Post Eagle Newspaper


Jul 17, 2024

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WORD ETYMOLOGY – November 21st

Today’s word is: HOCUS-POCUS. The word has evolved down through the years from some religious and Christian influence.

HOCUS-POCUS is an incantation; a magical term used by magicians to change things right before your very eyes; or, to make something disappear. It comes from the Latin – HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM – which translated means – FOR THIS IS MY BODY. In the Latin version of the Holy Mass, the celebrant would say these words in Latin. Today, in the U.S.A., the Catholic Mass is celebrated in English. Some older readers may still remember hearing or reading these words in Latin. This is said at the Consecration in which the priest whispers or speaks the words in a lower tone. The Church teaches that the priest is repeating the words of Jesus Christ, spoken at the Last Supper and is transforming and trans-substantiating the bread into the body of Christ.

In the early days of the Christian community, novices and converts were not allowed to participate in the entire celebration. They were gradually enrolled and tested because of the many persecutions by the Roman Emperors. The early Christians were suspicious of infiltrators.

Those who were distant from the altar and prohibited from complete participation would hear the whispered and muffled words HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM and to them it sounded like HOCUS POCUS. They were told that the priest was changing the bread to the flesh and body of Christ by saying these words. The convert or novice then thought that he too could perform some magical feat by using these words. And that is how the word has evolved over the centuries to our