“Let us fix our gaze on the Blood of Christ and realise how truly precious It is, seeing that it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of conversion to the whole world.” (Pope St. Clement I, about 96 A.D.)
“This day [Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ – 1st July] shall be unto you for a memorial and ye shall keep it a Feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a Feast by an ordinance for ever”- (Magnificat Antiphon, Feast of the Most Precious Blood, Exodus 12:14). Sadly, despite this ancient admonition, it was dropped from the Roman Calender in 1969, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, but is still retained as a Votive Mass, whilst the whole month of July is still traditionally dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Our Redeemer. It was celebrated by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, during his Apostolic Journey to Scotland and England in 2010.
“The Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ embraces in turn the mystery of Our Lord’s continuing passion in the members of his Mystical Body, the Church in every age. Here the great crucifix which towers above us serves as a reminder that Christ, our eternal high priest, daily unites our own sacrifices, our own sufferings, our own needs, hopes and aspirations, to the infinite merits of His sacrifice. Through Him, with Him, and in Him, we lift up our own bodies as a sacrifice holy and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1). In this sense we are caught up in his eternal oblation, completing, as Saint Paul says, in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, the Church (cf. Col 1:24). In the life of the Church, in her trials and tribulations, Christ continues, in the stark phrase of Pascal, to be in agony until the end of the world (Pensées).
We see this aspect of the mystery of Christ’s Precious Blood represented, most eloquently, by the martyrs of every age, who drank from the cup which Christ himself drank, and whose own blood, shed in union with his sacrifice, gives new life to the Church. It is also reflected in our brothers and sisters throughout the world who even now are suffering discrimination and persecution for their Christian faith. Yet it is also present, often hidden in the suffering of all those individual Christians who daily unite their sacrifices to those of the Lord for the sanctification of the Church and the redemption of the world. My thoughts go in a special way to all those who are spiritually united with this Eucharistic celebration, and in particular the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and those who suffer mentally and spiritually.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 18th September, 2010)
Fr. John Hardon, S.J. describes the Church’s Foundation to Precious Blood of Christ thus:
“The revealed foundation for the Church’s belief in the Precious Blood and the reason for her fostering devotion to the Precious Blood among the faithful occurs in the first chapter of the first letter of St. Peter, verses 18-19. Says Peter:
You know that you were redeemed from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, not wish perishable things as silver or gold but with the Precious Blood of Christ as the Lamb without blemish and without spot.
There are certain words and phrases in the revealed statement that we have just read that we should begin to unravel in order to understand something of the depth of meaning behind those two simple words, Precious Blood. Peter begins by reminding the faithful to remember the hardest thing in this life for us is to remain mindful of the truths of faith. Because what we believe on God’s revealed Word is twice removed from the common experience that we have in this world. What we believe is first of all not immediately perceptible to the senses. Moreover, what we believe is not even penetrable to the naked reason. The word, remember, is an imperative: keep in mind. Arouse your faith in what and how you were redeemed. And it is the how we were redeemed that is the foundation stone of the mystery of the Precious Blood. God took on a human nature so that in that human nature He could die. In order to die, the soul had to separate from the body. But for the Body to have the soul separate, the body itself had to be deprived of His Blood. Theologically speaking and physiologically speaking, the All-Holy Son of God who became Man to redeem us could only have died by being drained of His Blood. Christ, listen, could not have died of some disease. Christ could not have died because of some mortal illness. All illness, disease, the natural debilitating of the body is the result of sin. Let me emphasize this. All our illness, our disease, our sickness, our wasting away of our body for all of us this is our faith – is the result of our sinful nature. Not so with Christ. That draining of the human body of His Blood was the one way that Christ, Sinless Son of God and Son of Mary that He was, the one way that He could die.
Peter goes on: “We were redeemed, we were ransomed.” What is Peter talking about? What is Peter saying when he says that we were redeemed? Literally it means “bought back”. Having sinned before God, we incurred a heavy debt. The debt was death. But all of the deaths (plural) of all of the human beings since the beginning of time, we believe, would not have been adequate – again, it is our faith – would not have been adequate to ransom, to make up for, the infinite gravity of the sin not only of our first parents but by now the accumulated – what a low figure of speech – mountain of sin. Because an infinite being was in His Being offended by His creatures, only an Infinite Being could provide adequate ransom to redeem.
Peter goes on: “We were therefore not redeemed by anything corruptible”. And you would think that Peter would find two better words than gold and silver. Because of all material things that are corruptible, two of the most incorruptible are gold and silver. But not even the most precious things that the world can provide, no other ransom, would have been adequate. But we have been redeemed, bought back, ransomed, by the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God. Try not to forget the title. Precious Blood is the revealed title, part of God’s inspired biblical teaching in the first letter of the first Vicar of Christ.
[…] Why does Peter identify the Blood of the Lamb of God as “Precious?” Well, it is surely Precious because it is the Blood of no human being. It is the Blood of the living God who took on human nature, capable of shedding His Blood. Why was the Blood of Christ Precious? Because it is the Blood of God who took on human nature in order to be able to suffer and to bleed and, let us add, in order to bleed to death. Why Precious? Because it is the Blood of the living God.
The Role of the Precious Blood in the Life of a Priest
We now ask ourselves, what in the spirituality of Father Gerald was his understanding of the role of the Precious Blood in the life of a priest? Remember, Father Gerald’s spirituality is a priestly spirituality. I would like to read at some length, the text goes back to July, the traditional month of the Precious Blood, the year 1950. It is twenty years before his death. Father wrote a short essay on the Precious Blood and the Priest. I would like to quote some pertinent passages.
The Precious Blood of Jesus obviously belongs to all men inasmuch as for all men without exception It was poured out on Calvary. Nevertheless, it will be profitable for us priests to reflect on our special relationship with the redeeming Blood of Christ. First, we share with all sinners, aware of what the Blood of Christ has purchased for us, in a debt of gratitude which God’s continued patience with us in the forgiveness of our daily transgressions, only serves to increase. Secondly, We share, insofar as we have accepted the graces of personal holiness, in the gratitude of our Blessed Mother and of all the saints, for all holiness comes from the Blood of Jesus. Third, we share uniquely in Mary’s privilege of bringing the Precious Blood to man. Her Immaculate heart is the fountainhead. But for the continued presence of the Blood of Jesus on our altars, God deigns to use us, His priests, so that, effectively, we share in Mary’s privilege of giving the Blood of Jesus to the world. Finally, we priests administer the fruits of the Precious Blood every time we administer the Holy Sacraments and, most especially, in every sacramental absolution.
[…] If there is one mystery of the faith that every priest should meditate on every day, it is: to what extent is his priestly life a reflection of the Christ who ordained him. Over the years of teaching priests, I have told them, “Whatever else you forget, do not forget the word – priest, in every language of history, in every religion ancient and living, the word, priest, means the one who sacrifices.” And in Christianity [viz. Catholicism], the essence of the priesthood means self-sacrifice. That’s why God became Man, so that He might have a human Body with living, human Blood, and have a human will so that, by shedding His own Blood voluntarily He might be the Victim, and by shedding that Blood voluntarily He might be the Priest. […]
Devotion to the Precious Blood
Part three. Devotion to the Precious Blood is not a spiritual option, it is a spiritual obligation, and that not only for priests, but for every follower of Christ. I really believe, and I hesitate even saying this, but I really believe that one of the symptoms of modern society (and I would even include, sadly, modern Catholic society) one of the symptoms of a growing, gnawing secularism is the lessening and the weakening of devotion to the Precious Blood. Devotion, as we know, is a composite of three elements: It is first- veneration, it is secondly- invocation, and it is thirdly- imitation. In other words, devotion to the Precious Blood of Christ, the Lamb of God who was slain, is first of all to be veneration on our part, which is a composite of knowledge, love and adoration…”
You can read the rest of Fr. Hardon’s conference on ‘The Precious Blood of Christ’ here.