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August 13, 2012

Canon 604 and Associations of Consecrated Virgins -- PART 1

Can. 604 §1 The order of virgins is also to be added to these forms of consecrated life. Through their pledge to follow Christ more closely, virgins are consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan Bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite.
§2 Virgins can be associated together to fulfil their pledge more faithfully, and to assist each other to serve the Church in a way that befits their state.

Reality Check: It is often said that the Catholic Church is NOT a voluntary association of several churches or individuals but a Eucharistic community founded by Jesus Christ, also called Bride of Christ, Body of Christ, People of God, Family of God,etc. How do we reconcile the Identity of Church as a Eucharistic community, with  the  provision in Canon law 604# 2 for virgins to be associated together if they desire? I shall try to theologize on  this through a series of posts.

Mystery of Church

POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION VITA CONSECRATA OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II    n. 7. states “ It is a source of joy and hope to witness in our time a new flowering of the ancient Order of Virgins, known in Christian communities ever since apostolic times. Consecrated by the diocesan Bishop, these women acquire a particular link with the Church, which they are committed to serve while remaining in the world. Either alone or in association with others, they constitute a special eschatological image of the Heavenly Bride and of the life to come, when the Church will at last fully live her love for Christ the Bridegroom.”

Not only every consecrated virgin as a person, but  also several consecrated virgins together  in a diocese  / country / continent / all consecrated virgins in the universal Church,who are living in the present  and  those who have moved ahead during the last two millennia, together  share the title bride of Christ.

The specific grace and responsibility of receiving this title reserved to Mother Church of all times and places  and  shared by virgins consecrated according to the ancient rite – is meant to make it possible for consecrated virgins  to reflect the  Identity and Mission of the Church  that has journeyed through  more than 2000 years, continues to journey together, with the horizons of Jesus Christ Himself.  Consecrated virgins are called not only to receive the title of the Church but also  TO BE and TO DO everything that Mother Church is called  TO BE and TO DO  at every moment, urged by the Call given by Christ through the Holy Spirit  in response to the Signs of the times.  The Second Vatican Council is the latest example  and I think every CV should reflect on the document  Lumen Gentium    which speaks about the Mystery of the Church.

Mystery of Christ

In Matthew 16  we find Jesus ask , “Who do you day I am?”
13 After that Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, "What do people say of the Son of Man? Who do they say I am?"
14 They said, "For some of them you are John the Baptist, for others Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15 Jesus asked them, "But you, who do you say I am?"
16 Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus replied, "It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.
18 And now I say to you: You are Peter (or Rock) and on this rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it.

In the Rite of consecration of virgins, the  woman is asked, “ Are you resolved to accept solemn consecration as a Bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God ?”

Consecrated virgins cannot remain stuck with  the beauty and consolation of the ancient Rite of consecration, the title bride of Christ, and live in a world 2000 yrs behind today. Since 2000 yrs, in every generation Jesus  has asked each person and  church community at the level of the diocese / country/ continent  / the universal level  --the perennial question, “Who do you say I am ?”  In the initial stages as believers each has tried to answer according to popular understanding and expectations [as prophet, miracle-worker, guru, a revolutionary come to threaten the polity, etc.], but He gradually revealed Himself as the Christ – Son of the Living God, the Messiah, the Son of Man, etc., transcending all their human understanding and yet in a very specific and personal relationship  with each believer /community. [there is a unique Christology for each believer /community ]. 

Jesus Christ is the same  yesterday, today, forever.  He is the same ontologically as the Word- but sameness does not indicate immovability. He functionally empties Himself out in love, searching for the seeker, moved by longing  to unite Himself with the believer /community.  The consecrated virgin is a sign  of the response [the Yes ] of her local  church community [diocese] to this call to be  United with Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. The Spousal  relationship with Him  is a Metaphor expressing  the  Real Union with God that takes place through her Consecration. By receiving the title and graces belonging to Mother Church and Virgin Mary, she  becomes a channel of graces to the entire Church, expressed not only through her prayers but also  her services to the Church and the world.

Just as the believer’s understanding  of Jesus grows from seeing Him as a  prophet, miracle-worker, healer, guru, etc., to the realization of His Identity as Son of God, in today’s world too, the believers who search for the Way, the Truth, the Life   experience the presence of the Church in the world through the various vocations in the Church [ e.g. Laity and Secular Institutes  as Salt, Light, Leaven transforming the cultural, economic, political conditions in the world  / Apostolic religious as Teacher, Health-worker, Social-worker etc.]  

In most parts of the world, the Church is seen as an Institution with huge buildings, schools, welfare- centres, etc. Gradually  this experience should lead to their understanding of the Church  as a community that identifies itself as People of God on a pilgrimage towards Union with God through our Lord Jesus Christ  His only Son.  

Consecrated virgins either alone or in association with others, constitute a special eschatological image of the Heavenly Bride and of the life to come, when the Church will at last fully live her love for Christ the Bridegroom and be united with the Holy Trinity.

More  in the next post………..

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