Priest as Victim

“Host” comes from the word “hostia” which means victim, sacrifice, or holocaust. Jesus became a victim for our salvation. When we receive Holy Communion, we are called to participate in Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Saint Paul says this when he writes, “And now, my brothers, I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect,” (Romans12:1-2). What is the priest saying “yes” to when he consecrates the sacred species in the Mass? What is he saying as he receives first and then leads the people to do the same?

He is saying “yes” to be a living sacrifice and then invites others to do the same.

Dorothy Day was an American Mother Teresa of the 20th Century. She worked with the poor for forty five years and established the Catholic Worker Houses across America. A classmate of mine from seminary knew her personally and shared this story in class one day:

“Dorothy Day used to come to my family’s home and spend several days at a time. One night she asked me to wake her up early the next morning for Mass. The next day came and I did not want to interrupt her sleep as she was a very elderly person at the time, so I didn’t get her up. When she awoke, she told me never to do that again. She shared with me some of her own prayer life. She said that in her work she had many who admired her work, and she had many who complained and criticized her apostolate and mission. She said that every time she went to Mass, it is as if she heard the Lord speak to her at the moment of Consecration. As the priest consecrates the bread into the Body of Christ, it is like the Lord said, ‘Dorothy, this is My Body broken for you. Will you let your body be broken for me and for others today?’ When the priest consecrated the wine into the Blood of Christ, it was like the Lord said, ‘Dorothy, this is My Blood poured out for you. Will you let your blood be poured out for me and for others today?’”

As a priest I think of these words at every Mass. In the Mass the Lord invites us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to Him and for others. There are countless examples of this in the lives of the saints.

“…The modern world boasts of the enticing door which says: everything is permitted. It ignores the narrow gate of discernment and renunciation. I am speaking to especially you, young Christians…. Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the surface, but go to the heart of things! And when the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.” (Excerpt from John Paul II’s Book of Saints, Edith Stein, p. 22)

Anima Christi: What is the mind of Christ? It is to be totally emptied out in the service of the Father. This was the decision of our Lord. “Though he was in the form of God…[he] emptied himself, taking the form of a servant”(Phil 2.6-7). He poured himself out. That is what the Scriptures tell us is the mind of Christ, the soul of Christ, the principle of the human life of Christ. And so, when we pray: “Anima Christi, sanctifícame,” we are indeed making a very bold and dangerous prayer, a tremendously exacting prayer. We are saying that we want to be emptied out, to experience our own kenosis as Christ experienced his, totally given, totally spent. “Soul of Christ, sanctify me.” It will not be painless. No passion ever was. (Anima Christi, Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., p. 19-20)