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By Deacon Keith Fournier
To consecrate means to dedicate. It is used in reference to worship and means to be set aside or set apart for God. It is also a word which speaks to the very core of the Christian vocation. We are all called through our Baptism to be set aside for God.
Rooted in the Jewish tradition, consecration has biblical roots. It is also entrenched within the Christian Tradition. The history of the Church is filled with the living witness of holy men and women who were set apart to continue the redemptive mission of the Lord Jesus Christ until He returns; men and women who lived in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world.
Madonna of Mercy with Kneeling Friars - Fra angelico - 1424
Throughout Christian history, the special role of Mary in the redemptive mission led to deeper reflection and a growing understanding that she is the exemplar of the faith. In their Pastoral Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council summarized this important insight:
"The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit."
The faithful express a special love for Mary through prayers of consecration to Jesus - offered through her maternal intercession and mediation. Again, the Council fathers help us understand this consecration:
"Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is "the mother of the members of Christ . . . having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head." Wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother" (LG #53).
"There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all" ( 1 Tim.2:5,6).
Altarpiece of the Seven Joys of Mary - Unknown German Master - 1480
"The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ."
"Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace. This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation" (LG #61,62).
"Marian Consecration" in Western Christian spirituality is usually associated with St. Louis Grignion de Montfort, St. John Eudes, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. However, a reading of the early Fathers of the undivided Church finds its firm root in the first centuries of Christianity. Mary is the model of a life perfectly consecrated to God. She was specially chosen by God in the plan of salvation. She continues now as our mother - given to us by Her Son and Savior - to help us consecrate our lives to Him. She offers us her example, her prayers and her motherly care.
On Sunday, October 8, 2000, Blessed John Paul II, who was totally consecrated to Jesus through Mary, led the Bishops of the world in a consecration of the Third Millennium to Mary in these beautiful words which unfold the meaning of Marian consecration:
"Woman, behold your Son!" (Jn 19:26).
As we near the end of this Jubilee Year,
when you, O Mother, have offered us Jesus anew,
the blessed fruit of your womb most pure,
the Word made flesh, the world's Redeemer,
we hear more clearly the sweet echo of his words
entrusting us to you, making you our Mother:
"Woman, behold your Son!"
When he entrusted to you the Apostle John,
and with him the children of the Church and all people,
Christ did not diminish but affirmed anew
the role which is his alone as the Saviour of the world.
You are the splendor which in no way dims the light of Christ,
for you exist in him and through him.
Everything in you is fiat: you are the Immaculate One,
through you there shines the fullness of grace.
Here, then, are your children, gathered before you
at the dawn of the new millennium.
The Church today, through the voice of the Successor of Peter,
in union with so many Pastors assembled here
from every corner of the world,
seeks refuge in your motherly protection
and trustingly begs your intercession
as she faces the challenges which lie hidden in the future.
In this year of grace, countless people have known
the overflowing joy of the mercy
which the Father has given us in Christ.
In the particular Churches throughout the world,
and still more in this centre of Christianity,
the widest array of people have accepted this gift.
Here the enthusiasm of the young rang out,
here the sick have lifted up their prayer.
Here have gathered priests and religious,
artists and journalists,
workers and people of learning,
children and adults,
and all have acknowledged in your beloved Son
the Word of God made flesh in your womb.
O Mother, intercede for us,
that the fruits of this Year will not be lost
and that the seeds of grace will grow
to the full measure of the holiness
to which we are all called.
Today we wish to entrust to you the future that awaits us,
and we ask you to be with us on our way.
We are the men and women of an extraordinary time,
exhilarating yet full of contradictions.
Humanity now has instruments of unprecedented power:
we can turn this world into a garden,
or reduce it to a pile of rubble.
We have devised the astounding capacity
to intervene in the very well-springs of life:
man can use this power for good, within the bounds of the moral law,
or he can succumb to the short-sighted pride
of a science which accepts no limits,
but tramples on the respect due to every human being.
Today as never before in the past,
humanity stands at a crossroads.
And once again, O Virgin Most Holy,
salvation lies fully and uniquely in Jesus, your Son.
Therefore, O Mother, like the Apostle John,
we wish to take you into our home (cf. Jn 19:27),
that we may learn from you to become like your Son.
"Woman, behold your son!"
Here we stand before you
to entrust to your maternal care
ourselves, the Church, the entire world.
Plead for us with your beloved Son
that he may give us in abundance the Holy Spirit,
the Spirit of truth which is the fountain of life.
Receive the Spirit for us and with us,
as happened in the first community gathered round you
in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:14).
May the Spirit open our hearts to justice and love,
and guide people and nations to mutual understanding
and a firm desire for peace.
We entrust to you all people, beginning with the weakest:
the babies yet unborn,
and those born into poverty and suffering,
the young in search of meaning,
and those suffering hunger and disease.
We entrust to you all troubled families,
the elderly with no one to help them,
and all who are alone and without hope.
O Mother, you know the sufferings
and hopes of the Church and the world:
come to the aid of your children in the daily trials
which life brings to each one,
and grant that, thanks to the efforts of all,
the darkness will not prevail over the light.
To you, Dawn of Salvation, we commit
our journey through the new Millennium,
so that with you as guide
all people may know Christ,
the light of the world and its only Savior,
who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit
who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever. Amen.
More Mary, Mother of God
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