The Mystery of the Precious Blood (Part VI)

This ends our beautiful meditations on the Precious Blood of Jesus by Fr. Frederick Faber:

Miraculous Blood is not the Precious Blood. Neither is it like the unassumed Blood of the Passion. For that had once been Precious Blood, and had only ceased to be so through the special will of our Lord, whereby He willed not to reassume it at the Resurrection. The Host has miraculously bled at Mass, to reassure men’s faith or to cause a reformation in their lives. It has bled in the hands of Jews and heretics, as if resenting sacrilege, and striking awe into their souls, like the deep fear which fell upon Jerusalem at the Passion. Crucifixes have sweated Blood to convert sinners, or to portend some public calamities, or to show forth symbolically the ceaseless sympathy of our Blessed Lord with His suffering Church. But this is not Precious Blood, nor has it ever been Precious Blood. It has never lived in our Lord. It is greatly to be venerated, inasmuch as it is a miraculous production of God; and it appeals especially to the reverence of the faithful, because of its being appointed to represent in figure the Precious Blood.

If the Angel, who passed at midnight over Egypt to slay the first-born, reverenced the blood of the Paschal lamb sprinkled on the door-posts of the Israelites, simply because it was a type of the Blood of Jesus, much more should we reverence the miraculous Blood which issues from the Host or from the Crucifix, as a higher and a holier thing than the symbolic blood of animals. Nevertheless it is not Precious Blood, nor is it to be adored with Divine worship.

Perhaps this is enough to say of the doctrine of the Precious Blood. There are many other interesting questions connected with it. But they are hard to understand; and, although no minutest detail of scholastic theology is other than fresh fuel to our love of God, yet it would not suit either the brevity or the plainness of this Treatise to enter upon them here. How shall we ever raise our love up to the height of the doctrine which we have put forth already? The Precious Blood is God’s daily gift, nay, rather we might call it His incessant gift to us. For, if grace is coming to us incessantly, save when we sleep, it comes to us in view of the Precious Blood, and because of it. But who can estimate the wonderfulness of such a gift? It is the Blood of God. It is not the giving to us of new hearts, or of immensely increased powers, or of the ability to work miracles and raise the dead. It is not the bestowing upon us of angelic natures. It is something of far greater price than all this would be. It is the Blood of God. It is the created life of the Uncreated. It is a human fountain opened as it were in the very centre of the Divine Nature. It is a finite thing, with a known origin and an ascertained date, of a price as infinite as the Divine Person Who has assumed it. To us creatures the adorable majesty of the Undivided Trinity is an inexhaustible treasure-house of gifts. They are poured out upon us in the most lavish prodigality, and with the most affecting display of love. They are beautiful beyond compare; and they are endlessly diversified, yet endlessly adapted to the singularities of each heart and soul. Yet what gift do the Divine Persons give us, which has more of Their Own sweetness in it, than the Precious Blood? It has in it that yearning and tenderness which belong to the power of the Father, that magnificent prodigality which marks the wisdom of the Son and that refreshing fire which characterizes the love of the Holy Ghost.

It is also a revelation to us of the character of God. Nothing on earth tells us so much of Him, or tells it so plainly and so endearingly. How adorable must be the exactness of His justice, how unattainable the standard of His sanctity, how absorbing the blissful gulfs of His uncreated purity, if the Precious Blood is to be the sole fitting ransom for the sins of men, the one divinely-chosen satisfaction to His outraged Majesty! Yet what a strange wisdom in such an astonishing invention, what an unintelligible condescension, what a mysterious fondness of creative love! The more we meditate upon the Precious Blood, the more strange does it appear as a device of infinite love. While we are really getting to understand it more, our understanding of it appears to grow less. When we see a Divine work at a distance, its dimensions do not seem so colossal as we find them to be in reality when we come nearer. The Precious Blood is such a wonderful revelation of God that it partakes in a measure of his incomprehensibility. But it is also a marvelous revelation of the enormity of sin. Next to a practical knowledge of God, there is nothing which it more concerns us to know and to realize than the exceeding sinfulness of sin. The deeper that knowledge is, the higher will be the fabric of our holiness. Hence a true understanding of the overwhelming guilt and shame of sin is one of God’s greatest gifts. But in reality, this revelation of the sinfulness of sin is only another kind of revelation of God. It is by the height of His perfections that we measure the depths of sin. Its opposition to His unspeakable holiness, the amount of its outrage against His glorious justice, and the intensity of His hatred of it, are manifested by the infinity of the sacrifice which He has required. If we try to picture to ourselves what we should have thought of God and sin if Jesus had not shed His Blood, we shall see what a fountain of heavenly science, what an effulgence of supernatural revelation, the Precious Blood has been to us.

No doubt it was partly this power of revelation which made our dearest Lord so impatient to shed His Blood. He longed to make His Father known, and so to increase His Father’s glory. He knew that we must know God in order to love Him, and then that our love of Him would in its turn increase our knowledge of Him. He yearned also with an unutterable love of us; and this also entered into His Heart as another reason for His affectionate impatience. At all events, He has been pleased to reveal Himself to us as impatient to shed His Blood. If habits of meditation and a study of the Gospels have transferred to our souls a true portrait of Jesus as He was on earth, this impatience will seem a very striking mystery. There was ordinarily about our Blessed Lord an atmosphere of quite unearthly calmness. His human will seemed almost without human activity. It lay still in the lap of the will of God. It was revealed to Mary of Agreda that He never exercised choice, except in the choosing of suffering. This one disclosure is enough to give us a complete picture of His inward life. Yet there was an eagerness, a semblance of precipitation, a stimulating desire for the shedding of His Blood, which stand alone and apart in the narrative of His Thirty-three Years. With desire had He desired to communicate with His chosen few in the Blessed Sacrifice of the Mass, wherein His Blood is mystically shed. He shed it in that awful, miraculous reality before He shed it upon Calvary, as if He could not brook the slowness of human cruelty, which did not lay hands upon Him so swiftly as His love desired. He was straitened in Himself by His impatience for His baptism of Blood; and He bedewed the ground at Gethsemane with those priceless drops, as if He could not even wait one night for the violence of Calvary. It seemed as if the relief and satisfaction, which it was to Him to shed His Blood, were almost an alleviation of the bitterness of His Passion. This impatience is in itself a revelation to us of the yearnings of His Sacred Heart.

The prodigality, also, with which He shed His Blood, stands alone and apart in His life. He was sparing of His words. He spake seldom, and he spake briefly. The shortness of His Ministry is almost a difficulty to our minds. It was the instinct of His holiness to hide Itself. This was one of the communications of His Divine Nature to His Human. Even His miracles were comparatively few; and He said that His Saints after Him should work greater miracles than His. Yet in the shedding of His Blood He was spendthrift, prodigal, wasteful. As His impatience to shed it represents to us the adorable impetuosity of the Most Holy Trinity to communicate Himself to His creatures, so His prodigality in shedding it shadows forth the exuberant magnificence and liberality of God. During the triduo of His Passion He shed it in all manner of places and in all manner of ways; and He continued to shed it even after He was dead, as if He could not rest until the last drop had been poured out for the creatures whom He so incomprehensibly loved. Yet, while He thus carelessly, or rather purposely, parted with it, how He must have loved His Precious Blood! What loves are there on earth to be compared with the love of His Divine Nature for His Human Nature, or the love of His ever-blessed Soul for His Body? Moreover, He must have loved His Blood with a peculiar love, because it was the specially appointed ransom of the world. His love of His dearest Mother is the only love which approaches to His love of the Precious Blood; and, rightly considered, is not one love enclosed within the other? He has continued the same prodigality of His Blood in the Church to this day. He foresaw then that He should do so; and it was part of His love of that fountain of our redemption, that He beheld with exquisite delight its ceaseless and abundant flowing through the ages which were yet to come. There is something almost indiscriminate in the generosity of the Precious Blood. It is poured in oceans over the world, bathing more souls than it seems to have been meant for, only that in truth it was meant for all. It appears not to regard the probabilities of its being used, or appreciated, or welcomed. It goes in floods through the seven mighty channels of the Sacraments. It breaks their bounds, as if they could not contain the impetuosity of its torrents. It lies like a superincumbent ocean of sanctifying grace over the Church. It runs over in profuse excess, and irrigates even the deserts which lie outside the Church. It goes to sinners as well as Saints. Nay, it even looks as if it had a propension and attraction to sinners more than to other men. It is falling forever like a copious fiery rain upon the lukewarm. It rests on the souls of hardened apostates, as if it hoped to sink in in time. Its miraculous action in the Church is literally incessant. In the Sacraments, in separate graces, in hourly conversions, in multiplied death-beds, in releases from Purgatory every moment, in countless augmentations of grace in countless souls, in far-off indistinguishable preludes and drawings toward the faith, this most dear Blood of Jesus is the manifold life of the world. Every pulse which beats in it is an intense jubilee to Him. It is forever setting Him on fire with fresh love of us His creatures. It is forever filling Him with a new and incredible gladness, which we cannot think of without amazement and adoration. Oh that He would give us one spark of that immense love of His Precious Blood which He Himself is feeling so blissfully this hour in Heaven!

Such is the mystery of the Precious Blood. It makes the poor fallen earth more beautiful than the Paradise of old. Its streams are winding their way everywhere all over the earth. The rivers of Eden are not to be compared to them for fruitfulness. Poets have loved the music of the mountain stream, as it tinkled down the hills amidst the stones or murmured under leafy shades. Scripture speaks of the Voice of God as the voice of many waters. So is it with the Precious Blood. It has a voice which God hears, speaking better things than the blood of Abel, more than restoring to him again the lost music of his primeval creation. In our ears also does it murmur sweetly, evermore and evermore, in sorrows, in absolutions, in communions, in sermons, and in all holy joys. It will never leave us now. For at last, when it has led us to the brink of Heaven, and when, in the boundless far-flashing magnificence, the steadfast splendors and unfathomable depths of the Uncreated joy of God lie out before us, ocean-like and infinite, that Blood will still flow around us, and sing to us beyond angelic skill, with a voice like that of Jesus, which when once heard is never to be forgotten, that word of Him whose Heart’s Blood it is, Well done, thou good and faithful servant! enter thou into the joy of thy Lord! What is the life in Heaven, but an everlasting Te Deum before the Face of God? But there also, as now in our Te Deum upon earth, we shall have a special joy, a special moving of our love, when we call ourselves “redeemed with Precious Blood”; and, as we do now in church, so there in the innermost courts of our Father’s House, we shall only say the words upon our knees, with a separate gladness, and a separate depth of adoration.

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