Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Religious consecration and baptism

In thinking about some questions related to the nature of religious life, I started to ask myself how religious consecration is specifically related to the character of baptism.

A couple preliminary points:

1. Religious consecration is a deepening of one's baptismal consecration. It is not a new sacrament but is a flowering of baptismal grace.

2. What is the character imprinted by baptism?  St Thomas explains that this character is a certain configuration to Christ the High Priest, which enables us to take part in Christian worship. Further, this character is indelible; nothing can ever take it away.

3. St. Thomas also says that the religious life itself is ordered to a deeper, fuller worship of God, so much so that one's whole life becomes an act of worship:
"Religion is a virtue whereby a man offers something to the service and worship of God. Therefore, those are called religious by antonomasia, who consecrate themselves totally to the divine service, as offering a holocaust to God" (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 186, a. 1).

 So:
      Baptism imprints a character,
      The character is ordered to Christian worship,
      Religious consecration is a deepening of baptism,
      And it makes one's whole life an act of worship.

This may be speculation on my part, but it looks like it would be a pretty solid conclusion to say that in some way, religious profession has to be involved specifically with the baptismal character.  Does it intensify the character in some way?

Most of us probably don't think a lot about the baptismal character, but it's important. Thomas says:

Each of the faithful is deputed to receive, or to bestow on others, things pertaining to the worship of God. And this, properly speaking, is the purpose of the sacramental character. Now the whole rite of the Christian religion is derived from Christ's priesthood. Consequently, it is clear that the sacramental character is specially the character of Christ, to Whose character the faithful are likened by reason of the sacramental characters, which are nothing else than certain participations of Christ's Priesthood, flowing from Christ Himself

 This character is where the priesthood of the laity flows from (which differs not only in degree but in essence from the priesthood conferred by Orders). 

So: to bestow on others things pertaining to the worship of God.
In some way, religious act like a leaven in the world, taking the things of the world that they deal in, day in and day out, and making an offering of them to God. This is something to explore a bit more. 

What prompted this is John Paul's statement that continence "for the sake of the kingdom" imprints a certain likeness to Christ. In what way exactly?


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