Host: What does the word suggest and represent to you?

The host represents the Body and Blood of Christ

Once, thinking about the “Sacrament of Charity”, I asked myself the following question: Why do we usually associate it with “host”.

There is talk of worshiping the host, kneeling before it, taking the host in procession (on the feast of ), guarding the host. A child once came to the catechist and asked: “Auntie, how long until I take the host?” (He was referring to the first communion).

I then had the idea of ​​looking for the origin of the word “host”. I ran to a dictionary (in fact, several) and realized that this word comes from Latin. I discovered that, in Latin, “host” is practically synonymous with “victim”. The Romans (who spoke Latin) called the animal sacrificed in honor of the gods, the victim offered as a sacrifice to the divinity, a “host”. The soldier who fell in war, victim of enemy aggression, defending the emperor and the homeland, was called a “host”. Linked to the word “host” is the Latin word “hostis”, which means: “the enemy”. Hence the word “hostile” (aggressive, threatening, enemy), “hostilize” (attack, provoke, threaten). And the fatal victim of an attack, therefore, is a “host”.

Why use the word host?

Then, the following happened: Christianity, upon coming into contact with Latin culture, added the word “host” to its theological and liturgical language, precisely to refer to the greatest fatal “victim” of human aggression: the dead and resurrected Christ .

Christians adopted the word “host” to refer to the Lamb that was immolated (victimized) and, at the same time, resurrected, present in the Eucharistic memorial.

The word “host” therefore comes to mean the reality that Christ himself showed in that final supper: “This is my body given up, my blood shed”. The consecrated bread, therefore, is a “host”, in fact, the true “host”, that is, the very Body of the resurrected One, once mortally attacked by human evil, and now living among us like bread and wine, given to be food and drink: Take and eat! Take and drink!

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The sacredness of the word host

Unfortunately, over time, this profoundly theological and spiritual meaning that the word “host” took on in the liturgy of early Roman Christianity was lost, and was fixed almost exclusively on the materiality of the “circular particle of unleavened bread dough”. which is enshrined in “. To the point where we end up calling even particles that have not yet been consecrated “hosts”!

Today, when I talk about “host”, I think about the “Easter victim”, I think about the death of Christ and His resurrection, I think about the Paschal mystery. Host for me is this: the Lord’s death and resurrection, His total surrender for us, present in the consecrated bread and wine. Therefore, after the invocation of the bread and wine and the narration of the Lord’s Last Supper, at Mass, the entire assembly sings: “We announce, Lord, Your death and we proclaim Your resurrection. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Before this “host”, that is, before this mystery, we bow in deep reverence, we kneel and dive into deep contemplation, assuming the commitment to also be like this: a body offered “as a living host, holy, pleasing to God” (Rom. 12.1). Worshiping the “host” means surrendering to its mystery to live it on a daily basis. And communing with the “host” means assimilating its mystery in the totality of our being, to become what Christ is: giving ourselves to the service of our brothers, a host.

Now I understand better when the Second Vatican Council, when exhorting conscious, pious and active participation in the “sacrosanct mystery of the Eucharist”, adds: “And learn to offer yourself, offering the immaculate host, not only through the hands of the priest, but also together with him and, thus, with Christ as Mediator, day by day they may become perfect in and among themselves, so that, finally, God may be all in all” (SC 48).

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