Consecration (properly some form of the verb קָדִשׁ, kadash', to be holy, often rendered "sanctify;" ἐγκαινίζω, to dedicate; τελείοω, to complete), the act of devoting or setting apart anything to the worship or service of God. SEE DEDICATION. The Mosaic law ordained that all the first-born, both of man and beast, should be sanctified or consecrated to God. SEE FIRST- BORN. The whole race of Abraham was in a peculiar manner consecrated to his worship, and the tribe of Levi and family of Aaron were more immediately consecrated to the service of God (Ex 13:2; Ex 12:15; Nu 3:12; 1Pe 2:9). SEE SACERDOTAL ORDER. Besides these consecrations ordained by God, there were others which depended on the will of men, and were either to continue forever or for a time only. See Vow. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, offered her son to the Lord to serve all his lifetime in the tabernacle (1Sa 1:11; comp. Lu 1:15). David and Solomon devoted the Nethinim to the service of the Temple forever (Ezr 8:20). The Hebrews sometimes devoted their fields and cattle to the Lord, and sometimes the spoils taken in war (Le 27:28-29). In like manner, vessels (Jos 6:19), profits (Mic 4:13), individuals (Nu 6:9-13; 1Sa 1:11; Lu 1:15), and nations (Ex 19:6), were often dedicated. SEE ANATHEMA.
The New Testament also furnishes us with examples of consecration. Christians in general are esteemed as consecrated to the Lord, and are a holy race, a chosen people (1Pe 2:9). Ministers are in a peculiar manner consecrated or set apart, and so are places of worship, the forms of dedication varying according to the views of different bodies of Christians. SEE ORDINATION. It does not appear that we have any particular accounts of the formal consecration of churches earlier than the fourth century, a fact which may be easily accounted for by considering the circumstances of the times before Constantine. See the articles following; also SEE BELLS.
CONSECRATION-OFFERING. At the inauguration of the Israelitish priesthood, in connection with the oblation, certain parts of the victim (a ram), besides bread and cakes, were laid in the hand of the person to be consecrated, before he came to the altar (Ex 29:22 sq.; Le 8:25 sq.), as a manipulation expressive of the representative power thus conferred (Bahr, Symbol. 2:426). This depositing in the hand is called by the technical term filling their hand (A. V. "consecrate," Ex 28:41; Ex 29:9; Le 21:10; Nu 3:3; comp. Ex 32:29; 1Ch 29:5), and thus the sacerdotal consecration-offering itself was styled a filling (מַלֻּאַים, sc. of the hand, Sept. τελείωσις, Leviticus 7:37; 28:31), and the sacrificed ram was designated by the corresponding term (אֵיל מַלֻּאַים, Ex 29:26) SEE OFFERING.
CONSECRATION, in the Christian Church, a ceremony of dedicating persons or things to the service of God. It is especially applied to the setting apart of bishops for their office, and to the dedication of Church edifices to the worship of God.
I. Consecration of Bishops. — The forms for the consecration of bishops in the Greek, Roman, Anglican, and Methodist Episcopal churches are given under BISHOP SEE BISHOP (1. 822, 823). In the preface to the form used in the Church of England, it is stated that no one shall be accounted or taken to be a bishop, or suffered to execute the same function, unless he be called, tried, and admitted thereunto according to that form, or hath formerly had episcopal consecration. The concluding portion of this sentence recognizes the validity of consecrations given in foreign churches by any other form adopted by those churches. Thus a Greek or Roman bishop, conforming to the rules of the Church of England, requires no fresh consecration, but is at liberty to officiate in that Church (Hook, s.v.). The Greek and Roman churches, on the contrary, do not recognize the validity of Anglican consecrations.
According to a canon of the first Nicene Council, there must be four, or at least three bishops present at the consecration of a bishop. SEE COLLEGE, 2.
II. Consecration of Churches. —
1. Ancient Church. — The practice of solemnly dedicating to God those edifices which had been built for his worship is very ancient. The precise manner in which it was done for the first three ages of Christianity is unknown; but Eusebius gives an account of the ceremony by which the church of Jerusalem, built by Constantine, was consecrated, A.D. 335. On such occasions it was usual for a whole synod of the neighboring or provincial bishops to assemble. "The solemnity ordinarily began with a panegyrical oration or sermon in commemoration of the founder, which was followed by prayers, among which there seems to have been one in particular for the church which was then to be dedicated. The act of consecrating churches was so peculiarly reserved to the office of bishops that presbyters were not allowed to perform it. Anciently churches were always dedicated to God, and not to saints, though they were sometimes distinguished by their names as a memorial of them. Consecration was performed, indifferently, on any day; but, whatever the day was, it was usually kept and observed among their annual festivals. To this pope Gregory, surnamed the Great, added a new custom in England, which was, that on the anniversary of the dedication of churches, and particularly of those which had been heathen temples, the people might build themselves booths round the church, and there feast themselves, in lieu of their ancient sacrifices while they were heathens. The wakes, which are still observed in some English counties, are the remains of these feasts of dedication."
2. Church of Rome. — "The consecration of a church is performed with much ceremony in the Church of Rome, by whose members this rite is usually termed a dedication. As a preliminary step, the relics which are to be deposited in the altar of the new church are put into a clean vessel, together with three grains of incense, to which a piece of parchment is added, containing the day of the month and year, and the name of the officiating bishop. Three crosses are painted on each of the church walls, and over each cross a candle is placed. On the morning appointed for the ceremony, the bishop, arrayed in his pontifical vestments, and attended by the clergy, goes to the door of the church, where they recite the seven penitential psalms; after which he makes a tour of the church walls, sprinkling them in the name of the Holy Trinity. This rite being performed, he knocks at the church door with his pastoral staff, repeating from Psalm 23 , "Levate portae, et introibit Rex Gloriae." A deacon, shut up in the church, demands, "Quis est iste Rex Gloriae?" To which the bishop answers, '"Dominus fortis et potens: Dominus potens in proelio?" At the same time the bishop crosses the door, repeating the following verse:
'Ecce Crucis eignum, fugiant phantasmata cuncta:'
On the admission of the bishop and clergy into the church, the Veni Creator is sung. Then one of the subdeacons takes ashes, and sprinkles them on the pavement in the form of a cross; next follow the litanies and other parts of divine service. After which the bishop, with his pastoral staff, describes, as with a pen, two alphabets in the ashes sprinkled by the deacon, and proceeds to consecrate the altar by sprinkling it with a mixture of water, wine, salt, and ashes, in the name of Jesus Christ. The consecration of the altar is followed by a solemn procession of the relics, which are deposited under it with great ceremony. During the whole of this imposing solemnity the church is finely adorned, and tapers are lighted upon the altar. Mass is afterwards performed by the bishop, or by Some other person" (Eadie, Ecclesiastical Dictionary, b. v.).
3. Protestant Churches. — The Church of England retains the usage of consecration both for Church edifices and cemeteries. What is called the consecration of a church at present is purely a legal (not a religious) act, duly setting aside a certain building from secular uses. There is no form of prayer for consecration of churches prepared by competent authority; it is left to every bishop to use any which he thinks fit, though the form which was prepared by the bishops in 1712 is that most generally used. But all existing unauthorized forms are illegal, and contrary to the Act of Uniformity (Eden, s.v.). The form of 1712 was adopted, with slight modifications, by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States: it is given in the Prayer-book. The form used in the Methodist Episcopal Church (for Dedication) is taken partly from a form of consecration prepared by bishop Andrewes, and partly from the above-mentioned form of 1712. It may be found in the Discipline (pt. 4, ch. 8). The new "Liturgy of the German Reformed Church" in America contains an excellent form for the consecration of a church, as does also the "Liturgy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church" (§ 13).