giovedì 31 maggio 2018

Pretiosissimus Sanguis

We continue calling this solemnity Corpus Christi, as it was in the ancient liturgy. But at that time, besides today’s celebration, there was, on July 1, the feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. With the liturgical reform, this latter celebration was abolished and the title of Corpus Christi was changed to “the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ,” since the Eucharist is precisely the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

The readings of Year B of the three-year liturgical cycle are all about blood. The first reading is the account of the ratification of the covenant between God and the people of Israel at the foot on Mount Sinai. In ancient times, to seal the alliance between two peoples, the kings mingled their blood. So, in this case the blood of the victims is splashed on the altar, symbol of God, and sprinkled on the people, to signify the “blood relationship” between God and Israel. Moses says, “This is the blood of the covenant.” 

We have heard the same words on Jesus’ lips in the gospel: during the last supper he said, “This is my blood of the covenant.” So, the Blood of Christ is, first of all, the blood of the covenant. Of course, as the second reading reminds us, it is a new covenant: no more a covenant between God and Israel, but a covenant between God and the whole of humankind. Moreover, it is an eternal covenant, which lasts for ever.

The second reading points out other two meanings of the Blood of Christ. It hints to an important rite the High Priest performed once a year: on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), he entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled blood, thus obtaining the forgiveness of sins. Now, the letter to the Hebrews says that Christ, the High Priest of the good things to come, “entered once for all the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood.” So, the Blood of Christ is also the blood of atonement, by which we have been purified from our sins.

But the letter to the Hebrews speaks also of an eternal redemption. Here the reference is to the liberation of Israel from Egypt. In that case, the Israelites were rescued from slavery, thank to the blood of the Passover lamb, with which their houses had been marked. The new Paschal Lamb is Christ, who delivered us from the slavery of sin. He redeemed us from sin, and his redemption, unlike the liberation from Egypt, is eternal. So, the Blood of Christ is the price of our redemption, paid by him to free us from sin.

Blood of the covenant, blood of atonement, price of our redemption: that is the Blood of Christ for us. Thank to it, we have been saved. It is the Most Precious Blood (Pretiosissimus Sanguis) indeed!