Etymology can be surprising. The word “sacrifice” is a case in point. The word “sacrifice” comes from the Latin “sacrifico”, itself from “sacer” (sacred) and “facio” (to make). In other words, “sacrifice” is the act of “making sacred”. I think this is a very interesting idea. The Latin language wanted to convey a permanent idea in the long life of human history: the sacred is created through sacrifice.
What Is Sacrifice?
According to Wiktionnaire, there are several definitions of sacrifice. Some definitions are more positive than others.
Let’s look at 3 definitions, one of which is negative, while the other two are positive:
“To conform out of weakness, complacency, habit.”
–> We clearly don’t want to act according to this definition. For a sacrifice to be strong, it must not be undergone.
“To devote oneself to someone or something without reserve; to suffer everything for his or her service, for his or her sake.”
–> This definition is particularly appropriate in the case of relationships.
“To give up something voluntarily, to renounce it, for the love of God or in consideration of a person, a thing.”
–> This definition is particularly relevant to our relationship with God.
To truly create the sacred, we need to cultivate a form of emptiness: “The main quality of a vase is that it should be empty”. The main quality of the spiritual man is that he can empty himself so that the divine can enter him. In order to create this emptiness, we must know how to lighten ourselves materially, physically, emotionally and symbolically. That’s why sacrifice is a pillar of the spiritual path.
Let’s take a look at three places where the sacred is created and applied.
Relationship With The Divine
The word sacrifice is of course linked first and foremost to religious ceremonies and practices. In all religious traditions, there is a notion of sacrifice. Initially, there were sacrifices in the original sense: animal and even human sacrifices. Later, the notion of sacrifice evolved, taking the form of deprivation (fasting, abstinence etc.), offerings (candles, incense etc.) or acts of generosity (charity, almsgiving etc.). The divine is sustained by a kind of disappearance of our physical entity or ego. Sacrifice expresses the awareness that something far greater and more beautiful than ourselves is beyond us, and that we must pay homage to it. The sacred is created by the signs of humility we leave behind. It’s a way of reminding ourselves on a daily basis that there’s an impalpable dimension to life that’s more valuable than what we can see from a material or physical point of view. The act of sacrifice in the religious tradition was a symbol of just this: the profane prostrate themselves before the divine (candles are lit at the foot of Christ, silver coins are donated to temples because the essential is elsewhere and is far more valuable, etc.).
Human relationships are made sacred by the repeated sacrifices made within them. For a couple to be sacred, they must deprive themselves, reserve themselves for their partner, do things for each other, sacrifice their pleasure to satisfy the other person. The time spent understanding the other person, trying to satisfy him or her, is the most common mark of self-sacrifice. That’s why sacrifice is the basis of a lasting relationship.
The Relationship To Oneself
Moral and spiritual progress is achieved through the sublimation of desire. Someone who is a prisoner of sensory desires will find it difficult to progress morally or spiritually. To improve as an individual, you have to “sacrifice” sense pleasures to gain access to more elaborate pleasures. Reading is a less accessible pleasure than eating sweet, fatty foods. We need to learn to appreciate texts (we also need to learn to read, we don’t need to learn to eat) by reading a lot. Some of the learning is not pleasant, but after a while you can feel pleasure in learning new things or seeing a plot develop before your eyes. Reading is just one example among thousands. The more we progress, the more we are able to sacrifice lower pleasures, the more we are able to access higher pleasures (lower pleasures: linked to survival and reproduction, intermediate pleasures: linked to self-esteem and belonging, higher pleasures: linked to spirit and soul).