The Anima Christi During Holy Week

Geertgen tot Sint Jans - "Christ as Man of Sorrows" (cropped)
Among my favorite prayers to pray during Holy Week is the Anima Christi or “Soul of Christ.” Many of the lines are resonant with Passion Week, as the poem reflects on Christ’s body and spirit. Among my favorite lines are those at the center: “Within your wounds hide me. / Permit me not to be separated from you.” In the Passion, God unites himself to us so that we are never alone in our own suffering. In the Passion, we find our shelter and “hiding place” in Christ.
About six years ago, I undertook the 19th Annotation version of the Spiritual Exercises (the Exercises in daily life). I remember praying imaginatively with the scene of Jesus in the garden at Gethsemane. Initially, I imagined myself among Jesus’ friends who waited outside the garden as he had asked. Suddenly, I realized that I did not want Jesus to be alone in his time of suffering, and so I ran to kneel next to him in the garden. I felt completely powerless to prevent his sorrow, suffering, and fear, but desperately wanted to be near to him in all that he was experiencing. I embraced him, wept with him, and held him, hoping to provide some comfort.
As I prayed, I discovered that my desire to be intimately with Jesus, and not to leave him alone in his time of need, was a mirror reflection of Jesus’ first choosing to be with me in my own suffering. God came to be a human being and to suffer so that we would never be alone in our own suffering, anxieties, fears, and sorrows. “Permit me not to be separated from you” are words that each one of us can pray to God because God said them to us first.
Jesus’ wounds also serve as a resting place for us. “Within your wounds hide me” speaks of uniting our own wounds to those of Jesus. By placing ourselves within his wounded side, hands, and feet, our own wounds become known, transformed, and healed. When I prayed with the image of Jesus being scourged, part of me desired to take a blow so that Jesus would not have to take so many. But Jesus was insistent that he cover me with his own body and take the suffering upon himself. We might want to shelter Jesus, but it is Jesus who takes on human suffering, and so shelters us from suffering and the consequences of sin.
Knowing that God comes to be with us in our suffering is also what allows us to go and to be with other people in theirs. We cannot always alleviate others’ pain by removing it from them, but we can faithfully remain present to them so that they are not alone. What Jesus does for us becomes mirrored in what we can then go out and do for others. What we receive in love, we can then go on to give.
Image: Geertgen tot Sint Jans, “Christ as Man of Sorrows.”

10 COMMENTS

  1. I initially found the Anima Christi through the Spiritual Exercises a year ago and it has resonated with me ever since. Similar to Ms. McCoy, the verse of ‘Within your wounds hide me. Permit me not to be separated from you.’ speaks volumes of Christ’s Love for us and He being there for us. The heart becomes inflamed within me each time I say it and I say it several times a day, along with others. Thank you Ms. McCoy for your inspirational thoughts.

  2. For many years I have often felt drawn to Jesus Agony in the Garden. Each time praying the Sorrowful Mysteries I felt that way. Sometimes lingered there wanting to stay with Jesus. I as yourself imagined holding Jesus, letting Him know He wasn’t alone. It was comforting to read you also feel the same. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts

  3. You are a good story teller and writer. You’re gifted with imaginative prayer and able to share this gift. Thank you. The Anima Christi resonates with me. Like you, I experience each thought as I pray it. I envision Jesus and me becoming one as I receive Christ in the Eucharist and the prayer is my reality.

  4. The Anima Christi is my hands-down favorite prayer, chillingly graphic while teeming with passion. I thank you for sharing your meditation on the Agony in the Garden. I have always thought of this as a time when Jesus fully understood the annihilation anxiety that we all must contend with. Thus sweating blood, facing certain death, while his friends slept. A good time to extend companionship, as the spirit prompted you to do.

  5. The line that most grabs me is that we are never alone in our suffering I, too, have loved this prayer for a very long time. You have given it another dimension and depth for me.
    Thank you!

  6. Many thanks for this.I am doing the 19th Annotation at present although praying imaginatively does not always come easily to me. However your last paragraph gave me comfort as I learned this morning that an old friend had been diagnosed with bowel cancer; hard enough in itself but at the age of 84 he is sole carer for his wife who has dementia. I am called to “give in love” what God has given to me. Thank you.

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