From the earliest times since God developed His relationship with His people, there have always been those who were consecrated to do God’s will through the Covenants. Usually, people were consecrated for a specific purpose.
Consider Chapter 24 of the Book of Exodus. Moses consecrates the entire people of Israel based on the Covenant. Moses read the Covenant to the people who then made their profession of obedience. Certain rites were established to fulfill God’s intentions for His people and their sacrifices. We see the erection of an altar and twelve memorial stones that would foreshadow the Catholic Altar (Hebrews 13:10). This was to commemorate the twelve tribes of Israel.
Moses consecrated twelve youths whose purpose were to perform the burnt-offering. This would be for the sacred holocaust.
From this holocaust, Moses sprinkled blood upon the people which again is a foreshadowing of the blood of Christ.
Exodus 29 addresses the consecration of Aaron and his sons who were anointed, purified, and commissioned to offer the public sacrifice. This would be the establishment of the priesthood of Levi that would through their consecration, maintain the ordinances that God gave to Israel.
The ceremony known as the “Filling the hand” was an expression that was made popular because of the placing of meat in their hands. This was part of the consecration of the meat from consecrated hands. In Exodus 30:23-24 we begin to see the use of sacred oil for consecration. All this would foreshadow Christ and of His commissioning the Church through consecrating His Apostles and their successors.
Numbers 3:6 details specifically the consecration of those Levites who represent the first born of all the tribes of Israel. Embodied in this sacred consecration we see a dedication, a sacred commitment to abstain from certain things (vow of sanctity), and the rites of consecration of objects such as temples, altars. This really foreshadows the New Testament.
There was a certain consecration among the Hebrews that were called Nazarites (Numbers 6), one of my all time favorite Old Testament figures is Sampson. Sampson was a Judge of Israel for 20 years who was from conception dedicated to be a Nazarite. By definition, the Hebrew word nazir, simply means “to be separated or consecrated.”
Judges 13:3-14 gives the account of Sampson’s consecration, “The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
“Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!” Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who talked to my wife?” “I am,” he said. So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?” The angel of the Lord answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”
Similarly, St. John the Baptist was dedicated as a Nazirite, Luke 1:15 states,“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.”
Today, the ordinary minister of a consecration is by a bishop, with the use of holy oils, such events are lasting covenants that are permanent, never to be repeated. This is something different from a blessing that can be and usually is administered by a priest. The obligation of the recipient is binding under a consecration, much more than what comes from a blessing. The profanation of things consecrated would be a sacrilege ( serious sin) which is not necessarily the case of a blessed person or object. A consecrated Host being desecrated would be far worse for example, than losing a religious medal. So, by comparison, the grace given a consecrated person carries more weight than that given from a blessing. Both are good, but the consecration such as a religious has significance to God’s purpose for the whole people of God.
Within the Church, there are the special consecration of bishops, altars fixed (including portable or altar-stone), churches, and chalices and patens. These are significant events accompanied with a Mass of great importance.
In fact, the Mass itself embodies the central Covenant by which all consecrations are derived. This foreshadows the Old Testament Passover meal that contained four cups. They represented the following:
1 The first cup of wine is called the cup of sanctification. It is to commemorate the promise: “I will bring you out.”
2 The second cup is called the cup of plagues – the plagues that came upon Egypt – and it relates to the second promise: “I will free you from being slaves.”
3 The third cup is called the cup of redemption, where God says: “I will redeem you.”
4 The fourth cup is called the cup of completion, where God says: “I will take you as my own people.”
Notice the third cup, “cup of redemption“, that this would be the main representation of Christ who is the redeemer of mankind, that is why St. Paul refers to this cup as the “cup of blessing“.
It is this cup that is central to the Mass and our cup of salvation.
By receiving this cup, we renew the Covenant with the Lord and truly, our cup overflows.
Also notice the 4th cup, during the Last Supper, remember that Jesus did not offer the traditional 4th cup, but he saved it until the cross.
This is why the Mass is known as the “Sacrifice of the Mass”, because the Last Supper is tied into the Passion of Jesus and our redemption..
The cup of completion is taken literally by Jesus, “After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said ‘I thirst.’ There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” (John 19:28-30)
All the baptized are invited who are in the state of grace to partake at the Eucharistic banquet.
As we have seen, consecration is an act by which a person is dedicated to a sacred service that is intended by God for all the faithful. As Catholics, many of the faithful who strive to further their spiritual walk with Christ and His Church will offer themselves in acts of consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
There are consecrations that Saints like St. Louis de Montfort have developed that have been promoted by the Church. To increase devotion, Pope Leo XIII,encouraged the faithful to make acts of consecration to the Virgin Mary based on the methods of Saint Louis de Monfort , as well as other Popes like St Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. St. Pope John Paul II’s motto, Totus Tuus (totally yours) reflected the Pope’s personal consecration to Mary.
St. Maximillian Kolbe, called the “Apostle of Consecration to Mary” promoted consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the publishing of Militia Immaculate which today continues to circulate over 750,000 copies per month.
To live a consecrated life is to live the gospel.