CONSECRATION (Lat. consceratio, from conscerare, to hallow, from together socrare, to consecrate, from sacer, holy). The act of solemnly dedicating a person or thing to the service of God. It is one of the most widely spread of all religious ceremonies of the ancient world, having been practiced in Chaldea. Egypt, India. Judea, Greece, Rome, Britain, and other In the Old Testament we read of the consecration or dedication of the first-born, both man and beast, to the Lord, also the dedication of the Levites, of the tabernacle and altar, of fields, houses, walls, etc. The custom of con secrating the places of public worship developed in the Christian Church as soon as persecution ceased, when, according to Eusebius, "the sight was afforded so eagerly desired and prayed for by all—the festivals of dedications and conse crations of the newly erected houses of prayer throughout the cities." Eusebius also describes the consecration of the church built at Jerusalem by Constantine in A.D. 335. The practice of eon scorating religious edifices has continued in the Oriental, Roman, and Anglican churches. The kilns, as found in the sac•amentaries of Gelasius and Saint Gregory, were at the first very simple, but they were gradually developed until, in the Roman Catholic Church, the office of consecration became a long and impressive ceremony. It in
cludes the placing in the altars of relies of the saints, the purification of the place with specially prepared holy water (called Gregorian Water because the formula for its benediction is first found in the sacramentary of Saint Gregory), and the anointing of the church in twelve speci fied places with holy oil. The anniversary of this ceremony is kept as a festival of the first class. A church may not be consecrated until it is entirely free from debt; when the conse cration is delayed, it is opened with a simple form of benediction. The ceremonies in the Eastern churches are as elaborate and not dis similar. In the Church of England each bishop is left to his own discretion as to the form to he adopted, but that most generally used is the form sent down by the bishops to theLower House of Convocation in 1712. The American prayer book provides a simple form of prayer, which retains tile old ceremony of the bishop knocking for entrance at the door of the church. For the consecration of bishops, see BISHOP; ORDERS, Doty; for that of the eucharistic elements, sec MASS; LORD'S SUPPER.