The Anima Christi: Divine strength for hard times

A few days ago I wrote about an argument for the existence of God that C. S. Lewis developed in an address entitled De Futilitate, and how in my experience this was a particularly powerful means of recalling oneself to reality during periods of desolation, frustration or suffering, at times when the world can seem dark and meaningless, sometimes even bereft of God. The prayer below, the Anima Christi (i.e.; ‘Soul of Christ’ – a reference to the first line of the prayer), has, I have found, similar power to provide strength during these dark or testing periods (and also when enduring great temptation), but it appeals more to the imagination, as opposed to the intellectual fortification that one can draw from Lewis’ argument.

It is a magnificent devotional piece, which comes from the fourteenth century, and has in the past been attributed to Pope John XXII (the second pope of the Avignon papacy – a regrettable period for many reasons – he opposed the teaching of some of the more extreme Franciscans such as Michael of Cesena and William of Ockham, and canonised Thomas Aquinas). Also, unlike the poem I posted yesterday, I can be confident that this one is definitely about God! Its powerful imagery focuses on several key images of Christ’s passion that have great resonance and appeal deeply to the consonance between the suffering of the believer and that of Christ Himself, awakening in the person praying a greater awareness of God’s empathy with us and love for us. Here is the prayer in full below (and here can be found an alternative, slightly more poetic version written by Blessed John Henry Newman):

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:

Hide me within your wounds

And never let me be separated from you.

From the wicked enemy defend me,

In the hour of my death, call me

And bid me come to you,

So that with your saints I may praise you

For ever and ever.

Amen.

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