Giving thanks for the Precious Blood

Many people are squeamish about blood. Besides a few professions (primarily medical and culinary) most of us see it but rarely, and perhaps then only in a time of crisis. As Catholics, though, we must face an essential fact: blood sacrifice is integral to our faith. 

Familiarity with the Old Testament reveals the importance of the shedding of blood. Original sin, which began in disobedience and quickly sowed discord into the heart of Marriage, soon flared into fratricide, and it is no mere literary device that led God to say to Cain, “‘What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!” (Gen 4:10). The response to the horror of this deed could have been expressed in many ways, but the concisely woven tale emphasized the blood — so grievous a spilling that it cried out to God for justice. 

The Chosen People were called to make amends for their sins, and the shedding of blood was essential. While Levitical laws prohibited them from eating blood, their ritual sacrifices required it: rams and calves, lambs and goats, turtledoves and pigeons, all were acceptable as sin offerings. While these paltry gifts couldn’t bridge the gap between God and man, the reality of sin and the need for penance throbbed in the very heart of Israel. 

So blood has always been important in Salvation history — regarding the commission of sin and in the sin offering itself. Lest we mistakenly equate blood strictly with gore, one contemporary evangelist suggests replacing the word “blood” with “life,” and “sin” with “death.” This exercise in the reading of Scripture helps to understand how the shedding of blood relates to the forgiveness of sins. For example, he would render one of St. Paul’s statements: “Everything is purified with [life], and without [life] there is no forgiveness of [death]” (Heb 9:22). 

As we know, healthy, life-giving blood must be infused into those who have lost their vigor, and the Spiritual corollary to this mundane truth is that Christ’s Own Precious Blood is the only remedy for our sin. His Own Blood (“life!”) is still available to us, for “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” (from “The Church’s Year of Grace,” by Pius Parsch). 

The blood sacrifice demanded of God’s faithful in the Old Testament was a necessary foreshadowing of the Passion, through which Jesus would take the place of the Paschal lamb that brought the Jews out of slavery into freedom. The blood on the door posts and lintels that first Passover is given more power in the new dispensation, “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” (Parsch). 

We are asked to focus on this mystery for the month of July: “For this is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured for many, for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). Not only is it possible for death to be conquered, but the attendant discord and strife can be quelled as well. Whenever we are able to share in the Eucharist, His Blood in our veins strengthens the kinship within Holy Mother Church. What was shed by Cain was salvaged by Christ, and that which previously ran spitefully into the ground is gathered in a golden chalice and given back to God — not with vengeance but with love. The cry of Abel echoing through the ages can thereby be swept into the very hosannas of Heaven, and we will be washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb — truly in His Blood is our life!

Anchor columnist Mrs. Kineke is the author of “The Authentic Catholic Woman.” She blogs at feminine-genius.typepad.com.


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