Who built the cathedrals of Europe? No one knows, and that is the point. They were built anonymously. Their work was an expression of the builders’ religious practice. To have it recognized would have offended the intention of their devotion.
Sacrifice remains essential to religious practice in general and for The Act of Consecration in particular. The word ‘sacrifice’ is often used outside the context of religious practice. We can grasp its religious meaning through comparison with its commonplace usage.
When we make a decision there follow the consequences of that decision some of which may not always be so pleasant. Others may make a decision and we may suffer as a result of the consequences that follow. Here we have to reckon with something that is common in life, namely, disappointment. Disappointment arises when our wishes remain unfulfilled. Continuing to want something that the soul cannot have leads to the soul’s illness. Conversely, wanting that which can be attained leads to the soul’s thriving when it is attained. Disappointment gets confused with sacrifice.
The practice of sacrifice occurs in the realm of the soul that is under the guidance of the human spirit. It is something that the spirit wills to do and wields the forces of the soul to accomplish it. The soul must first grow weary, to some extent, of the lesser pleasures of life before it has matured enough to rejoice in the greater joys of life. Therefore, with the practice of sacrifice there may come a bitter taste for the soul, at first, before it has developed a real taste for it. In time it will long for it and require it daily.
Perhaps the practice of sacrifice that The Act of Consecration asks us to make doesn’t seem like much, or that it amounts to much, or perhaps we have the question as to what it even is? We are being addressed by The Act of Consecration of Man as individual human spirits to approach the triune nature of our own souls and to turn our willing towards the Father God, unite our feeling with Christ and aspire to root our thinking in the life of the Holy Spirit. This is accomplished, simply enough at first, by devoting our attention during that hour before the altar.
When we practice sacrifice we are absolutely getting exactly what we want, for it is the art of a highly intentional wanting. When we’re not getting something we want or when we think that we’re ‘giving up’ getting something we want we aren’t practicing sacrifice. If we call this sacrifice we do so in vain.
When sacrifice also includes a renunciation a further step has been made whereby the benefit of the practice of sacrifice is foregone and instead made available as a gift for others and the world. Another word for sacrifice is gift.
The divine blessing that streams into the world through the sacraments may be received by all. Through them a revolution is incited which conquers the world with gentleness and would transform it thoroughly. All that is received will be of great benefit for the one who receives it— in ways difficult to conceive or to imagine to what magnitude. There will come a time of decision for each one when life asks, “What will you do with the gifts which you have received?” For all that we receive is of such a nature that we can only ‘keep’ it for ourselves in the act of giving it away to others and to the world. Were we to attempt to keep it for ourselves it would gradually transform, in the condition of its self containment, into its opposite. “…Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds…”
We overcome the ways of the world when we become givers and in giving have ever more to give.