As near to the feast of the Annunciation as possible, the whole worldwide Legion both individually and collectively earnestly seeks each year to celebrate the Acies. This ceremony is one of the most beautiful and profound functions of the Legion. What precisely is its purpose and meaning? Well first of all it presupposes an examination of our relationship to Mary and specifically our practice of true devotion to her in the spirit of St. Louis Marie de Montfort. Then we seek to renew and express publicly our Consecration to Mary in the condensed and beautiful formula; ‘I am all yours my Queen and my Mother and all that I have is yours.’ What an extraordinary depth of doctrine and devotion are packed into so few words. They express the total conviction and commitment of every true legionary. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the Acies in the life of the Legion.
Our Founder was, to a notable degree, patient and encouraging to weak members of the Legion. He coaxed and cajoled them to better things because he believed in their potential. He was convinced that with a bit of affirmation and understanding all of us would respond with greater generosity. It is impossible to think of him as someone who would quench the smoking flax. Yet when it comes to the Acies he uses perhaps the bluntest words in the whole Handbook. He writes: ‘The Acies is the great central annual function of the Legion, so that it is necessary to stress the importance of attendance on the part of every member. The essential ideal of the Legion, upon which all else is built, is that of working in union with and in dependence on Mary, its Queen. The Acies is the solemn expression of that union and dependence, the renewal – individual and collective – of the legionary declaration of fealty. Hence it is manifest that any legionaries who can attend, and yet fail to do so, have little or none of the spirit of the Legion in them. The membership of such persons is not an asset to the Legion.’
The purpose of the Acies is to renew and deepen our Consecration to Mary at least once a year. That consecration is at the heart of our vocation in the Legion. The project of the true devotion to Mary is never done once and for all but we must keep going back to the basic principles and try to live them better throughout our lives. What does it mean? It means belonging totally to Mary. Absolutely nothing must be held back. I am all yours: everything I am or possess, spiritual and material goods, past, present and to come. I will give every moment of my life to Mary. Why? Let us answer in the words of St. Louis Marie de Montfort: ‘the essence of the devotion consists in giving ourselves up entirely to the Most Holy Virgin in the quality of slave in order to belong wholly to Jesus Christ; and in the next place to do all our actions with Mary, in Mary, by Mary, for Mary in order to do them more perfectly with Jesus, in Jesus, by Jesus, and for the Jesus our last end.’ The shorthand of all the work of De Montfort and our Founder is to Jesus through Mary.
Sometimes we might be tempted to think that this consecration is too demanding. It may appear sometimes to be a constant struggle and sometimes we can feel exhausted with all the work that never ends but accumulates day by day. But authentic love of Mary eases these problems, and we remember the constant saying of Frank Duff in his many letters to Legionaries: ‘We are accustomed to think and to say that whatever we give to Our Lady through the Legion is infinitely outweighed by what she gives to us in return. May this idea realise itself fully in your own case.’
Let me finally end by suggesting with the Handbook that you mull over the Marian Synthesis found in the appendices of the Handbook before the Acies or you ponder on the little article that Frank Duff wrote on ‘Our Debt to Mary.’ If we really knew what Mary’s maternity of each one of us cost her and if we had even an inkling of her love for us and her share in the work of our salvation, we would probably find making a total consecration to her the most inevitable and delightful thing we could ever do. It is good to remember that the life of our Founder was utterly transformed by the repeated reading of de Montfort’s True Devotion of Mary and the same may very well happen to us if we follow this example.