Today is the 100th anniversary of the bloodiest day in British military history, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, a battle that was to last almost four and a half months. For many people, the Battle of the Somme was the battle that symbolised the horrors of warfare in World War One; this one battle had a marked effect on overall casualty figures and seemed to epitomise the futility of trench warfare. By the time it petered out in the rain and snow of the following November 2016, more than one million soldiers from both sides had died without making any appreciable alteration in the opening position.
We may wonder how many of the young men who went over the top on the Somme that Saturday morning in July knew that it was the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Too few perhaps: but those who gave their lives for Christian civilisation, however poorly understood, made a sacrifice which He surely did not spurn. Every tiny drop of that Most Precious Blood is worth the salvation of the souls of everyone who has ever lived. If there are any souls of those who died on either side in that battle still in Purgatory, may they rest at last in peace.
From the ‘Saint Andrew Daily Missal’:
Let us do homage to the precious Blood of our Redeemer which the priest offers to God on the altar.
Thou hast redeemed us, O Lord, in Thy blood, out of every tribe and tongue, and people and nation, and hast made us to our God a kingdom. The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever: I will show forth Thy truth with my mouth to generation and generation.
(Apoc. 5:9-10 and Psalm 88:2)
O almighty and everlasting God, who didst appoint Thine only-begotten Son the Redeemer of the world, and hast willed to be appeased by His blood; grant unto us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate with solemn worship the price of our redemption, and by its power be so defended against the evils of this life, that we may enjoy the fruit thereof for evermore in heaven. Through the same our Lord.
This is He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. * There are three who give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are one.
Alleluia, alleluia. * If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. Alleluia.
(1 John 5:6-8 and Alleluia ibid. 9)
At that time, Jesus, when He had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing His head, He gave up the ghost. Then the Jews (because it was the Parasceve), that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the sabbath-day (for that was a great sabbath-day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers, therefore, came: and they broke the legs of the first and of the other that was crucified with Him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it hath given testimony, and his testimony is true.
(St John 19:30-35)