Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Today, July 1, is the feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Since it is a first class feast of our Lord, it takes precedence over the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, with no commemoration of the Sunday.

The Precious Blood of Jesus is the price that bought our redemption. Under the Old Covenant, the Jews were commanded to offer sacrifices of animals. Since the blood of animals has only limited value, it had only limited efficacy. Under the New Covenant, we have only one sacrifice, the one that Jesus Christ, true God and true man, offered on the Cross. We participate in this sacrifice in the Mass. Since the Precious Blood of Jesus has infinite value, it purchased infinite grace and redemption for all of mankind. Every time we receive Holy Communion, we consume the Precious Blood of Jesus and partake of the infinite grace that it won for us.

The Precious Blood was shed for the first time at our Lord's Circumcision, when he was only eight days old. This foreshadowed the shedding of his blood at every part of his Passion. In his Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus's sweat became blood (Luke 22:44). Sweating blood is an extremely rare medical condition known as “hematohidrosis,” caused by extreme mental anxiety, such as in a soldier before battle or a prisoner awaiting execution. Jesus then shed his Precious Blood when he was scourged, crowned with thorns, and forced to carry the Cross. The ultimate shedding of his Precious Blood was when he was nailed to the Cross, suffered, and died to purchase our salvation. The Precious Blood of Jesus is made present again every day in every Catholic parish in the world in the Holy Mass.

Analysis done on the Shroud of Turin, the linen shroud that covered our Lord when he was buried, and on several Eucharistic miracles, in which the Blessed Sacrament took on not only the substance but also the appearance of the Body and Blood of Christ, has revealed that our Lord's blood type was AB. It is still unknown whether he was AB+ or AB-. The two interesting things about this are that AB is the rarest blood type, representing about 4% of people, and that AB (specifically AB+) is the “universal recipient,” meaning people with blood type AB+ can receive transfusions from any other blood type.

The feast of the Most Precious Blood was introduced by St. Gaspar del Bufalo, an Italian priest of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The Missionaries of the Precious Blood are a society of apostolic life with the mission of sharing the Gospel and the power of the Precious Blood of Jesus with everyone, especially the lonely, the poor, and victims of violence.

When Pope Pius IX took refuge in Gaeta, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (part of modern day Italy), in 1848, the superior general of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Fr. Giovanni Merlini, suggested that the pope make the feast of the Precious Blood a feast day for the entire Church. The pope did so on June 30, 1849, the same day that the French army defeated the short-lived Roman Republic and restored the pope's control of the Papal States. Henceforth, Pope Pius IX declared that the feast of the Most Precious Blood be celebrated around the world on the first Sunday of July, the Sunday after the anniversary of the French victory. St. Pius X later moved it to July 1. For a while, there were actually two feasts of the Most Precious Blood, the other being celebrated on the Friday following the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

At Lauds on this feast, we sing the hymn Salvete Christi vulnera. Some have viewed it has a hymn of praise for God's protection of the pope. It praises the Five Sacred Wounds of Christ, from which his Precious Blood flowed. (Note that the given English translation is a metrical translation that seeks to preserve the poetic structure of the hymn rather than translating it literally.)

Salvéte, Christi vúlnera,
Imménsi amoris pígnora
Quibus perénnes rivuli
Manant rubéntis sánguinis.

Nitóre stellas víncitis
Rosas odóre et bálsama,
Prétio lapíllos Indícos,
Mellis favos dulcédine.

Per vos patet gratíssimum
Nostris asýlum méntibus;
Non huc furor minántium
Umquam penétrat hóstium.

Quot Jesus in prætório
Flagélla nudus éxcipit!
Quot scissa pellis úndique
Stillat cruóris gúttulas!

Frontem venústam, proh dolor!
Coróna pungit spínea,
Clavi retúsa cúspide
Pedes manúsque pérforant.

Postquam sed ille trádidit
Amans volénsque spíritum,
Pectus ferítur láncea,
Geminúsque liquor éxsilit.

Ut plena sit redémptio,
Sub torculári stríngitur;
Suíque Jesus ímmemor,
Sibi nil resérvat sánguinis.

Veníte quotquot críminum
Funésta labes ínficit;
In hoc salútis bálneo
Qui se lavat, mundábitur.

Summi ad Paréntis déxteram
Sedénti habénda est grátia,
Qui nos redémit sánguine,
Sanctóque firmat Spíritu.
Hail, holy wounds of Jesus, hail,
Sweet pledges of the saving rood,
Whence flow the streams that never fail,
The purple streams of his dear blood.

Brighter than brightest stars ye show,
Than sweetest rose your scent more rare,
No Indian gem may match your glow,
No honey's taste with yours compare.

Portals ye are to that dear home
Wherein our wearied souls may hide,
Whereto no angry foe can come,
The heart of Jesus crucified.

What countless stripes our Jesus bore,
All naked left in Pilate's hall!
From his torn flesh how red a shower
Did round his sacred person fall!

His beauteous brow, oh, shame and grief,
By the sharp thorny crown is riven;
Through hands and feet, without relief,
The cruel nails are rudely driven.

But when for our poor sakes he died,
A willing priest by love subdued,
The soldier's lance transfixed his side,
Forth flowed the water and the blood.

In full atonement of our guilt,
Careless of self, the Saviour trod—
E'en till his heart's best blood was spilt—
The wine-press of the wrath of God.

Come, bathe you in the healing flood,
All ye who mourn, by sin opprest;
Your only hope is Jesus' blood,
His Sacred Heart your only rest.

All praise to him, the Eternal Son,
At God's right hand enthroned above,
Whose blood our full redemption won,
Whose Spirit seals the gift of love.

This hymn begins by praising the Five Wounds, comparing them to the brightest of stars, sweet roses, Indian gemstones, and sweet honey. The grace won for us by the Five Wounds of Christ and the Precious Blood that came from them far exceeds any of these earthly treasures. It goes on to praise several of the instances of the shedding of the Precious Blood: the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, and finally the Crucifixion. The hymn praises Jesus's passionate love for us that made him choose to die for us. It also mentions the Holy Lance that pierced our crucified Lord's side, causing his Precious Blood and water to flow from his wound.

The next two stanzas laud the saving power of the Precious Blood and implore everyone to come partake of its healing – the mission of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. Finally, like all hymns of the Divine Office, the final stanza is a doxology praising the Holy Trinity. In this case, it makes special note of the Precious Blood. The healing, loving, and life-giving power of the Precious Blood works alongside the Holy Spirit, which, the hymn says, “seals the gift of love,” to ultimately bring us to everlasting life with God. Overall, this hymn is a beautiful ode to the Precious Blood of Jesus, poetically expressing its incomprehensible value.

The Introit at Mass is taken from the book of Apocalypse. What better illustration of the power of the Precious Blood than the Last Judgment, when the Precious Blood of Jesus will be our only hope! It is paired with Psalm 88:2, praising the mercy of God.

Redemísti nos, Dómine, in sánguine tuo, ex omni tribu et lingua et pópulo et natióne: et fecísti nos Deo nostro regnum.
Misericórdias Dómini in ætérnum cantábo: in
generatiónem et generatiónem annuntiábo veritátem
tuam in ore meo.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen.
Redemísti nos, Dómine, in sánguine tuo, ex omni tribu et lingua et pópulo et natióne: et fecísti nos Deo nostro regnum.
You have redeemed us, O Lord, with your blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us for our God a kingdom.
The favors of the Lord I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
be, world without end. Amen.
You have redeemed us, O Lord, with your blood,
out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us for our God a kingdom.

To give some context to this Introit, here is Apocalypse 5:8-10, from the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition Bible:

5:8 And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints:

5:9 And they sung a new canticle, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

5:10 And hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.

At the end of time, when every one of us shall come before the throne of heaven to be judged by God, there will stand the Lamb who was slain, who redeemed us by his Precious Blood. Our only hope that day will be in the blood of this Lamb. This is the inevitable reality of our life on earth, which we ought to remind ourselves of every day, and which Holy Mother Church reminds us of as we begin the Mass this day. The only thing that truly matters is the Precious Blood of Jesus. After asking God's mercy in the Kyrie and praising his majesty in the Gloria, we petition God again in the collect for redeeming power of the Precious Blood of the Lamb who was slain. We pray to “worship in this sacred rite the price of our salvation.”

Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui unigénitum Fílium tuum mundi Redemptórem constituísti, ac ejus Sánguine placári voluísti: concéde, quǽsumus, salútis nostræ prétium sollémni cultu ita venerári, atque a præséntis vitæ malis ejus virtúte deféndi in terris; ut fructu perpétuo lætémur in coelis.
Per eundem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.
Almighty, eternal God, who made thine only-begotten Son the Redeemer of the world, and willed to be reconciled by his Blood, grant us, we beseech thee, so to worship in this sacred rite the price of our salvation, and to be so protected by its power against the evils of the present life on earth, that we may enjoy its everlasting fruit in heaven.
Through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

The Epistle at Mass this day is taken from Hebrews 9:11-15, which is of unknown authorship, but is traditionally attributed to St. Paul. The first couple verses of this passage are also sung at Lauds as the Capitulum or short reading from scripture just before the hymn.

Fratres: Christus assístens Póntifex futurórum bonórum, per ámplius et perféctius tabernáculum non manufáctum, id est, non hujus creatiónis: neque per sánguinem hircórum aut vitulórum, sed per próprium sánguinem introívit semel in Sancta, ætérna redemptióne invénta. Si enim sanguis hircórum et taurórum et cinis vítulæ aspérsus inquinátos sanctíficat ad emundatiónem carnis: quanto magis sanguis Christi, qui per Spíritum Sanctum semetípsum óbtulit immaculátum Deo, emundábit consciéntiam nostram ab opéribus mórtuis, ad serviéndum Deo vivénti? Et ídeo novi Testaménti mediátor est: ut, morte intercedénte, in redemptiónem earum prævaricatiónum, quæ erant sub prióri Testaménto, repromissiónem accípiant, qui vocáti sunt ætérnæ hereditátis, in Christo Jesu, Dómino nostro. Brethren: When Christ appeared as High Priest of the good things to come, he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands, that is, not of this creation, nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean unto the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And this is why he is mediator of a new Covenant, that whereas a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the former Covenant, they who have been called may receive eternal inheritance according to the promise, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In this passage, the author praises the Precious Blood of Jesus and its power of redemption. It speaks of the limited power and value of the blood of goats, calves, and bulls, which were sacrificed under the Old Covenant. As our Lord said at the Last Supper and we say every day in the Mass, the Precious Blood of Jesus is the Blood of the new and eternal Covenant. The sacrifices of the blood of animals of the Old Covenant accomplished temporal forgiveness. The Precious Blood of Jesus of the New Covenant accomplishes our eternal salvation.

The Offertory verse is taken from 1 Corinthians 10:16.

Calix benedictiónis, cui benedícimus, nonne communicátio sánguinis Christi est? et panis, quem frángimus, nonne participátio córporis Dómini est? The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not the sharing of the Blood of Christ? And the bread that we break, is it not the partaking of the Body of the Lord?

Yes, it truly is! Indeed, as we go into the Offertory and prepare to offer the sacrifice, we are about to participate in that Precious Blood that we have been continually worshiping and praising! The bread and wine on the altar are about to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. As St. Paul writes, we are sharing in the Blood of Christ and partaking of the Body of the Lord.

Finally, at the end of the Mass, after we have worshiped, praised, offered, and partaken of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we petition God one last time in the postcommunion to grant us the eternal life that the Precious Blood of Jesus allows to us. May the Precious Blood be a joyful fountain of life-giving water.

Ad sacram, Dómine, mensam admíssi, háusimus aquas in gáudio de fóntibus Salvatóris: sanguis ejus fiat nobis, quǽsumus, fons aquæ in vitam ætérnam saliéntis:
Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus per omnia saecula saeculorum.
Admitted to the sacred banquet, O Lord, we have drawn water in joy from the Savior’s fountain; may his Blood, we beseech thee, become for us a fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting.
Who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.

Thus, as we celebrate the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ today, let us remember its infinite value and the great love that it represents, and let us strive to be able to participate in it, so that when we come before the throne of the Lamb that was slain, we may, by the Blood of the Lamb, attain eternal life with God. Precious Blood of Jesus, have mercy on us!

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