Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ

John the Baptist has pointed out the Lamb, Peter has firmly fixed His throne, Paul has prepared the Bride; this their joint work, admirable in its unity, at once suggests the reason for their feasts occurring almost simultaneously on the cycle. The alliance being now secured, all three fall into shade; while the Bride herself, raised up by them to such lofty heights, appears alone before us, holding in her hands the sacred cup of the nuptial-feast.

This gives the key of today’s solemnity; revealing how its illumining 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, and 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. Yes; on Good Friday, earth and heaven 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 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 the 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, 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 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; the dower stipulated upon by Eternal Wisdom for this divine union to which he is inviting all men, and whereof the consummation in our soul is being urged forward with such vehemence by the Holy Ghost. This is why the present festival, fixed as it is upon a day that must necessarily be one of the Sundays after Pentecost, does not interrupt, in any way, the teaching which these Sundays are particularly meant to convey, but tends rather to confirm it.

“Having therefore, Brethren, a confidence in the entering into the Holies by the Blood of Christ,” says the Apostle, “a new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, let us draw near with a pure heart in fullness of faith, having oru hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that hath promised. Let us consider one another to provoke unto charity and to good works. And may the God of peace who brought again from the dead the great pastor of the sheep, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Blood of the everlasting Testament, fit you in all goodness, that you may do his will: doing in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen!”

Nor must we omit to mention here, that this feast is a monument of one of the most brilliant victories of Holy Church, in our own age. Pius IX had been driven from Rome in 1848, by the triumphant revolution; but the following year, just about this very season, his power was re-established. Under the ægis of the Apostles on June 28th and the two following days, the eldest daughter of the Church, faithful to her past glories, swept the ramparts of the Eternal City; and on July 2nd, Mary’s festival, the victory was completed. 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 10th, from Gaëta itself, the place of his exile in the evil day, Pius IX, before returning to re-assume 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 vouchsafed to shed all His Precious Blood. Then, when the Pontiff re-entered his Capital, turning to Mary, just as Pius V and Pius VII had done under other circumstances, he, 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 2nd should be raised from the rite of double-major to that of second class throughout the whole world. This was but a prelude to the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which the immortal Pontiff had already in project, whereby the crushing of the serpent’s head would be completed.

Mass.—The Church, gathered by the Apostles from the midst of all the nations under heaven, advances toward the Altar of the spouse who hath redeemed her in his Blood, and in the Introit hails his Merciful Love. She, henceforth, is the Kingdom of God, the depository of Truth.

Introit

Redimisti nos, Domine, in Sanguine tuo, ex omni tribu, et lingua, et populo, et natione, et fecisti nos Deo nostro regnum.

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.

Ps. Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo: in generationem et generationem annuntiabo veritatem tuam in ore meo. ℣. Gloria Patri. Redemisti nos.

Ps. The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever: I will show forth thy truth with my mouth to generation and generation. ℣. Glory, &c. Thou hast.

The Blood of the Man-God being the pledge of peace between heaven and earth, the object of profoundest worship, yea, itself the very center of the whole Liturgy, and our assured protection against all the evils of this present life, deposits, even now, in the souls and bodies of those whom it has ransomed, the germ of eternal happiness. The Church, therefore, in her Collect, begs of the Father, who has given us His Only-Begotten Son, that this divine germ may not remain sterile within us, but may come to full development in heaven.

Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui Unigenitum Filium tuum mundi Redemptorem constituisti, ac ejus Sanguine placari voluisti: concede quæsumus, salutis nostræ pretium solemni cultu ita venerari, atque a præsentis vitæ malis ejus virtute defendi in terris; ut fructu perpetuo lætemur in cœlis. Per eumdem Dominum.

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast appointed thy Only-Begotten Son to be the Redeemer of the world, and hast been pleased to be appeased by his Blood: grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate with solemn worship the price of our salvation, and to be on earth so defended by its power from the evils of this present life, that we may rejoice in its perpetual fruit in heaven. Through the same Lord, &c.

A commemoration is here made of the Sunday, which cedes to the Feast of the Precious Blood the first honors of this day.

Epistle
Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Hebræos. Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews.
Cap. IX. Ch. IX.

Fratres, Christus autem assistens pontifex futurorum bonorum, per amplius et perfectius tabernaculum, non manufactum, id est, non hujus creationis: neque per sanguinem hircorum aut vitulorum, sed per proprium sanguinem introivit semel in Sancta, æterna redemptione inventa. Si enim sanguis hircorum et taurorum, et cinis vitulae aspersus inquinatos sanctificat ad emundationem carnis: quanto magis sanguis Christi, qui per Spiritum Sanctum semetipsum obtulit immaculatum Deo, emundabit conscientiam nostram ab operibus mortuis, ad serviendum Deo viventi? Et ideo novi testamenti mediator est: ut morte intercedente, in redemptionem earum prævaricationum, quæ erant sub priori testamento, repromissionem accipiant qui vocati sunt æternæ hæreditatis: in Christo Jesu Domino nostro.

Brethren, Christ, being come an High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation: Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God? And therefore he is the mediator of the new testament: that by means of his death, for the redemption of those transgressions, which were under the former testament, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance; in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Epistle that has just been read to us is the confirmation of what we were saying above, as regards the special character of this festival. It was by his own Blood that the Son of God entered into heaven; this divine Blood continues to be the means whereby we also may be introduced into the eternal alliance. Thus, the Old Covenant founded, as it was, on the observance of the precepts fo Sinai, had likewise by blood consecrated the people and the law, the tabernacle and the vessels it was to contain; but the whole was bug a figure. “Now,” says Saint Ambrose, “it behooves us to tend to Truth. Here below, there is the shadow; here below, there is the image; up yonder, there is the Truth. In the law was but the shadow; the image is to be found in the Gospel; the Truth is in heaven. Formerly a lamb was immolated; now Christ is sacrificed, but he is so only under the signs of the mysteries, whereas in heaven it is without veil. There alone, consequently, is full perfection, unto which our thoughts should cleave, because all perfection is in Truth without image and without shadow.” Yea! there alone is rest: thither, even in this world, do the sons of God tend; without indeed attaining fully thereunto, they get nearer and nearer, day by day; for there alone is to be found that peace which forms saints.

“O Lord God,” cries out in his turn another illustrious Doctor, the great Saint Augustine, “give us this peace, the peace of repose, the peace of the seventh day, of that Sabbath whose sun never sets. Yea! verily the whole order of nature and of grace is very beautiful unto thy servitors, and goodly are the realities they cover; but these images, these successive forms, bide only awhile, and their evolution ended, they pass away. The days thou didst fill with thy creations are composed of morning and of evening, the seventh alone excepted, for it declineth not, because thou hast for ever sanctified it, in thine own Rest. Now what is this Rest, save that which thou takest in us, when we ourselves repose in thee, in the fruitful peace which crowns the series of thy graces in us? O sacred Rest, more productive than labor! the perfect alone know thee, they who suffer the divine Hand to accomplish within them the Work of the Six Days.”

And, therefore, our Apostle goes on to say, interpreting, by means of other parts of Scripture, his own words, just read to us by holy Church, and therefore today if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. The Blood Divine hath rendered us participators of Christ: it is our part not to squander, as though it were worthless, this immense treasure, this initial incorporation which unites us to Christ, the divine Head; but let us abandon ourselves, without fear and without reserve, to the energy of this precious leaven whose property it is to transform our whole being into him. Let us be afraid lest we fall short of the promise referred to in our today’s Epistle, that promise of our entering into God’s Rest, as Saint Paul himself tells us. It regards all believers, he says, and this divine Sabbath is for the whole people of the Lord. Therefore, to enter therein, let us make haste; let us not be like those Jews whose incredulity excluded them forever from the promised land.

The Gradual brings us back to the great testimony of the love of the Son of God, confided to the Holy Ghost, together with the Blood and Water of the Mysteries; a testimony which is closely linked here below with that which is rendered by the Holy Trinity in heaven. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, sings the Verse. What is this, but to say, once again, that we must absolutely yield to these reiterated invitations of love? None may excuse himself, by arguing either ignorance, or want of vocation to a way more elevated than that wherein tepidity is dragging him. Let us hearken to the Apostle addressing himself to all, in this same Epistle to the Hebrews: “Yea, verily; great and ineffable are these things. But if you have become little able to understand them, it is your own fault; for whereas for the time you ought to be masters; you have need to be taught again what are the first elements of the words of God: and you are become such as have need of milk, though your age would require the solid meat of the perfect. Wherefore, as far as concerns us in our instructions to you, leaving the word of the elementary teaching of Christ, let us go on to things more perfect, not laying again the foundation of penance from dead works, and of faith towards God. Have you not been illuminated? have you not tasted also the heavenly gift? have you not been made partakers of the Holy Ghost? What showers of graces, at every moment, water the earth of your soul! it is time that it bring in a return to God who tills it. Ye have delayed long enough: be now, at last, of the number of those who by patience and faith shall inherit the promises, casting your hope like an anchor sure and firm, and which entereth in within the veil, where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, that is, to draw us in thither after Him.”

Gradual

Hic est qui venit per aquam et sanguinem, Jesus Christus: non in aqua solum, sed in aqua et sanguine.

This is He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only, but by water and blood.

℣. Tres sunt qui testimonium dant in cœlo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus; et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terra: Spiritus, aqua, et sanguis; et hi tres unum sunt.

℣. There are three that 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.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Si testimonium accipimus, testimonium Dei majus est. Alleluia.

℣. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. Alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Johannem.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.

Cap. XIX. Ch. XIX.

In illo tempore: Cum accepisset Jesus acetum, dixit: Consummatum est. Et inclinato capite tradidit spiritum. Judæi ergo (quoniam parasceve erat) ut non remanerent in cruce corpora sabbato (erat enim magnus dies ille sabbati), rogaverunt Pilatum ut frangerentur eorum crura, et tollerentur. Venerunt ergo milites: et primi quidem fregerunt crura, et alterius, qui crucifixus est cum eo. Ad Jesum autem cum venissent, ut viderunt eum jam mortuum, non fregerunt ejus crura, sed unus militum lancea latus ejus aperuit, et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua. Et qui vidit, testimonium perhibuit: et verum est testimonium ejus. Et ille scit quia vera dicit: ut et vos credatis.

At that time, when Jesus had taken the vinegar, he 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 on 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. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe.

On that stupendous Day, Good Friday, we heard for the first time this passage from the Beloved Disciple. The Church, as she stood mourning at the foot of the Cross whereon her Lord had just died, was all tears and lamentation. Today, however, she is thrilling with other sentiments, and the very sane narration that then provoked her bitter tears, now makes her burst out into anthems of gladness and songs of triumph. If we would know the reason of this, let us turn to those who are authorized by her to interpret to us the burden of her thoughts this day. They will tell us that the new Eve is celebrating her birth from out the side of her sleeping Spouse; that from the solemn moment when the new Adam permitted the soldier’s lance to open his Heart, we became, in very deed, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Be not then surprised, if holy Church sees naught but love and life in the Blood which is gushing forth.

And thou, O soul, long rebellious to the secret touches of choicest graces, be not disconsolate; say not: “Love is no more for me!” How far away soever the old enemy may, by wretched wiles, have dragged thee, is it not still true that to ever winding way, yea, alas! perhaps even to every pitfall, the streamlets of this Sacred Fount have followed thee? Thinkest thou, perhaps, that thy long and tortuous wanderings from the merciful course of these ever pursuant waters may have weakened their power? Do but try: do but, first of all, bathe in their cleansing wave; do but quaff long draughts from this stream of life; then, O weary soul, arming thee with faith, be strong, and mount once more the course of the divine torrent. For, as in order to reach thee, it never once was separated from its fountain head, so likewise be certain that by so doing, thou needs must reach the very Source Itself. Believe me, this is the whole secret of the Bride, namely, that whence soever she may come, she has no other course to pursur than this, if she would fain hear the answer to that yearning request expressed in the Sacred Canticle: Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou restest in the mid-day! So much so indeed, that by re-ascending the sacred Stream, not only is she sure of reaching the Divine Heart, but moreover she is ceaselessly renewing, in its waters, that pure beauty which makes her become, in the eyes of the Spouse, an object of delight and of glory to him. For thy part, carefully gather up today the testimony of the Disciple of love; and congratulating Jesus, with the Church, his Bride and thy Mother, on the brilliancy of her empurpled robe, take good heed likewise to conclude with St. John: Let us then love God, since he hath first loved us.

The Church, while presenting her gifts for the sacrifice, sings how that Chalice which she is offering to the benediction of her sons, the priests, becomes by virtue of the sacred words, the inexhaustible source whence the Blood of her Lord flows out upon the whole world.

Offertory

Calix benedictionis, cui benedicimus, nonne communicatio Sanguinis Christi est? Et panis quem frangimus, nonne participatio Corporis Domini est?

The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?

The Secret begs for the full effect of the divine alliance, of which the Lord’s Blood is both the means and the pledge; since its effusion, continually renewed in the Sacred Mysteries, has hushed the cry of vengeance that the blood of Abel had sent up from earth to Heaven.

Secret

Per hæc divina mysteria, ad novi, quæsumus, Testamenti mediatorem Jesum accedamus; et super altaria tua, Domine virtutum, aspersionem Sanguinis melius loquentem quam Abel innovemus. Per eumdem.

By these divine mysteries, we beseech thee that we may approach to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Testament; and that upon thy Altars, O Lord of Hosts, we may renew the sprinkling of that Blood, speaking better than that of Abel. Through the same, &c.

A Commemoration of the Sunday is then made: and the Priest entones the triumphant Preface of the Cross, for thereon was the ineffable union concluded in the divine Blood.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: Qui salutem humani generis in ligno Crucis constituisti: ut unde mors oriebatur, inde vita resurgeret: et qui in ligno vincebat, in Ligno quoquo vinceretur: per Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem Majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Cœli, cœlorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes; Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, &c.

It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God. Who hast appointed that the salvation of mankind should be wrought on the wood of the Cross; that from whence death came, thence life might arise; and that he who overcame by the tree, might also by the Tree be overcome; through Christ our Lord; by whom the Angels praise thy Majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it; the Heavens and the heavenly virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee glorify it. Together with whom, we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, &c.

The Communion Antiphon hails the merciful love of which our Lord gave proof by his coming, not suffering himself to be turned aside from his divine projects by the accumulation of crimes which he must destroy in his own Blood, in order to purify the Bride. Thanks to the adorable mystery of faith operating in the secret of hearts, when he shall come again visibly, nothing will remain of this sad past but a memory of victory.

Communion

Christus semel oblatus est ad multorum exhaurienda peccata; secundo sine peccato apparebit exspectantibus se, in salutem.

Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; the second time he shall appear without sin to them that expect him, unto salvation.

Inebriated with gladness at the Savior’s fountains, his sacred Wounds, let us pray that the Precious Blood now empurpling our lips may remain unto eternity, the living Source whence we may ever draw beatitude and life.

Postcommunion

Ad sacram, Domine, mensam admissi, hausimus aquas in gaudio de fontibus Salvatoris: Sanguis ejus fiat nobis, quæsumus, fons aquæ in vitam æternam salientis. Qui tecum vivit et regnat.

Having been admitted to the holy Table, O Lord, we have drawn waters in joy from the fountains of our Savior: may his Blood, we beseech thee, become within us a fountain of water springing up to Eternal Life. Who liveth and reigneth, &c.

Then is made a Commemoration of the Sunday, the Gospel of which is likewise read instead of that of Saint John, at the end of Mass.

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