A comedian once cracked a joke about church attendance, poking fun at the simplicity of religion by reducing it to the statement that God is good and the devil is evil. The punch line went like “And you need to go to church each week to hear that!”
Of course, reality is more complex. Yet, once a week for a reminder, even for the most basics, is hardly enough, human nature being what it is. Furthermore with the secular/pagan culture pressing in from all sides, the need for reminders is vital.
The song’s verse “my vow I renew” refers to consecration to the Immaculate Virgin as proposed by Saint Louis de Montfort, which is a total consecration to Jesus through a total consecration to Mary.
Total is the operative word: total, entire, complete. The consecration involves giving all that we are, body and soul, and all that we possess, now and future, material and spiritual, to Mary in order to belong entirely to Jesus.
This giving of everything without exception is a tall order that one should not enter into lightly. Yet for Christians, this has already been done: it is the essence of one’s baptismal promise, albeit Montfort’s consecration does go beyond that in certain respects.
But the baptismal vow is generally lived poorly. This brings up one of Montfort’s central points: the renewal of baptismal vows is the best remedy for the moral degeneration among Christians with his consecration being the most perfect renewal of vows.
The need should be clear. The present moral degeneration is severe. Or is it clear? In a recent message from Medjugorje, the Blessed Mother said: “And you, my children? You continue to be deaf and blind as you look at the world around you and do not want to see where it is going without my Son.”
It is rather strange. People understand the world is in a tail spin, but many think the central problem is the economy whereas the fundamental problem is the rejection of God: a civilization opposed to its Creator cannot flourish. Clearly, this fundamental problem has only one solution, the return back to God. An excellent way to accomplish that is via the method outlined in True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, a book that carries an apostolic blessing for simply reading it.
The goal of Montfort’s consecration is union with Jesus, Who is God. The reason why it is through Mary is simple: Jesus is also man, born of Mary. We receive Jesus through Mary. This is a basic tenet in the economy of salvation as established by the eternal God.
The all-encompassing scope of the consecration is the hard part. It flies in the face of our self-centeredness stemming from fallen nature. Somewhat pessimistic about the response to his book, Saint Louis thought the vast majority will stop at the threshold; few will take the first step into its interior. But who will take the second step? The third?
This consecration deals with the path of perfection, the narrow path that few souls seem to find. Yet Jesus was quite clear: “you are to be perfect.” And not sort of perfect but rather “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Humanly speaking, this is impossible. But the Lord commanded it, and thus, He will make it possible, provided one trusts and responds generously.
Note though that while the scope is all-encompassing, achieving it overnight is far from being realistic. Spiritual growth is by degrees, obtained moment by moment, day by day, year after year, if one is faithful to God’s grace. But how is that best accomplished?
The Source of all grace came to us at the Angelic greeting. In ages past, when the Angelus bell rang, all would put aside their worldly affairs to recall the great event of the Incarnation. For at that moment, through a humble maiden’s consent, the Word was made flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit. And grace, the participation in the very life of God, came to us anew in a wonder beyond measure, through Mary.
But let us take a step back to Mary’s own conception. Not since Adam and Eve did a soul enter this world in a state of grace. The New Eve’s prerogative of being Immaculately Conceived was in preparation to give birth to the New Adam. Immense grace was appropriate here, in proportion to the tremendous dignity of being the Mother of God. However, this goes deeper with one dimension being connected to the principle that you cannot give what you do not have.
Mary lived the Christian calling to perfection, always remaining sinless. The Perpetual Virgin practiced the virtues and acquired grace until the end of Her earthly life, when She was Assumed into Heaven, body and soul, sharing in the same fate of Her Son. But that is not the end of the one “who once was Mary.”
At both the beginning and the end of His public ministry, Jesus performed a subtle and sublime renaming, christening His Mother with the title Woman. The first occasion was at the wedding feast at Cana. The second was at the Bridegroom’s own “wedding” where from upon the cross He died to purchase His Bride, the Church.
At Cana, we have an instance of the Woman acting as Advocate. At Calvary, the Woman earned Her title Co-Redemptrix. For the first, the Mother pleaded on behalf of Her children. At the foot of the cross, the suffering Mother participated in acquiring the graces of Redemption before being consecrated the Woman: the New Eve in the spiritual order.
These are two facets of the Virgin’s spiritual motherhood. There are three: the mother pleading, the mother suffering and the mother nourishing. The mother nourishing is the Woman’s role as Mediatrix of All Graces. Specifically, all grace merited by Christ flows from the bosom of the Father to Jesus, through the Holy Spirit to us as distributed by the Virgin. Again, it follows the same pattern: we receive the divine life of Jesus through Mary’s hands.
The role of Mediatrix is particularly interesting in view of Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s insights. Kolbe begins his Mariology with the apparition at Lourdes where Mary said “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This was a surprising statement as She expressed it as a title, indicating it reveals something about Her inmost being.
Mary’s relationship to the Most Blessed Trinity has long been understood as Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. But Kolbe saw something deeper in the Spousal relationship. Saint Maximilian perceived that the Holy Ghost can be seen as the uncreated Immaculate Conception for He is the Divine Person Who eternally proceeded from both the Father and the Son.
From this vantage, Spouse becomes too weak a term for Mary, the created Immaculate Conception. While careful to point out the Holy Ghost did not become Incarnate, and Mary is only a creature, Kolbe asserts that if the Holy Spirit would have become Incarnate, it would have been as Mary. Saint Kolbe says this to stress the profundity with which the Holy Spirit and Mary are united.
And so, by Divine choice, the Holy Ghost works exclusively through Mary as the Instrument for the distribution of all graces. It is worth observing that the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak of Himself, rather He testifies of the Son. Similarly, His Spouse does the same. Mary is entirely focused on bringing us to Her Son, and is uniquely commissioned to do so.
The above outline should help explain the implicit necessity of going through Mary, and why it is best to explicitly approach Jesus through His Mother. Also, it should be mentioned the doctrine of the Mediatrix of All Graces rests on solid theology that was developed centuries before Saint Kolbe’s contributions. But the preceding is only the basics. More details, especially in connection with the Fifth Marian Dogma, may be found here.
Consecration means to set apart for sacred use. As stated above, the object of Montfort’s consecration is Jesus. But Jesus is not an object, He is a Person. Similarly, the means is not a means, but Mary. This must be kept ever in mind because it is very easy to treat God and the things of God, as things…
As with conversion, consecration should begin in the interior and flow to the external. Technically, consecration is a single act, though it is repeatable via renewal of vows. Also, a preparation should precede the consecration as Montfort recommends and Michael Gaitley faithfully follows in his popular book 33 Days to Morning Glory. And so consecration is another new beginning. It is an act of love, wherein love desires the interests of the beloved. Hence the command: seek ye first the kingdom of God. As such, the promise made needs to be lived out, and not be forgotten.
One essential component of living the promise is intimate conversation, i.e. prayer, which can be seen as spending time with the one you love. When in love, a couple desires to be together always. The desire and commitment to pray is thus one indicator of the degree of love of God. Though generally speaking, that this desire is more anemic than fervent is a relatively safe suspicion.
Conversely, total consecration entails loving God with your whole heart, to pray constantly. But keep in mind that Montfort’s consecration is the promise to strive to that end, not a declaration of its accomplishment. Also, this consecration is only an aid. Everyone is strictly obliged to strive towards Christian perfection according to their state in life, consecration or not. Further, there is the exceptional consideration arising from this critical stage in the Marian Age.
But what does this mean in practice? In rough outline, it is a progressive purification, little by little, growing in faith and virtue, preserving in prayer. One reaps what one sows. If one does the bare minimum, will not God reward with the bare minimum? There is also the principle that spiritual progress is slowest at the beginning: the first few steps up are hard because of the multitude of imperfections dragging you down. On the other hand, one should progress more rapidly the closer one draws to God.
Necessary is human effort, or rather cooperation as sanctification is the great work of God. The Sacraments are thus of prime importance as they were divinely instituted for this very purpose. Besides frequent Confession, the Eucharist is the par excellence aid for this journey to eternity, both attending Mass and visiting Him for Adoration.
This is all rather obvious, or should be. But most don’t regularly go beyond the bare minimum, and often don’t even meet it. Is that because their fervor matches their faith, and typically their understanding? Yet, receiving the Eucharist is of infinite value. But there is a catch. While the Sacraments work ex opere operatoEx opere operato roughly means independently wherein God can give as much as He wants, but usually the recipient’s disposition is the limiting factor., the grace from Communion is limited by one’s receptivity.
For Communion to be fruitful, the proper disposition is necessary. This requires humbly making “an attentive preparation” together with “a suitable thanksgiving.” One must carefully strive to perfect these, or else Communion will become increasing lifeless. With great love and reverence, one should receive the Divine King. This requires living a virtuous life as otherwise proper preparation would be impossible.
Even so, a fervent reception of the Sacrament of Love may not produce any sensible consolations. Jesus may choose to remain imperceptible as well as unseen. We do not see the risen Lord in this life, usually.
There was someone who at times did see Jesus in the consecrated Host. At the sacred words, “the Body of Christ,” Our Lord would become visibly present. Ordinarily, one must persistently pray for an increase in charity, “for love to love our Love,” with the Heavenly realities remaining invisible. We can see the face of Christ in others, less or more so, but not Him directly. Though here, faith gave way to sight.
Those familiar with mysticism might ask when this miraculous event would occur: on feast days or some special occasion? This wasn’t an individual who left before Mass ended or neglected a proper thanksgiving, without just cause. Such favors are generally given only to those striving towards perfection. Yet, when would Christ show Himself?
Inquiry was made with the person asked exactly when Jesus would appear in the Host. As alluded to above, it wasn’t part of the “pro vobis” of the Consecration but rather during the reception of Communion. When asked, their first response was to humbly cast their eyes down, somewhat sheepishly. Then she responded, the person being of that gender. She answered: “when I forget.”