Meaning of "most" in Most Blessed Sacrament


The Church is prone to what by current English usage comes across as excessive wordiness, but it derives from longstanding tradition and is rarely noticed by most of us cradle Catholics. However, I started thinking about the phrase “Most Blessed Sacrament” and how I would explain it to a non-Catholic.

The “blessed” part seems redundant, certainly every sacrament is a blessed sacrament - even when say a baptism can’t be blessed by a cleric it is blessed by God. If we are defining “blessed” less actively, to simply mean holy, every sacrament is still by definition blessed.

What puzzled me was the meaning of “most”. Is the word intended to be a superlative, suggesting that other sacraments are less blessed? As the source and summit of Christian life, there might be some justification for that idea, but I’m not sure whether the sacramental theology strictly supports that. Or is it merely an intensifier? I am most curious, but I suspect the Latin or even Greek origins of the phrase might provide an answer.


I think it is a poetic idiom of language. For instance, at the council of Chalcedon, there is reference to the “most holy memory” of Celestine of Rome and Cyril of Alexandria, which is not to say they are holier than other of their peers. It is merely language of high exaltation. That being said, there is a sense in which the Eucharist is raised above all other sacraments. For example:CCC#1374 The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”


There are 7 Sacraments in the Catholic Church but none has the importance and pre-eminence of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

That is the meaning of “Most”


In Spanish they say “The Most Holy Sacrament”. Many times He (the Eucharist is not an “it” in my “opinion”) is called “The Most Holy” and all understand the meaning to be the Eucharist. It is said, “I am going to visit The Most Holy.” for visiting Him (in the Tabernacle) at church.


Actually the term “most” in that context comes from trying to find a good way to translate Latin into English. In the same way that we used to use a kind of special language to refer to God (such as Thee and Thou), Latin often uses superlative adjectives. That is, special words for religious purposes. As is often the case when translating, some words translate better than others. English really has no corresponding words for the superlative Latin so the early translators just used “most.”

In English it comes across awkward. I myself am a priest and a member of the Redemptorists. That is short for the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. We always joke that it implies there is a “least” Holy Redeemer somewhere. The Passionists and about 200 other religious orders have the same situation. The Latin initials following my name to show I am a Redemptorist are C.Ss.R. The use of Ss. indicates the use of a Latin superlative adjective. It is the same with the “Most Blessed Eucharist”, the “Most Holy Mother”, etc. As they say, “its all in the translation.”

This is probably two paragraphs of more information than you wanted but I hope it answers your question. :slight_smile:


Father, how could I have forgotten about Latin!!! And of course, Spanish uses superlative adjectives! As you say, “It is all in the translation.” Like when someone translated “10 doors down the street” in English to “10 doors underneath the street” :hammering: in Spanish :bigyikes:! I just could not figure that one out b/c the sign was only in Spanish! The shop owner had to tell me what he wanted to say. :rotfl:


It’s almost the same for a Pole trying to learn English. The Latin “Sursum corda” is literally “Upwards hearts” like it is in the Polish but the translators decided it should be “Lift up your hearts.” Well, yeh, you don’t lift down so why the redundancy?


“Most blessed” is the only way the superlative form of “blessed” can translated into English. We can’t say “blessedest,” so we say “most blessed.” In Latin, the superlative is formed by simply adding -issimus to the stem of the adjective; it’s not so simple in English.


Actually the word “bless” is not so simple in the English either.


That’s certainly true, along with a lot of other words that go to make up our religious specialized language.


It’s mainly because most of our religious terms come from Latin, and Latin doesn’t always go into English all that smoothly :stuck_out_tongue:


Or the fact that our English-speaking predecessors chose to translate Hebrew, Greek, and Latin terms into English using words both from English’s German and from English’s Latin roots, as in dikaiosune = both “justification” (Latin-based) and “holiness” (German-based). Sometimes I just want to switch to Esperanto. insert tearing hair out smiley here


Or you can propose a cognate for “benedicere” in English so we know what we’re talking about? :slight_smile:

I hear the Vatican decides what new words and names go into the Latin vocabulary but who decides what goes into the English vocabulary?


Pretty much people make up words as they choose, and then common usage determines what stays.

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