Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups.
A synonym for consecration is to sanctify. An antonym is desecrate.
Roman Catholic Church
The word "consecration" is used in the Catholic Church as the setting apart for the service of God of both persons and objects.
The ordination of a new bishop is also called a consecration. While the term "episcopal ordination" is now more common"consecration" was the preferred term in the centuries immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council.
A rite of consecration of virgins can be traced back at least to the fourth century. By the time of the Second Vatican Council, use of this rite was limited to cloistered nuns. The Council directed that the then existing rite should be revised. Two similar versions were prepared, one for women living in religious institutes, another for those living in the world outside. An English translation of the rite for those living in the world is available on the web site of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.
A more solemn rite exists for the consecration of an altar, either of the altar alone or as the central part of the rite of consecration of a church. Since it would be contradictory to consecrate to the service of God a mortgage-burdened building, the rite of consecration or dedication of a church is carried out only if the building is debt-free. Otherwise, it is only blessed.
A very special act of consecration is that of the bread and wine used in the Eucharist, which according to Catholic belief involves their change into the body and blood of Christ, a changed referred to as transsubstantiation.
In the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches, the term "consecration" can refer to either the Sacred Mystery (Sacrament) of Cheirotonea (Ordination through laying on of hands) of a Bishop, or the sanctification and solemn dedication of a church building. It can also (more rarely) be used to describe the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Divine Liturgy. The Chrism used at Chrismation and the Antimension placed on the Holy Table are also said to be consecrated.
Various Christian Churches
Church buildings, chapels and altars are consecrated to the purpose of religious worship, baptismal fonts and vessels are consecrated for the purpose of containing the Eucharistic elements, the bread and wine/the body and blood of Christ.
In the Eucharist, Catholics hold that the consecration is effected by the recitation of the Words of Institution (sometimes sung) over the bread and wine, resulting in the sacramental union whereby the bread is the communion of Christ's true body and the wine is the communion of Christ's true blood. Among Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and other Protestants that accept some form of Real Presence Theology, the elements are consecrated when the presiding/celebrating minister calls upon the Holy Spirit to "make them be for us the body and blood of Christ".
A person may be consecrated for a specific role within a religious hierarchy, or a person may consecrate his or her life in an act of devotion. In particular, the ordination of a bishop is often called a consecration. In churches which follow the doctrine of Apostolic Succession (the historical episcopate) the bishops who consecrate a new bishop are known as the consecrators and form an unbroken line of succession back to the Apostles. Also, those who take the vows of religious life are said to be living a consecrated life.
Among some religious groups there is also a service of "deconsecration", to return a formerly consecrated place to secular purpose (for instance, if the building is to be sold or demolished). In the Church of England, an order closing a church may remove the legal effects of consecration.
Latter Day Saints
In the nineteenth-century Latter Day Saint tradition, consecration involved the giving of member's worldly possessions to the church. While it might be considered a type of voluntary religious communism, Latter Day Saint consecration does not involve the abolition of private property. It was practiced off and on during the 19th century, but is now extremely rare among Latter Day Saint denominations. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still covenant to live the Law of Consecration by consecrating themselves, and everything with which the Lord has blessed them, or will bless them to the building up of the kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion.
The priesthood of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also perform a consecration of oil, for use of blessing the sick. Priesthood holders also preside over consecration of meetinghouses and temples. The term 'consecration', as it applies to the Lord's Supper in other Christian churches, is simply called a 'blessing' by the Latter-day Saint priesthood.
- The Sacraments (Liturgical Press, 1987, ISBN 0814613659, 9780814613658), p. 211
- Apostolic Constitution Sponsa Christi - AAS 43 (1951), 16
- Sacrosanctum Concilium, 80
- Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church, Isabel F. Hapgood (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, New York) 1975.
- Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition, Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky (Tr. Hieromonk Seraphim Rose, Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina CA) 1984.
- The Law of God, Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy (Tr. Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville NY) 1996.
- Consecration article in Catholic Encyclopedia
- Consecration of an Orthodox Church 6 pages of photos, Serbian Orthodox Church
- Photos of Consecration of Altar and Antimens in the Russian Orthodox Church
- The Sanctification of Holy Chrism by the Ecumenical Patriarchate
- Virginity article in Catholic Encyclopedia discussing Consecration of a Virgin