Friday, January 18, 2013

The 33 Day Shortcut to Christ

The St. Louis de Montfort Consecration Overview
Link to consecration: Scroll down to bottom

He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers’…(Hebrews 2:11)

Thirty three days after the circumcision of Christ, his Blessed Mother presented him to God in the Temple as prescribed in the book of Leviticus. The ritual was called the rite of purification. Every infant in Israel was to be dedicated to the Lord. In fact, it was during this rite that the Blessed Virgin Mary learned that her maternal vocation would involve being pierced with a sword and that her Son would be destined to be a “sign of contradiction.” St. Simeon further added that Jesus was “destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.” From that moment, it would seem, Mary became aware of her unique responsibility as the Redeemer’s mother. And that responsibility was to prepare her Son for the hour of his death. As Pope St. Pius X said, “[H]ers was the office of tending and nourishing that Victim, and at the appointed time presenting Him for the sacrifice.” -

What she did for our Lord, she is also willing to do for us. She prepares us for the most important hour: the hour of our death when the doors of eternity are opened up to us. The Mother of God does this by fashioning our lives to the image of her Son. She is a good mother, and good mothers not only love with a tender heart but discipline with a firm hand. Invariably, her maternal hand prunes that which is incompatible with God's will. In other words, she washes our soiled garments so that we are presentable when the Lord calls us home. And in consecrating ourselves to Christ through her, she, in turn, gives us more completely to Christ.

The 33 Day Consecration: Four parts

The St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration to Jesus through Mary is a 33 day spiritual exercise. The premise of this consecration is that if Christ came into the world the first time through Mary, he will follow the same course in his Second Coming. This same principle also applies to the spiritual life of his followers. Christ comes to us in our earthly lives more readily, more perfectly and with greater speed through the intercession of Mary. She knows how her Son thinks, how he behaves and what he wills. In the inner chambers of our souls, she reminds us to live the life of our older Brother; to aspire to be like Him. Each part of the consecration focuses on a different aspect of our life in Christ.

The Montfort consecration consist of four parts: The first is, in your own quiet way, to renounce the ways of the world. This part is a twelve day mediation on the fleeting pleasures of this world and the permanence of eternity. The second phase is a seven day spiritual exercise that has us focus on our own sinfulness and limitations. This part better enables us to say with St. Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The third phase is seven day mediation on the unhindered work of Christ in Mary. It was in her that the plenitude of his grace and glory achieved its finest work. And it was with her that our Lord chose to spend most of his earthly life with. And finally, the last week of the Montfort’s consecration is naturally on Jesus Christ himself. He is the end and goal of this special consecration.

The reading material includes Scripture, the Imitation of Christ and True Devotion to Mary. And the 33 day consecration should end on a Marian feast day.

First part: Detachment from the world

Apart from the world Jesus Christ chose a quiet existence with Mary and Joseph in a small town called Nazareth. For 30 years he chose not to immerse himself in the affairs of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome. Throughout history conventional wisdom had it that “you gotta be where the action is.” Before 30 A.D., no one thought a world-changing event could come from Nazareth; 65 miles from north of Jerusalem. But it did. In an obscure town in Galilee, apart from all that the world thought was important, Jesus would demonstrate the value of solitude, prayer, simplicity and obedience. Ironically, it was there where the conquest of the world and evil would begin.

The followers of Christ are called to be in the world but not of the world. Praying on behalf of his disciples, Jesus said, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.” (John 17:15-16) St. John the Evangelist reminds us: “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15) And as for St. James, he said, “Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

Perhaps, a distinction needs to be made: The people of the world are always to be loved. It is for this reason that God gave his only begotten Son. However, the ways of the world are to be rejected. Why? Because the spirit of the world and its ruler, Satan, are at enmity with Christ. And if at enmity with Christ, they are at enmity with us. As St. Ignatius of Loyola has us meditate on in his Spiritual Exercises, the world is not neutral as far we are concerned. Jesus and his Saints work on behalf of our salvation while Satan and his followers seek our ruin. Each soul is an object of a great contest between the two sides. But as for my soul, I alone decide who wins in the end. And at my death, I will be greeted by one of two faces: that of Christ or Satan.

It is of greatest importance to know that the Church leads me to Christ and the world and its ways leads me to Satan. In the meantime, recognizing that the fashions and standards of the world are constantly changing is essential for the spiritual life. What is acceptable today, may not be tomorrow according to the world. This is why we have to see through them. But the standard of Christ, on the other hand, is not only permanent, it is perfectly adaptable to our human nature. Our needs are accounted for by His standard. For this reason, it is the only way that leads to true happiness.

Second part: Self-knowledge

Before Cain killed his brother Abel, God held up a mirror to him. The Lord counseled the first born son of Adam to rise above his jealousy or it would get the best of him. In that moment before the first homicide was committed, Cain was made aware of the good that he could achieve and the evil that he was capable of. The LORD said to Cain: "Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master." (Genesis 4:6-7) Yet, Cain rebuffed God’s counsel and was made to depart from his presence.

When God revealed himself through Jesus Christ, he, at the same time, revealed who we are to us. This is one of the perks of drawing closer to our Lord everyday in prayer. He shows us that we are nothing of ourselves. However, we also realize that, as St. Paul said, we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us.

It is an irony of human nature that the holier we become, the less we know it. But it is also true that the more sinful we become, the less we know it. When the bright light of Christ’s truth shines, we are in a better position to see what needs purging, what weighs us down and what is incompatible with our highest good. With this, we can more easily die to..........This is what St. Louis de Montfort refers to as “dying daily to ourselves.”

He said, “[I]n order to empty ourselves of self, we must die daily to ourselves. This involves our renouncing what the powers of the soul and the senses of the body incline us to do. We must see as if we did not see, hear as if we did not hear and use the things of this world as if we did not use them. This is what St. Paul calls ‘dying daily’. Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain and does not bear any good fruit. If we do not die to self and if our holiest devotions do not lead us to this necessary and fruitful death, we shall not bear fruit of any worth and our devotions will cease to be profitable. All our good works will be tainted by self-love and self-will so that our greatest sacrifices and our best actions will be unacceptable to God. Consequently when we come to die we shall find ourselves devoid of virtue and merit and discover that we do not possess even one spark of that pure love which God shares only with those who have died to themselves and whose life is hidden with Jesus Christ in him.

W]e must choose among all the devotions to the Blessed Virgin the one which will lead us more surely to this dying to self. This devotion will be the best and the most sanctifying for us.”

Third part: Entrusting ourselves to Mary

What Christ did in time, he does also in eternity. He continues to honor his Mother. But after he ascended into heaven, he communicates that honor and affection through his Church and through each individual who exercises true devotion to Mary.

It is interesting to note that at times, throughout his public ministry, Jesus chose three out of twelve of his Apostles- Peter, John and James -to accompany him for certain tasks. The Transfiguration is one such case. Indeed, only three out of the twelve were privileged to see the Son of Man transfigured on Mt. Tabor that night. This privileged inner circle fellowship with the Lord applies even more so to his Mother.

With the exception of St. Joseph, the privileged domain of spending 30 years in the quiet of the Lord’s domestic life was exclusively reserved to Mary. The greatest mysteries of God and of the universe were, no doubt, revealed to her in that humble abode in Nazareth.

To associate, therefore, with the Mother of God, to have her accompany us in our journey towards Christ cannot but be a sure and efficient way to draw closer to him; even closer than many Christians who have known Christ all of their lives but without the maternal assistance of Our Lady.

There is a reason why that with just about every Marian apparition the Blessed Virgin Mary requested that a Shrine or Cathedral be built in her honor. It was as if to say that she was inviting the children of God to gather around her so that she could lead them closer to her Son; to bestow the kind of intimacy she enjoyed with Jesus within the privacy and warmth of her home on earth.

As stated previously, it was also the calling of the Mother of God to nurture and prepare the Lamb of God for the hour of his death when his supreme and saving Sacrifice on the Cross would be accomplished. Just as with the purification rite in the Temple 33 days after Jesus was circumcised, Mary offered her 33 year old Son to the Father on Calvary.

Likewise, she does the same for us. Her maternal hand not only plants and builds up, but it tears down and destroys those affections, habits, and sins which obstruct the full flowering of the Holy Spirit within our souls. In fact, one of the prayers of the consecration reads as follows:

O Jesus, living in Mary,
Come and live in Thy servants,
In the spirit of Thy holiness,
In the fullness of Thy might,
In the truth of Thy virtues,
In the perfection of Thy ways,
In the communion of Thy mysteries.
Subdue every hostile power.
In Thy spirit, for the glory of the Father.


Fourth Part: Total Dedication to Christ

Pope Leo XIII once said, “The greatest of all misfortunes is never to have known Jesus Christ.” But the greatest of all blessings is to know and follow him.

But what does it mean to know and follow him? The classic, Imitation of Christ, puts it this way:  “He that follows Me, does not walk in darkness (John 8:12), says the Lord. These are the words of Christ, by which we are admonished, how we ought to imitate His life and manners, if we would truly be enlightened, and delivered from all blindness of heart. Let therefore our chief endeavor be, to meditate upon the life of Jesus Christ.

The doctrine of Christ exceeds all the doctrines of the Saints; and he that has the Spirit will find -therein the hidden manna (Apocalypse. 2:17). But it happens that many who often hear the Gospel of Christ, feel little desire after it, because they have not the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). But whosoever will fully and with relish understand the words of Christ, must endeavor to conform his life wholly to the life of Christ.

What does it avail you to discourse profoundly of the Trinity, if you be void of humility, and are thereby displeasing to the Trinity? Surely profound words do not make a man holy and just; but a virtuous life does make him dear to God. I had rather feel contrition, than know the definition of it. If you did know the whole Bible by heart, and the sayings of all the philosophers, what would all that profit you without the love of God (1 Cor. 13:2), and without His grace?

Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity (Eccles. 1:2), except to love God, and to serve Him only. This is the highest wisdom, by contempt of the world to press forward towards the heavenly kingdom.”

Meditating on the life of Christ is to meditate on Eternal Wisdom. In his book, The Love of Eternal Wisdom, St. Louis de Montfort speaks to the joy of knowing him. He said,

"Nothing is more consoling than to know divine Wisdom. Happy are those who listen to him; happier still are those who desire him and seek him; but happiest of all are those who keep his laws. Their hearts will be filled with that infinite consolation which is the joy and happiness of the eternal Father and the glory of the angels (cf. Prov. 2:1-9).

If only we knew the joy of a soul that perceives the beauty of divine Wisdom and is nourished with the milk of divine kindness, we would cry out with the bride in the Song of Songs: 'Your love is better than wine' (Song 1:3) better by far than all created delights. This is especially true when divine Wisdom says to those who contemplate him, 'Taste and see' (Ps. 33:9) eat and drink, be filled with my eternal sweetness (Song 5:1), for you will discover that conversing with me is in no way distasteful, that my companionship is never tedious and in me only will you find joy and contentment." (Wisdom 8:16)

Wisdom is to know what it means to walk with Christ and to enjoy his friendship. And the surest and the fastest way to find Jesus and to really know him is to seek the assistance of his Mother. This is why our Lord put her at our disposal. But wisdom is also to appreciate the fact that to lose Christ is to lose everything. We who live in 2013 are beginning to see what the world may look like without him.

Word of caution:

The 33 day consecration to Jesus through Mary is one that involves the Cross. It is not for the faint of heart.  Therefore, expect trials. As the book of Sirach says, "My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great." (Sirach 2:1-3)

The Shortest Way to Christ: Get started soon: The 33 day shortcut to Christ