‘Do you wish to know of the power of Christ’s blood? Let us go back to the ancient accounts of what took place in Egypt, where Christ’s blood is foreshadowed.
Moses said: “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish and smear the doors with its blood”. What does this mean? Can the blood of a sheep without reason save man who is endowed with reason? Yes, Moses replied, not because it is blood because it is a figure of the Lord’s blood. So today if the devil sees, not the blood of the figure smeared on the doorposts, but the blood of the reality smeared on the lips of the faithful, which are the doors of the temple of Christ, with all the more season will he draw back.
Do you wish to learn from another source the power of this blood? See where it began to flow, from what spring it flowed down from the cross, from the Master’s side. The gospel relates that when Christ had died and was still hanging on the cross, the soldier approached him and pierced his side with the spear, and at once there came out water and blood. The one was a symbol of baptism, the other side of mysteries. That soldier, then, pierced his side: he breached the wall of the holy temple, and I found the treasure and acquired the wealth. Similarly with the lamb. The Jews slaughtered it in sacrifice, and I gathered the fruit of that sacrifice - salvation.
“There came out from his side water and blood”. Dearly beloved, do not pass the secret of this great mystery by without reflection. For I have another secret mystical interpretation to give. I said that baptism and the mysteries were symbolised in that blood and water. It is from these two that the holy Church has been born “by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit,” by baptism and the mysteries. Now the symbols of baptism and the mysteries came from his side. It was from his side, then, that Christ formed the Church, as from the side of Adam he formed Eve.
That is why in his account of the first man Moses has the words, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” giving us a hint here of the Master’s side. For as at time God took a rib from Adam’s side and formed woman, so Christ gave us blood and water from his side and formed the Church. Just as then he took the rib while Adam was in a deep sleep, so now he gave the blood and water after his death.
Have you seen how Christ has united his bride to himself? Have you seen with what kind of food he feeds us all? By the same food we are formed and are fed. As a woman feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too Christ himself continually feeds those whom he had begotten with his own blood”’.
from the instructions to the catechumens by St John Chrysostom, c.349-407
O God of truth and love, who gavest to thy Bishop John Chrysostom eloquence to declare thy righteousness in the great congregation, and courage to bear reproach for the honour of thy Name: mercifully grant to the ministers of thy Word such excellence in preaching; that all people may share with them in the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Bangor Antiphony, 7th century, translated by Fr Adrian Fortescue, 1874-1923
Festivis resonent compita vocibus
Now let our streets resound with vocal melody,
Now let each countenance shine clear with holy joy;
Raise high the torches bright, lighting our festal way,
As young and old in order go.
Yet while we sing with joy, spare not due meed of tears,
Mindful of him who died, hanged on the bitter tree,
And for the race of men, fallen from first estate,
From many a wound his blood outpoured.
From the first Adam's sin in Eden long ago
Death’s heavy penalty hung over all mankind;
Now by his life and death our second Adam gives
Life to a fallen race once more.
Since through the highest heaven the Father on his throne
Heard the strong cry that broke from his own dying Son,
Our debt is paid in full by the Redeemer’s blood,
Pardon complete for sin is won.
Henceforth who in that blood washeth his soilèd robes,
Cleansèd from every stain, and like the Angel-hosts
Standing before the King in roseate beauty clad,
Finds grace and favour in his sight.
Therefore let Christian men press on to reach the goal,
Scorning to turn aside from the strait path of life;
Bountiful gifts of grace God gives along the way,
And at the end a glorious prize.
Grant of thy grace and power, Father who rulest all,
That we, whom thou hast bought with thy Son’s precious blood,
And by thy Spirit’s breath dost day by day renew,
May to the crown of heaven attain.
Hymn appointed for the Precious Blood, July 1st
The English Catholic Hymn Book no.829
‘Sweet Jesus, in my imagination I will prostrate myself on the soil, and lower still if I can manage, because I am the perpetrator and the criminal in [all your] painful death. I want to embrace the foot of the cross, prostrate on the ground... Like this I will lie here to catch some of your blood, sweet Jesu; I will not stir from here until I am marked with your precious blood as one of your own (flock), and my soul is softened in that pleasant bath; and in this way it may come about, sweet Jesu, that it may open my hard heart, which now is as hard as stone, to make it soft, to make what was dead in sin spring to life for your sake through the special influence (of your blood). Sweet Jesus, your precious passion raised up dead men out of their graves, it opened heaven, shattered the gates of hell, the earth trembled at it, and the sun lost its light... Come then, sweet Jesu, as it's your wish, and set alight a tiny spark of love within my soul, as you best know how, a touch of compassion for your suffering, from which my heart can be set ablaze and I can be brought to life through it, until I would be aflame with your love above everything else; and lave me in your blood so that I may forget all the prosperity of the world, and all physical attractions’.
from The Longer Meditations on the Passion by Richard Rolle, 1290-1345
‘All laud, honour, glory, and thanks be given to thee, O Lord Jesu Christ, for the sacred wound of thy right hand. For this holy wound sake forgive all such offences as I have committed by my five senses, and remit also all such things as I have displeased thee, in thought, word, and deed, in negligence when I served thee, in sinful delectations, whether the same was in sleep, or when I waked, wittingly or ignorantly. And for thy blessed passion sake, give me thy grace to remember as I should do thy holy death and blessed wounds, utterly to mortify my body and to give thee thanks. Amen.
Laud, honour, glory, and thanks be to thee, most sweet Jesu, for the sacred wound of thy left hand. For the same holy wound sake, be merciful to me, and vouchsafe to change in me whatsoever is displeasant unto thee: give me victory, against all my spiteful enemies and let me by thy grace subdue them all for thy bitter passion sake, deliver me from all perils both in this life & in the life to come and make me worthy of thy grace in thy heavenly country. Amen.
Laud, honour, glory, and thanks be to thee, most gracious Jesu, for the sacred wound of thy right foot. For this holy wound sake grant that I may do worthy penance for my sins. And I most humbly beseech thee for thy holy death sake, that thou keep me thy servant both day and night in thy grace and favour: deliver me from all misery both of body and soul: take my soul to thy protection and tuition at the dreadful judgement day: and bring it to thy celestial joys. Amen.
Laud, honour, glory, and thanks be given to thee, good Jesu, for the sacred wound of thy left foot. For this holy wound sake give me pardon and full remission of my sins, that being protected by thee I may deserve to escape the rigour of thy judgement. And for thy holy death sake I beseech thee most merciful Jesu that before my soul part from my body, I may worthily receive the sacrament of thy most holy body and blood, with unfeigned contrition of heart, sincere confession of my sins, perfect penance, with purity of mind and body: And being comforted with Avail, may come to everlasting salvation. Amen.
Laud, honour, glory and thanks be to thee, most benign Jesu, for the sacred wound of thy blessed side. For this holy wound sake, and for thy infinite mercy sake, which thou showed us, when thy side was pierced with the spear I beseech thee my saviour Jesu that as thou hast cleansed me by Baptism from original sin: so likewise by thy precious blood, which was now at this time both offered and received, all the world over, thou wilt deliver me from all perils, both such as are past, and present, or to come: And for thy holy death sake, give me a right faith, a sure hope, and perfect charity, that I may love thee, with all my heart and all my strength.
Strengthen me in all good works, and give me grace strongly to continue thy servant to the end: that I may both here and in the life to come, please thee. Amen.
Imprint Lord Jesus Christ thy holy wounds in my heart: and moisten my soul with thy holy blood: that whether so ever I turn I may ever see thee crucified before me: and that whatsoever I cast my eye upon, it may seem to me besprinkled with thy holy blood: and that I may being thus wholly directed to thee, may behold nothing but only thee: who livest with thy Father and the Holy Ghost forever. Amen’.
from Certayne devout Meditations very necessary for Christian men devoutly to meditate upon Morninge and Eveninge, every day in the weeke: Concerning Christ his lyfe and Passion, and the fruites thereof, Anon, c.1576
‘Today it is quite a common thing to be able to say, in literal fact, that you have given your blood for somebody else. As it is, we have grown accustomed to a more violent, and, some would say, a less gracious metaphor. St John, at the beginning of his Apocalypse, refers to our Lord as one “who has proved his love for us by washing us clean from our sins in his own blood”.
It is not surprising that the Christianity of the Reformation, with its strong insistence on the doctrine of the Atonement, should have fastened on that language and made it familiar to us. For us Catholics, the Precious Blood is proposed as a special subject of meditation during this month of July, and for us, too, the same symbolism does duty. Read a Catholic poet like Crashaw, and you will find him referring to “that blood, whose least drops sovereign be To wash my worlds of sin from me”. Read an Evangelical poet like Cowper, and you will find him preaching the same doctrine; “The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day, And there may I, as vile as he, Wash all my sins away”. St John’s metaphor has become a commonplace of Christian devotion.
Do you still find it crude, over-strained, unacceptable? Be it so, we are not tied to any particular form of imagery which the piety of a past age has bequeathed to us. Only, in this month of July, we do well to remember the bitter Passion of our Lord, and that giving of his life-blood which sealed it, and seals us through it. A price was paid to redeem you (St Paul says); and because the price paid was so high, because the world itself was not worthy of such a ransom, we must go on reiterating, blindly and uncomprehendingly, our gratitude. Moreover, because the price paid for us was so high, no price can be too high which is demanded of us by our loyalty to Christ, though it should be death itself. To be always generous with God, to go on and on giving him of our best in spite of weariness and disillusionment, to despise soft options, and interpret our duty in terms of love, not in terms of mere justice, to be ready if we might to give him more than he asks of us, ready if that were possible to give him more than he deserves of us - that is the meaning of our devotion to the Precious Blood; may his grace make us worthy of it’.
from a sermon preached at the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Chelsea, 1956
Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
Fr Lee Kenyon
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