ShareObsecro itaque vos fratres per misericordiam Dei, ut exhibeatis corpora vestra hostiam viventem, sanctam, Deo placentem, rationabile obsequium vestrum.I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1).Priesthood, Altar, and Victim
Saint Paul is addressing the Christians of Rome, people representative of every state of life. He entreats them by the mercy of God — for the mercy of God makes all good things possible — to place their very selves upon the altar (ut exhibeatis corpora vestra) as a victim made over to God, holy, and pleasing in His sight. In a single sentence, Saint Paul brings into play all the elements of the Jewish temple liturgy: the priesthood, the altar, and the sacrificial victim holy and pleasing to God. To these words and images familiar to himself and to all pious Jews of his time, the Apostle attributes a newness that only the mercy of God, revealed in Christ, can give them: rationabile obseqium vestrum, your reasonable service. With an eye to the original Greek text, we do well, I think, to render this phrase as “your divinely–inspired latria or your adoration in spirit and in truth”.
Wholly Made Over to God
For Saint Paul, to be a Christian is to be a victim destined for the altar, that is, a sacrificial offering made over to God. Unfortunately, the current connotation of the word “victim” suggests that it refers only to a person to whom something bad has happened. It is not uncommon to read about or hear of victims of crime, victims of abuse, victims of cruelty, or victims of injustice. This use of the word “victim” creates no small confusion in the minds of Catholics who encounter the same word frequently in the Holy Scriptures, in the sacred liturgy, and in the writings of the saints. Let it be said clearly, then, that the Catholic meaning of the word “victim” refers not to a person to whom something bad has happened but, rather, to a person to whom something good has happened, to whom, in fact, the very best thing possible has happened: communion with Jesus Christ in the mystery of His self–offering to the Father.
Christ is the Victim prefigured in all the sacrifices of the Old Law. Thus does He say upon coming into the world:
Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to me: Holocausts for sin did not please thee. Then said I: Behold I come: in the head of the book it is written of me: that I should do thy will, O God. (Hebrews 10:5–7)In Catholic theology a victim (hostia in Latin) is one wholly made over to God in a sacrificial oblation. Christ, the Lamb without blemish (1 Peter 1:19) is “the pure victim, the holy victim, the spotless victim” (Roman Canon) provided by God Himself according to Abraham’s prophetic word to Isaac, “God Himself will provide the victim (Genesis 22:8). All who are united to Christ by baptism into His death and by partaking of Holy Communion become victims with Him or, rather, become one with the sacrificial Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world” (Apocalypse 13:8). (Read more.)