'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 rejocied 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
Priest, Husband, Father, Lancastrian, Mancunian