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The Extravagance of His Most Precious Blood
July, Month of the Most Precious Blood
The month of July is dedicated to our Lord’s Blood, a devotion as old as Christianity itself. The Precious Blood is commemorated in the traditional calendars on July 1 each year under the title, The Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This feast was only established in 1849, yet we have remembered His Blood from the very first Mass.
For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.
Why a feast for His Blood alone? Reformers of the Mass removed this feast in 1969, though in the Novus Ordo it may still be celebrated optionally as a votive Mass. The reasoning was that we already remember His Blood in other feasts, such as in the Passion, or the memory of the Sacred Heart. Of course, they do have a point: the Blood of Christ is not forgotten in any valid Mass! At each Mass we kneel at the foot of the Cross as His last drops fall to the ground before us! And the doctrine of the Church tells us that in the Eucharist, within each species alone, Christ is fully present: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. To receive the consecrated Host is to receive His Blood, not only His Body; our senses cannot tell such, but faith confirms it.
Yet it is because His Blood is “too familiar” to us that we ought to commemorate It not only on July 1, but for the whole month of July. For His Blood is Most Precious, not to be forgotten or subsumed under other devotions and memorials, but to be honored for Its own merit.
“The Most Precious”
The description of His Blood as “Most Precious” contains a strong reminder for us. The word “Precious” has many connotations, two of which are important. In common English, “precious” means “of great value.” To be “most precious” would mean that His Blood has the greatest value of all, above anything else in the universe!
However, originally, “precious” comes originally from the Latin word pretium, which is also the origin of the word “price.” “Precious,” therefore, reminds us that His Blood was the price for our sins. He paid our debt in His Blood. Because God is infinite and perfect, our sins against Him incur infinite debt. How can such a debt be paid? Only His Blood, which has not only the greatest but infinite value, could pay an infinite price.
“Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ”
To shed blood for something or someone means to give up one’s life, or at the least, to suffer greatly for that thing or person. Every time Christ shed His Blood, it was for love of us and love of God. Furthermore, blood is tied to our body, and to our physical life. Thus every time Christ shed His Blood, it was also a reminder of the Incarnation: of God coming down to earth to live among us, to show Himself to us, and to die for us.
Christ’s blood was shed in the circumcision, shortly after His birth, signifying the beginning of our redemption as well as being a reminder that He is true man as well as True God. It was shed in the Agony in the Garden, where, suffering greatly from the burden of our sins and the suffering to come, His sweat became like drops of Blood. Again His Blood fell as he was scourged, and had a crown of thorns placed on His Head. His Blood fell and was trampled into the ground as He carried the Cross on His wounded back. Even before the Crucifixion had occurred, before the sacrifice was finished, He had already shed so much blood for us!
Then on the Cross, He died, and the last of His Blood came out when Longinus pierced His side. He gave not only His Blood for us–He gave us all.
Because He is perfect, and He is God as well as man, one drop–the tiniest part of one drop–would have sufficed for the enormity of our sins. But for Him, one drop was not enough to show His love for us. No, He shed it all, drop by drop, suffering greatly, willing to give all of Himself for us. If the saints are to believed, He shed thousands upon thousands of drops as His body weakened. Thousands upon thousands–signifying the infinity of His love.
Devotion to His Blood
“How is it that we do not die of love in seeing that God Himself could do no more than shed His divine blood for us drop by drop?” asks St. Teresa of the Andes. Our devotion to Him, our understanding of His sacrifice and His love for us, falls flat when we do not honor His Blood, recalling the abundance of His love and the power of His Blood to redeem and save us.
This is why a feast–and a whole month–is traditionally devoted to His Blood alone. He gave His Blood in extravagant excess, His love overflowing the chalice of salvation. His infinitely precious Blood paid the formerly eternal price of sin. Do we not owe abundant gratitude for His Blood? One feast, one month of devotion per year, is a small token to remember and honor the price He paid, one which we could never pay.
In 1960, Pope John XXIII exhorted us to such devotion:
You know well enough that your ransom was not paid in earthly currency, silver or gold; it was paid in the precious blood of Christ; no lamb was ever so pure, so spotless a victim. If only they would lend a more eager ear to the apostle of the Gentiles: “A great price was paid to ransom you.” … God wants all men to be saved, for he has willed that they should all be ransomed by the Blood of his only-begotten Son; he calls them all to be members of the one Mystical Body whose head is Christ. If only men would be more responsive to these promptings of his grace, how much the bonds of brotherly love among individuals and peoples and nations would be strengthened.
If only we would remember that His Blood was the price! It is the only currency of value, His Most Precious Blood! Without it we would still be slaves to sin and death and all manner of evil. Where is our gratitude?
Let us spend this month, if not even every day of our lives, recalling His Most Precious Blood. Though not all churches commemorate the traditional feast, the devotions and prayers of the Most Precious Blood are still available for all. The Litany of the Precious Blood, promulgated by the same Pope John XXIII (though the prayer itself is older), is a powerful devotion against mortal sin, against demons, and against every evil in our life; it has even a partial indulgence attached to it. And it is a beautiful and sorrowful meditation on His Blood, which casts out demons, cleanses us from sin, purifies us, consoles us, and gives us courage. The Chaplet of the Precious Blood has several forms, but its primary purpose is always to meditate upon the 7 main sheddings of His Blood: the Circumcision, the Agony, the Scourging, the Crowning, the Carrying, the Crucifixion, and the Piercing. The Lauds hymn Salvete Christi vulnera (“Hail, wounds of Christ”) and the Vespers hymn Festivis resonent (“With glad strains”) can be learned and chanted in honor of the Most Precious Blood.
In honoring His Blood, we offer gratitude to Christ for the price He paid; we give worship and praise to God for having mercy upon us and protecting us through the Blood of His Son; and we meditate anew upon the infinity of God’s love, proven by this Most Precious of gifts. May we say often: Hail, holy Wounds of Jesus, hail!