The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us something truly astounding: Christ’s prayer at his incarnation. The inspired author heard his prayer captured in the words of Psalm 40, “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and [sin]offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me … I have come to do your will, O God” (Heb.10:5-7; Ps.40:6-8).
He then explains the incredible benefit we derive from Christ’s prayer and his doing of the Father’s will, “By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb.10:10).
Consecrated means to be made holy, set apart exclusively for the service of God. Our inspired author brings up consecration within the larger discussion of how Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, under which both the priests (Ex.28:41; Lev.3:30) and offerings (Ex.13:2; Deut.15:19) were consecrated. Thus Jesus, both Priest and Offering of the New Covenant, is consecrated to the Father – as are we whom he unites to his offering! On the night before he died, Jesus prayed, “[Father,] for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth,” – that they may be set apart in offering to You, in me who is the truth (Jn.17:19).
Unlike the sacrificial offerings under the Old Covenant, however, you and I must cooperate with the Priest. St. Paul wrote of this, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom.12:1). Even though we are in the world, we are no longer of it – we have been consecrated, set apart and joined to Christ’s self-immolation.
“Bodies” for “spiritual worship” – this is no head trip; it must be lived in the flesh and bone of our day-to-day lives. So what steps can we take to become better at this? Start each day with an Act of Consecration.
Here is a short, but thorough Act of Consecration which the Apostleship of Prayer has been recommending to its members since the nineteenth century. (Note the affinity between the intentions ascribed to Jesus’ Heart here, and the intentions for which he prayed at the Last Supper [Jn.17:6-21; Lk.22:31-32].)
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
By beginning our day with an intentional act of consecration we ground ourselves and, whether or not we are cognizant of it in the busiest moments of the day, all our actions are converted into prayer. We join Christ’s sacrificial offering upon the Cross, “where prayer and the gift of self are but one” (CCC 2605). Jesus’ offering was perpetual (daily) – from the first instant of the Incarnation, throughout his days in Palestine, all the way to his Cross, Resurrection, and return to the Father in the Ascension, and ours is meant to be as well.
Our sister, St. Therese of Lisieux, even teaches us how to extend it into our sleep! “O my Beloved, I desire at every beat of my heart to renew this Oblation an infinite number of times.”
A daily act of consecration – yet another beautiful means the Holy Spirit has given the Church to make concrete the Good News we read of in Scripture.