Victims and Victimhood
For today’s text from Blessed Columba Marmion, I chose an extract from Christ, the Ideal of the Priest, in which he presents the participation of the faithful in the offering of Christ. Many Catholics become fearful and uneasy when they hear the word “victim” or “victimhood” being applied to themselves. They misconstrue the word as somehow marking them for the most appalling mistreatment by a cruel God. The secular press and media often speak, for example, of the “victim” of a mugging, a rape, a kidnapping, or of some form of abuse. In the minds of many, this has distorted the meaning of “victim soul,” a rich and theologically sound expression sometimes encountered in spiritual writings and in the lives of the saints.
The theological sense of the word “victim” is a “sacrificial offering.” Saint Augustine teaches that a sacrifice is anything or anyone entirely made over to God by being placed literally or symbolically on the altar. The Latin word hostia means victim in this sense; this is why we refer to the bread used in the Holy Sacrifice as the “host.” The Eastern Churches call the bread for the Divine Liturgy “the Lamb.” Every Christian is called to make himself over to the Father as a sacrificial offering with Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Prayer Over the Oblations (Secret) of the Mass of Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest says this explicitly:
Haec munera, Domine, mediator noster Iesus Christus Tibi reddat accepta; et nos, una secum, hostias Tibi gratas exhibeat.
May our mediator Jesus Christ, O Lord,make these offerings acceptable to Thee;and together with Himself may He present us to Thee as victims.
The Third Day of the Novena Sunday, 24 January 2010
O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts
and bear constantly upwards, like eager flames,
our thoughts, our affections, and our actions
even to the bosom of the Father.
In every Mass the supreme mystery is, beyond all doubt, the sacramental immolation of Jesus; but the offering presented by the Church comprises in its totality, with the oblation of Christ, the oblation of His members. On the altar as on the Cross, the Saviour is the one victim, holy, pure, and immaculate, but it is His will that we should be associated with Him in His offering as being His complement.
Since the time of His Ascension, Christ has never been separated from His Church. In heaven He presents Himself before the Father with His mystical body brought to its perfection: “not having spot or wrinkle” (Eph 5,27). All the elect, united with Him and amongst themselves, live of the same life of praise in the light of the Word and in the charity of the Holy Spirit.
The mystery of unity and of glorification is prepared here on earth during Mass. The union of the members with the chief is still imperfect. It is ever growing and develops in faith, but on account of their offering with Christ, the faithful participate truly in His character of victim.
What do these words mean: “character of victim?” The mean that by uniting Himself to Christ as He offers Himself, immolates Himself and gives Himself to be our food, the Christian wills to live in a state of constant and total dedication to the glory of the Father. It is thus that Jesus imparts His life in the poverty of the human heart; He makes it like to His own, entirely devoted to God and to souls.
Among the faithful who assist at Mass some are inspired to a generous gesture; carried away by the example and by the grace of Jesus, they imitate Him unreservedly; their offer their being, their thought, their actions, and accept all the troubles, the contradictions and the labours which Providence disposes for them.
V. Pray for us, Blessed Columba Marmion.
R. That our lives may be hid with Christ in God.
Let us pray.
O God, Almighty Father,
who, having called the blessed abbot Columba
to the priesthood and to the monastic way of life,
wonderfully opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
grant, in Thy goodness,
that, strengthened by his teachings
in the spirit of our adoption as Thy sons,
we may pray to Thee with a boundless confidence,
and so obtain, through his intercession,
a favourable answer
to the petitions we place before Thee.
[Express your intentions and requests.]
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.