01 Jul The Feast of the Most Precious Blood
Today is the feast of the Most Precious Blood.
The month of July is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of the Redeemer. Supreme homage is given to the Sacred Blood. As we adore the Sacred Heart, because it is the Heart of Jesus, so we adore the Most Precious Blood.
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger
St. John the Baptist (June 24) has pointed out the Lamb, St. Peter (June 29) has firmly established his throne, St. Paul (June 30) has prepared the Bride (the Church); their joint work, admirable in its unity, at once suggests the reasons for their feasts occurring almost simultaneously in the liturgical cycle. The alliance being now secured, all three fall into the shade; whilst the Bride Herself, raised up by them to such lofty heights, appears alone before us, holding in Her hands the sacred chalice of the nuptial feast.
This gives the key of today's solemnity, revealing how its appearance in the heavens of the holy liturgy at this particular season is replete with mystery. The Church, it is true, has already made known to the sons of the New Covenant, in a much more solemn manner, the price of the Blood that redeemed them, its nutritive strength and the adoring homage which is Its due. On Good Friday, Earth, Heaven and Hell beheld all sin drowned in the saving stream, whose eternal flood-gates at last gave way beneath the combined effort of man's violence and of the love of the Divine Heart. The festival of Corpus Christi witnessed our prostrate worship before the altars whereon is perpetuated the Sacrifice of Calvary, and where the outpouring of the Precious Blood affords drink to the humblest little ones, as well as to the mightiest potentates of Earth, lowly bowed in adoration before It. How is it then, that Holy Mother Church is now inviting all Christians to hail, in a particular manner, the stream of Life ever gushing from the Sacred Fount? What else can this mean, but that the preceding solemnities have by no means exhausted the mystery? The peace which this Blood has made to reign in the high places as well as in the low; the impetus of its wave bearing back the sons of Adam from the yawning gulf, purified, renewed and dazzling white in the radiance of their heavenly apparel; the sacred Table outspread before them on the waters' brink, and the Chalice brimful of inebriation – all this preparation and display would be objectless, all these splendors would be incomprehensible, if man were not brought to see therein the wooings of a love that could never endure its advances to be outdone by the pretensions of any other. Therefore, the Most Precious Blood of Jesus is set before our eyes at this moment as the Blood of the Testament; the pledge of the alliance proposed to us by God (Heb. 9:20); the dower stipulated by eternal Wisdom for this divine union to which He is inviting all men, and its consummation in our soul which is being urged forward with such vehemence by the Holy Ghost.
“Since then, brethren, we are free to enter the Holies in virtue of the Blood of Christ,” says the Apostle, “a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil (that is, His Flesh), and since we have a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts cleansed from an evil conscience by sprinkling, and the body washed with clean water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who has given the promise is faithful. And let us consider how to arouse one another to charity and good works… Now may the God of peace, Who brought forth from the dead the great Pastor of the sheep, Our Lord Jesus, in virtue of the Blood of an everlasting Covenant, fit you with every good thing to do His will; working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom is glory forever and ever. Amen!” (Heb. 10:19-24; 13:20-21)
Nor must we omit to mention here, that this feast is a monument of one of the most brilliant victories of holy Church. Pope Pius IX had been driven from Rome in 1848 by the diabolically triumphant revolution; but the following year, his power was re-established. Under the aegis of the Apostles on June 28 and the two following days, the eldest daughter of the Church (France), faithful to her past glories, swept the ramparts of the eternal city; and on July 2, Mary's festival, the victory was complete. Not long after this, a twofold decree notified to the city and to the world, the Pontiff's gratitude and the way in which he intended to perpetuate, in the sacred liturgy, the memory of these events. On August 10, from Gaeta itself, the place of his exile in the evil days, Pope Pius IX, before returning to reassume the government of his States, addressing himself to the invisible Head of the Church, confided Her in a special manner to His Divine care, by the institution of this day's festival; reminding Him that it was for His Church that He had vouchsafed to shed all His Precious Blood. Then, when the Pontiff re-entered His capital, turning to Mary, just as Pope St. Pius V and Pope Pius VII had done under other circumstances, the Vicar of Christ solemnly attributed the honor of the recent victory to Her who is ever the Help of Christians; for on the Feast of Her Visitation it had been gained; and he now decreed that this said Feast of July 2 should be raised to the rite of a double second class throughout the whole world. This was a prelude to the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which the immortal Pontiff had already projected, whereby the crushing of the serpent's head would be completed.
Though this Feast passes away like all else here below, the object it celebrates remains, and is the treasure of the world. Let, then this Feast be for each one of us, as it indeed is for the Church Herself, a monument of Heaven's sublimest favors. Each year, as it recurs in the liturgical cycle, may our hearts be found bearing new fruits of love, that have budded forth, watered by the fructifying dew of the Precious Blood. (7)
Homily of St. Augustine, Bishop
Treatise 120 on John
A suggestive word was made use of by the Evangelist, in not saying: he pierced His side; or: he wounded; or anything like that, but: he opened; that therein might, as it were, be thrown open the door of life, from which have flowed forth the sacraments of the Church, without which there is no entrance into life that is truly life. The blood that was shed, was shed for the remission of sins. That water makes up the health-giving cup; and gives at the same time a bath and a draught. This was announced beforehand, when Noe was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark, through which the animals, not destined to perish in the flood, might enter, and by which the Church was prefigured. Because of this, the first woman was made from the side of the man while he slept, and she was called Life and Mother of the living. For the name signified a great good, before the great evil of her sin. This second Adam bowed His heads fell asleep on the cross, in order that from there a spouse might be formed for Him from that which He shed from His side as He slept. O death whereby the dead are raised anew to life! What is purer than this blood? What more health-giving this wound?
Men who were held in slavery under the devil served the devil and served the demons; but they have been redeemed from captivity. For they could sell themselves, but they could not redeem themselves. The Redeemer came, and paid the price; He shed His blood, and bought the world. Do you ask what He bought? See what He gave, and you will find out what He bought. The blood of Christ is the price. What is it worth? What, but the whole world? What, but all nations. Very ungrateful for their price or very proud, are they who say that the price is of such small worth as to buy only the Africans; or that they are so great, that it was given for them alone. Therefore let them not rejoice or be proud. What He gave, He gave for the whole world.
He had His blood, by which He redeemed us; and to this end He took blood, that He might shed it in order to redeem us. If you wish it, the blood of your Lord was given for you; if you do not wish it, it was not given for you. For perhaps you will say: My God had blood, with which He redeemed me, but now since He has suffered, He has given it all; what has remained to Him, that He may also give for me? This is a great thing, because He gave once, and He gave for all. The blood of Christ is salvation to him who wishes it, punishment to him who does not wish it. Why, therefore, do you hesitate to be set free from the second death, you who do not wish to die? By this you are set free, if you are willing to take up your cross, and follow the Lord; for He took up His cross and looked for His servant. (3)