We continue our series of favourite prayers chosen by preachers at St Chrysostom’s. Canon Alma Servant writes on the Anima Christi
This is one of my favourite prayers in all its forms. That is the remarkable thing: there are several versions. The prayer, in Latin, is known as the Anima Christi. The translation best known in English begins
‘Soul of Christ, sanctify me, Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me.’
There is a version by Cardinal Newman, and it is also known in a versified form as a hymn:
‘Soul of my Saviour, Sanctify my breast.
Body of Christ, Be though my saving guest’ (New English Hymnal 305)
That the prayer keeps being re-worked show how very much people have been attracted to it over the years, indeed centuries. I have picked a modern form by David Fleming, as I think it is the least well known, and because its language goes beyond the pictorial towards deep psychological and spiritual insights:
Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
But hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day come, when, with your saints,
I may praise you forever. Amen.
Those of you familiar with the devotion to the Sacred Heart will recognise the emphasis on the wounded, pierced body of the crucified Christ, from which issues blood and water, this is mirrored in the ‘broken bread and wine outpoured’ of the Mass.
We seek strength and help in the cross of Christ, and in the Holy Communion, and seek to be united with Christ in his passion and in the sacrament.
The older versions speak more directly of our own dying, and our hopes of heaven. All of these versions seek union with Christ, and with his saints, now and for eternity.
It is particularly powerful and helpful for all of us who are not good at asking in our prayers. It is a Christ-centred prayer, expressing human need and longing.
Do look at the different versions. The prayer is a rich seam of devotion.