1947 by Pius XII in his encyclical Provida Mater Ecclesia, making it one of the newest forms of consecrated life. Members of secular institutes is meant to live out the evangelical counsels in the midst of a secular world in unity with the Catholic Church, hence, the name secular institutes. Their mission is to evangelize the secular, to bring the kingdom of God into the spheres of their respective professions, relationships, and lives. Members of secular institutes are lay people with regular professions and jobs. For example: He or she could be the paramedic saving your life or your children’s teacher or the lawyer handling your case or the firefighter responding to an emergency. He or she could be the mechanic fixing your car. He or she could be the receptionist at the office where you work or the doctor performing your surgery. Members of secular institutes live alone in their homes or apartments or they may choose to share a residence with other members. They share fellowship through days or recollections, retreats, conferences and social meetings with each others.

Societies of Apostolic Life

Societies of Apostolic life are not technically a form of consecrated life although it shares many of the elements found in religious institutes such as the commitment to the evangelical counsels and living in community. However, their members are not called religious. Members of Societies of Apostolic life do not take religious vows. They can own property. Emphasis is given to the mission of the society. This mission could be: education, healthcare, missionary work etc. The society needs the permission of the local bishop in order to operate in a particular diocese. Like religious institutes their members can be clerical or lay. The life of the society is regulated by constitutions approved by the Church. An example of this type of society are the 19th century Maryknoll missionaries.
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