Consecration

An Insight into the Life of Evangelical Counsels

“The priest who is chief among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil is poured, and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose, nor tear his clothes; he shall not go into any dead "body, nor defile himself, even for his father or for his mother; neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his, God is upon him: I am the Lord.”
(Ex 21:10-12)

[1] Introduction. The concept of consecration of the consecrated person has a long history of development. It is biblically based in the understanding of qadosh (holy) and sacramentally bound in baptism, Eucharist, and priesthood. The life of the evangelical counsels is deeply rooted in the sacramental and liturgical life of the Christian community.

[2] Qadosh. The world of the bible is grouped into two hemispheres: the holy (qadosh) and the profane (chalal). The holy things distinguished from the profane through prayers and blessings; the dedication to sacred purposes is called consecration, qadash.

[3] Qadash. The root of the Hebrew word qadash constitutes the Hebrew letters qof, dalet, and shin. Qof is the picture of the back of the head which means behind, the last or the least. It stands too for the numerical value 100 (an infinity) and speaks of the children of promise. Dalet is the picture of the doorway or a gate and points to a place where change can take place or a place of decision. It stands for number 4 and points to creation. The Hebrew letter Shin resembles a tooth that consumes, destroys, or presses. It represents a numeric value of 300 and points to the final blood sacrifice made by the perfect Lamb of God. All in all, in the context of consecration, a consecrated person is the least that decides to change self for God to be the new creation through the sacrifice of the Blood of the Lamb. Hence, a consecration implies the destructive aspect of being set apart for a holy purpose or function.

[4] Chalal. In contrast with the root word of chalal. The Hebrew character chet resembles a fence and conveys an idea of a private place, a place of refuge, and to cut off; the lamed resembles the shepherd’s staff and means the authority (the leading voice). The profane is the one cut off from the the Good Shepherd as they are not to share the sacrifice of the Lamb dissimilar to the consecrated one, the qadosh. Not all lambs are destined to be sacrificed. So, the distinction between qadosh and chalal is not synonymous with the distinction between morally good and evil. Though qadosh is always associated with the holy but it does not follow that the chalal is evil.

"Behold, I have come to do your will, O God."
– Hebrew 10:7

[5] Dedication. The sacrificial character of qadash is more prominent in the Eucharist. The one set apart for God is both sanctified and destroyed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The dedication of a thing or person to divine service by a prayer or blessing. The consecration at Mass is that part of the Eucharistic Prayer during which the Lord’s words of institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper are recited by the priestly minister, making Christ’s Body and Blood—his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all—sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine.” The power of the human word transubstantiates the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Indeed, the ordinations' consecratory prayer bestows the ordained an adhering “sacramental power” ex opere operato given in his ministry; it holds not only in the Eucharist but also in other sacraments. Ultimately, the tremendous power of the priest originates not from himself but from Christ through the ministry of the Church.

[6] Consecration: Baptism and Profession. Consecrated life begins in baptism. After the baptism, the newly baptized is anointed with the oil and consecrated to God with the following words: God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life. This formula forms an essential integral part of the baptism. When we speak of consecrated life rooted in baptism it refers to those two moments: the immersion in water or the pouring of water and the anointing with Chrism, which constitutes formally the consecration.

[7] Profession. In the Rite of the Solemn Profession the presider prays the Solemn Blessing or Consecration over the newly professed. The Consecration prayer forms part integrally with the profession of vows. Together they constitute a person a consecrated one. Through the ministry of the Church, the professed is officially and personally bound to God and His Church through the religious community to where God called him to fulfill His call. This life of call’s fulfillment is his mission. The biblical and sacramental dimensions of the consecrated life reveals its inherent characters of holiness and sacrifice. They go together hand-in-hand. The mission of holiness could be only realized by doing the will of God. Every act of doing the divine will involves always a sacrifice. When sacrifice ceases, sanctification ceases too. Therefore, the life of evangelical counsels is a continuous life of sanctification and sacrifice.

[8] Conclusion. All the ideas regarding consecration describe an intense and intimate state of the professed – holiness which becomes his mission. By consecration, he belongs exclusively to God, which began in baptism. The act of consecration shows the eminence of human freedom in choosing God above all things and the magnanimity of divine freedom in accepting the vows and trusting the professed despite the fact of his sinfulness and the open possibility of betrayal of his covenant with God.

Author

Fra Alfonsus D. Panaligan, OFMConv., SThD
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