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Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me:
Within thy wounds hide me;
Let me never be separated from thee.
From the wicked foe defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
And bid me come to thee,
That with thy saints I may praise thee
For ever and ever. Amen.

- 14th century prayer

Lately I have been praying the “Anima Christi” and would like to share with you some reflections on this beautiful prayer, both in this post and the ones to follow. Today I will stick with the first line, because the richness of these few words, I believe, encompasses and prepares us for the rest of the prayer.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Anima Christi, sanctifica me.

We tend today to think of soul as contrasted with body. The ancient Hebrews did not split the soul from the body. So even though this prayer dates from the Middle Ages, it helps me to consider the word “soul” as signifying the whole person. (We still hear echoes of this meaning in phrases such as “There was not a soul in sight.”)

The soul is who one most truly is.  According to Ron Hansen, in his book, A Stay Against Confusion:

We could put Anima Christi this way then: Wind of Christ, Air that we breathe of Christ, Thereness of Christ, Is-ness of Christ, Truth of Christ, Self-consciousness of Christ, What we do not know of Christ, Christ’s understanding of himself: sanctify me.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

To sanctify is to make holy.

“For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45).

On an essential level, we are already holy, made in God’s image and baptized into Christ.  On another, existential level, we pray for that sanctification which is the total transformation of our hearts and our lives.

J. K. S. Reid, in the venerable Theological Wordbook of the Bible, speaks of the “constant disposition of God to sanctify things and persons for his purposes.” It is not with reluctance that we are sanctified: God wants to sanctify us. God desires to recreate us through Christ.

Not only that, but we ourselves long for this sanctification in Christ, whether or not we are aware of it. In fact, every day at Mass, the priest prays quietly in our name, putting our desire into words: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

We cannot sanctify ourselves, but we must cooperate in the work of sanctification, which turns out – wonder of wonders – to be our own sharing in the divinity of Christ.And so we pray:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

May your holy being sanctify my whole being, weak and broken though I may be. May you transform me into what I am called to be, which is what you are, “for the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father” (Hebrews 2:11). Soul of Christ, may I share your divine life, your holiness, your consecration, whatever that means for my own life.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

O Christ, in your wholeness, make me whole. In your goodness, make me good; in your compassion, make me compassionate; in your mercy, may I become mercy for the world. O Christ in me and around me and filling the whole universe, fill me and transform me so that nothing in my own soul (which has never been my own), nothing in who I am, is untouched by the beauty of your most holy, loving, and gracious soul.

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

- – – – -

Crucifix from the Houston Cenacle
Photo copyright © Rose Hoover, rc

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