The Precious Blood of Jesus
One particular devotion in the Catholic Church connected to the Passion of Jesus Christ is the honouring of his Precious Blood. It is a recognition of Jesus’ sacrifice and how he spilled his blood for the salvation of humanity. Furthermore, this blood is made present through the gift of the Eucharist and is something we can consume at Mass, along with the body of Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine. Over time the Church developed various feasts of the Precious Blood, but it wasn’t until the 19th century when a universal feast was established.
During the First Italian War for Independence in 1849, Pope Pius IX went into exile to Gaeta. He went there with Don Giovanni Merlini, third superior general of the Fathers of the Most Precious Blood.
While the war was still raging, Merlini suggested to Pope Pius IX that he create a universal feast to the Precious Blood to beg God’s heavenly aid to end the war and bring peace to Rome. Pius IX subsequently made a statement on June 30, 1849 that he intended to create a feast in honour of the Precious Blood. The war soon ended and he returned to Rome shortly thereafter.
On August 10 he made it official and proclaimed that the 1st Sunday in July will be dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Later, Pope Pius X assigned July 1 as the fixed date of this celebration.
After Vatican II the feast was removed from the calendar, but a votive Mass in honour of the Precious Blood was established and can be celebrated in the month of July (as well as most other months of the year).
For these reasons the entire month of July is traditionally dedicated to the Precious Blood, and Catholics are encouraged to meditate on the profound sacrifice of Jesus and the pouring out of his blood for humanity.
Below is the opening prayer of the votive Mass, as well as an additional prayer that can be used as our own personal meditation or prayer during July.
O God, who by the Precious Blood of your only Begotten son have redeemed the whole world, preserve in us the work of your mercy, so that, ever honouring the mystery of our salvation,we may merit to obtain its fruits. Through our lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Admitted to your sacred table, O Lord, we have with joy drawn water from the fountains of the Savior: O may his blood, we beseech thee, become within us a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.
In the past, the feast of the Most Precious Blood of Christ was celebrated on the first Sunday of July as confirmed by past Popes and recalled recently by Pope Benedict XVI in His speech after praying the Angelus on July 5, 2009. He made special mention of Pope John XXIII’s apostolic letter “Inde a Primis” (dated June 30, 1960) which explained the devotion’s significance and approved its litanies. The feast of the Precious Blood of our Lord was instituted in 1849 by Pius IX, but the devotion is as old as Christianity. The early Fathers say that the Church was born from the pierced side of Christ, and that the sacraments were brought forth through His Blood.
“The Precious Blood which we worship is the Blood which the Saviour shed for us on Calvary and re-assumed at His glorious Resurrection; it is the Blood which courses through the veins of His risen, glorified, living body at the right hand of God the Father in heaven; it is the Blood made present on our altars by the words of Consecration; it is the Blood which merited sanctifying grace for us and through it washes and beautifies our soul and inaugurates the beginning of eternal life in it.”
The Old fulfilled in the New Covenant
Sacrifice is the highest form of religious worship which man offers to God as an act of praise, thanksgiving, petition or atonement.The most singular and pre-eminent sacrifice of the Old Law was the immolation of the Paschal Lamb which celebrated the sparing of Israel’s firstborn from the fatal sword of the Angel of Death in Egypt at the time of Moses and Pharaoh. The imagery of sacrificial blood from slain animals is made more vivid and meaningful if we recall Moses’ words from the Book of Exodus, “And he took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people, and he said: This is the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you concerning all these words.” (Exodus 24:8)This old sacrifice took a new form in the New Testament when the Immaculate Lamb of God offered Himself on the altar of the Cross to redeem mankind from sin and the slavery of Satan. And during the Last Supper, Our Lord offered Himself in an unbloody yet real sacrifice when He uttered the following words:”For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.” (Matthew 26: 28) Truly, this “shedding of blood’ or “pouring out of blood” took place and forms one of the glorious mysteries of our Faith.
Cain and Abel are making an offering. Abel’s sacrifice is pleasing to God, Cain’s is not. This gives rise to the sin of hatred, and fratricide is its resolution. The thirsting earth soaks up Abel’s blood as it shouts to heaven for vengeance. This shouting prefigured the scene on Calvary, where Christ’s Blood cried to heaven for the redemption of mankind.
Millennia pass, and now we see Israel oppressed by Egypt. God commands the people to kill a lamb and to sprinkle the doorposts with its blood; houses thus be-sprinkled are spared by the messenger of death. But where the doors are not reddened with the blood of the lamb, all male firstborn from king to slave die. This blood on the doorposts was a type of the Blood of Christ. Can the blood of a lamb save a man? No, but as a figure of the Redeemer’s Blood it certainly does. For when the Destroyer sees the thresholds of a human heart marked with Christ’s sacred Blood, he must pass by. And another soul is saved.
In a vision the prophet Isaias saw a man treading out grapes (in the Orient, trampling upon grapes in the wine-press was the usual means of extracting the juice). The prophet asked the man: “Why are your garments so red? “The wine-press I have trodden alone,” he answers, “because from the nations there is no one with me.” The treader of the wine-press is Christ, His garments crimsoned by the Blood of redemption. Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace , Pius Parsch
The Devotion to the Precious Blood
This devotion is one of the most ancient of pious Church practices. It is said that the Blessed Virgin venerated the Most Precious Blood of her infant Son on the day of His circumcision as she collected the first relics of His Precious Blood on a piece of cloth. On that momentous occasion she united her tears with that of the Word Incarnate on account of not so much of the sensible pain but of His supernatural sorrow for the hardheartedness of mortals. 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 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. We are to study to come to a deeper understanding of what those two casual words, Precious Blood, really mean.
I found this passage in the oldest document, outside of sacred scripture, from the first century of the Christian era – to be exact, from Pope St. Clement I, dated about 96 A.D. Says Pope Clement: “Let us fix our gaze on the Blood of Christ and realize how truly precious It is, seeing that it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of conversion to the whole world.”
To understand the meaning of the Precious Blood we must get some comprehension of the gravity of sin, of the awfulness of offending God, because it required the Blood of the Son of God to forgive that sin. We are living in an age in which to sin has become fashionable. This veneration of the Precious Blood, which is the first element in our devotion to the Precious Blood means that we have a deep sensitivity to the awfulness of sin. Sin must be terrible. It must be awful. It must be the most dreadful thing in the universe. Why? Because it cost the living God in human form the shedding of His Blood.
Lord Jesus, You became Man in order by your Passion and Death and the draining of your Blood on the Cross, might prove to us how much You, our God, love us. Protect us, dear Jesus, from ever running away from the sight of blood. Strengthen our weak human wills so that we will not only not run away from the cross, but welcome every opportunity to shed our blood in spirit in union with your Precious Blood, so that, dying to ourselves in time we might live with You in Eternity. Amen – Excerpted from The Precious Blood of Christ, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J
The Symbol of the Precious Blood
Adam is sleeping an ecstatic sleep. God opens his side, removes a rib and forms Eve, the mother of all the living. But our view transcends this action and in spirit we behold the second, the divine Adam, Christ. He is sleeping the sleep of death. From His opened side blood and water flow, symbols of baptism and the Eucharist, symbols of the second Eve, the Church, the Mother of all the living. Through blood and water Christ willed to redeem God’s many children and to lead them to an eternal home. At Jerusalem a service in Yahweh’s honour is taking place on the Day of Atonement. The high priest is making his annual entrance into the holy of holies to sprinkle the blood of bucks and bulls upon the covenant in expiation for the sins of the people. The Church shows us the higher meaning of this rite. Our divine High Priest Christ on the first Good Friday entered that Holy of Holies which is not made with hands nor sprinkled with the blood of bucks and bulls; there He effects, once and for all, with His own Blood man’s eternal redemption.
A finale. Holy Church transports us to the end. The heavenly liturgy is in progress. Upon the altar is the Lamb, slain yet alive, crimsoned by His own Blood. Round about stand the countless army of the redeemed in garments washed white in the Blood of the Lamb. Hosts of the blessed are singing the new canticle of redemption: “You have redeemed us out of every tribe and tongue and nation by Your Blood.” Now from vision to present reality. How fortunate we are to have divine Blood so near to us, to offer it to the heavenly Father for the sins of the whole world! Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace , Pius Parsch
The Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ
• Catholic doctrine teaches the faithful that the blood of Jesus Christ is part of His Sacred Humanity and hypostatically united to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
• And as such, it is worthy of adoration and veneration proper to latreutical worship (cultus latriae) which is rendered only to God. In other words, we adore the human nature of Christ because of its intimate and eternal union with the Person of the Divine Word.
• It is for this same reason that we honour the Most Sacred Heart or the Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ.