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Catholic Dictionary




Among the Israelites and even now among many non-Christian believers, an offering entirely consumed by fire. In Jewish tradition, only animals could be offered in holocaust, which is regarded as the most complete expression of one's reverence for God. A holocaust could either be prescribed by law or voluntarily made in fulfillment of a private vow or as an act of devotion. In the Old Testament, holocausts were vivid reminders of God's supreme dominion over his creatures. They were means of atonement for sin, and they foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. (Etym. Greek holokaustos, burned whole.)