Continuing our meditations on the Precious Blood of Jesus by Fr. Frederick Faber:
All men remember their past lives by certain dates or epochs. Some men date by sorrows, some by joys, and some by moral changes or intellectual revolutions. Some divide their lives according to the different localities which they have inhabited, and some by the successive occupations in which they have been engaged. The lives of some are mapped out by illnesses, while the tranquility of an equable prosperity can only distinguish itself by the lapse of years and the eras of boyhood, youth, and age. But the real dates in a man’s life are the days and hours in which it came to him to have some new idea of God. To all men perhaps, but certainly to the thoughtful and the good, all life is a continual growing revelation of God. We may know no more theology this year than we did last year, but we undoubtedly know many fresh things about God. Time itself discloses Him. The operations of grace illuminate Him. Old truths grow: obscure truths brighten. New truths are incessantly dawning. But a new idea of God is like a new birth. What a spiritual revolution it was in the soul of St. Peter, when the Eternal Father, intensely loving that eager, ardent follower of His Son, one day secretly revealed to Him the divinity of His beloved Master! It matters not whether it were in a dream by night, or in an audible voice at prayer, or in the last noiseless step of a long-pondered train of thought. Whenever and however it came, it was a Divine revelation out of which flowed that new life of his, which is the strength of the Church to this day. So in its measure and degree is every new idea of God to every one of us. The Precious Blood brings us many such ideas.
One of them is the fresh picture which it presents to us of His intense yearning love of souls. If we were to form our idea of God from theology, it would be full of grandeur. We should have a perception of Him as vivid as it would be sublime. But if, not hitherto having known the Bible, we were to turn to the Old Testament, and see God loving, favoring, magnifying, His Own historic people, and hear Him passionately pleading for their love, He would seem like a new God to us, because we should receive such a new idea of Him. Indeed, it would be such an idea of Him as would require both time and management before it would harmonize with the idea of Him implanted in us by theology. Even our own sinfulness gives us in one sense a broader idea of God than innocence could have given. So, if we think of the almost piteous entreaties with which He invites all the wide heathen world to the Precious Blood, whether by the voice of His Church, or by the bleeding feet and wasting lives of His missionaries, or by secret pleadings down in each heathen heart, grace-solicited at every hour, we get a new idea of God, and a more complete conviction that His invitation of His creatures to the Precious Blood is indeed the genuine expression of His creative love.
There is no narrowness in Divine things. There is no narrowness in the Precious Blood. It is a Divine invention which partakes of the universality and immensity of God. The tribes that inhabit the different lands of the earth are distinguished by different characteristics. One nation differs so much from another, as to be often unable to judge of the moral character of the other’s actions. What, for instance, would be pride in the inhabitant of one country would only be patriotism in the inhabitant of another; or what would be falsehood in one country is only the characteristic way of putting things in another. It is not that the immutable principles of morality can be changed by national character or by climate; but that outward actions signify such different inward habits in various countries, that a foreigner is no judge of them. Thus a foreign history of any people is for the most part little better than a hypothesis, and is not unfrequently a misapprehension from first to last. But the Precious Blood is meant for all nations. As all stand in equal need of it, so all find it just what they want. It is to each people the grace which shall correct that particular form of human corruption which is prominent in their natural character. The Oriental and the Western must both come to its healing streams; and in it all national distinctions are done away. In that laver of Salvation there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond, or free: all are one in the redeeming Blood of Jesus.
As it is with the countries of the world, so is it with the ages of the world. Each age has its own distinctive spirit. It has its own proper virtues, and its own proper vices. It has its own sciences, inventions, literature, policy, and development. Each age thinks itself peculiar, which it is; and imagines it is better than other ages, which it is not. It is probably neither better nor worse. In substantial matters the ages are pretty much on a level with each other. But each has its own way, and requires to be dealt with in that way. This is the reason why the Church seems to act differently in different ages. There is a sense in which the Church goes along with the world. It is the same sense in which the shepherd leaves the sheep which have not strayed, and goes off in search of the one that has strayed. Each age is a stray sheep from God; and the Church has to seek it and fetch it back to Him, so far as it is allowed to do so. We must not make light of the differences of the ages. Each age needs persuading in a manner of its own. It finds its own difficulties in religion. It has its own peculiar temptations and follies. God’s work is never done in anyone age. It has to be begun again in every age. Old controversies become useless, because they cease to be convincing. Old methods are found unsuitable, because things have changed. It is on this account that theology puts on new aspects, that religious orders first succeed and then fail, that devotion has fashions and vicissitudes, that art and ritual undergo changes, that discipline is modified, and that the Church puts herself in different relations to the governments of the world. But the Precious Blood adapts itself with changeful uniformity to every age. It is always old and always new. It is the one salvation. It is coextensive with any civilization. No science innovates upon it. The world never exhausts its abundance or outgrows its necessity.
But why should we heap together these generalities? Are they any thing more than so much pious rhetoric? Let us draw nearer to the mystery and see. What strikes us at the first thought of the Precious Blood? It is that we have to worship It with the highest worship. It is not a relic at which we should look with wonder and love, and which we should kiss with reverence, as having once been a temple of the Holy Ghost, and an instrument chosen by God for the working of miracles, or as flesh and bone penetrated with that celestial virtue of the Blessed Sacrament which will raise it up at the last day in a glorious resurrection. It is something unspeakably more than this. We should have to adore It with the highest adoration. In some local heaven or other, in some part of space far off or near, God at this hour is unveiling His blissful majesty before the Angels and the Saints. It is in a local court of inconceivable magnificence. The Human Body and Soul of Jesus are there, and are its light and glory, the surpassing sun of that heavenly Jerusalem. Mary, His Mother, is throned there like a lovely moon in the mid-glory of the sunset, beautified rather than extinguished by the effulgence round her. Millions of lordly Angels are abasing their vast grandeur before the ecstatic terror of that unclothed Vision of the Eternal. Thrills of entrancing fear run through the crowds of glorified Saints who throng the spaces of that marvelous shrine. Mary herself upon her throne is shaken by an ecstasy of fear before the mightiness of God, even as a reed is shaken by the wind. The Sacred Heart of Jesus beats with rapturous awe, and is glorified by the very blessedness of its abjection, before the immensity of those Divine Fires, burning visibly in their overwhelming splendors. If we could enter there as we are now, we should surely die. We are not strengthened yet to bear the depth of that prostrate humiliation, which is needed there, and which is the inseparable joy of Heaven. Our lives would be shattered by the throbs of awe which must beat like vehement pulses in our souls. But we know the limits of our nature. We know, at least in theory, the abjection which befits the creature in the immediate presence of its Creator. We can conceive the highest adoration of a sinless immortal soul as a worship which it could not pay to any creature, however exalted, however near to God. We can picture ourselves to ourselves, prostrate on the clouds of Heaven, blinded with excess of light, every faculty of the mind jubilantly amazed by the immensity of the Divine Perfections, every affection of the heart drowned in some forever new abyss of the unfathomable sweetness of God. We know that we should lie in sacred fear and glad astonishment before the throne of Mary, if we saw it gleaming in its royalty. Yet we know also that this deep reverence would be something of quite a different kind from our abjection before the tremendous majesty of God. But, if we saw one drop of the Precious Blood, hanging like the least pearl of dew upon a blade of grass on Calvary, or as a dull disfigured splash in the dust of the gateway of Jerusalem, we should have to adore it with the selfsame adoration as the uncovered splendors of the Eternal.
It is no use repeating this a thousand times; yet we should have to repeat it a thousand thousand times, for years and years, before we should get the vastness of this piercing truth into our souls. We should worship one drop of the Precious Blood with the same worship as that wherewith we worship God. Let us kneel down, and hide our faces before God, and say nothing, but let the immensity of this faith sink down into our souls.
If the Easter Resurrection left any red stains upon the stones, or roots, or earth of Gethsemane, they are no longer to be found beneath the luxuriant vegetation of the Franciscan garden there. Neither indeed if they had been left, when Easter passed, could we have worshiped them with Divine worship; for they had already ceased to be the Precious Blood. Whatever Jesus did not reunite to Himself in the Resurrection remained disunited from the Person of the Word forever, and therefore, however venerable, had no claim to adoration. But, had we been in Jerusalem on the Friday and the Saturday, we should have found objects, or rather the multiplied presence of an object, of dreadest worship everywhere. The pavement of the streets, the accoutrements of the Roman legionaries, the floors of their barracks, the steps of Pilate’s judgment-hall, the pillar of the scourging, the ascent of Calvary, the wood of the Cross, many shoes and sandals of the multitude, many garments either worn or in the clothes-presses, ropes, tools, scourges, and many other things, were stained with Precious Blood; and everywhere the Angels were adoring it. Had we been there, and had been wise with the holy wisdom of our present faith, we must have adored it also. But what a picture of the world it gives us! What an awful taking of a place in His Own creation on the part of the Incomprehensible Creator! What a view of God it gives us! What an idea of sin! What a disclosure of the magnificence of our salvation! The Blood of God, the human Blood of the Uncreated, the Blood of the Unbeginning drawn three-and-thirty years ago from the veins of a Jewish maiden, and she, the unproclaimed queen of creation, hidden in that very city in the depths of an immeasurable sorrow! Millions of Angels intently adoring down upon the low-lying surface of the ground, as if Heaven were there, below rather than above, as indeed it was, and at each spot adoring with such singular concentration, as if the Divine Life had been broken up, and there were many Gods instead of One! Meanwhile men, the very part of creation which this Precious Blood most specially concerned, were passing through the streets, and over the ruddy spots, treading on adorable things and yet never heeding, with Angels beneath their sandals and yet never knowing it, compassed thickly round with mysteries the sudden revelation of which would have struck them dead, and yet with the most utter, unsuspecting ignorance. It is hard to bring such a state of things home to ourselves; and yet it is but a type to us of what we are all of us always doing with the invisible presence of God among ourselves. God is within us and without us, above, below, and around us. Wheresoever we set our feet, God is there, even if we be going to do evil. If we reach forth our hands, God is in our hand; He is in the air through which our hand passes; and where our hand touches, there is God also. He is there in three different ways, by His essence, by His presence, and by His power; and in each of those three ways His presence is more real than the hardness of the rocks, or the wetness of water, or the firmness of the earth. Yet we go our ways as we please, sinning, boasting, and committing follies, not simply in a consecrated sanctuary, but in the living God. This mystery was made manifest, by the most wonderful of revelations, in the Precious Blood, when it was scattered about Jerusalem.
But we need not go to Jerusalem, we need not have lived eighteen hundred years ago, to find the Precious Blood and worship it. Here is part of that awfulness of our holy faith, which makes us so thrill with love that it is sometimes as if we could not bear the fire which is burning in our hearts. We actually worship it every day in the chalice at Mass. When the chalice is uplifted over the altar, the Blood of Jesus is there, whole and entire, glorified and full of the pulses of His true human life. The Blood that once lay in the cave at Olivet, that curdled in the thongs and knots of the scourges, that matted his hair and soaked his garments, that stained the crown of thorns and bedewed the Cross, the Blood that He drank Himself in His Own communion on the Thursday night, the Blood that lay all Friday night in seemingly careless prodigality upon the pavement of the treacherous city – that same Blood is living in the chalice, united to the Person of the Eternal Word, to be worshiped with the uttermost prostration of our bodies and our souls. When the beams of the morning sun come in at the windows of the church, and fall for a moment into the uncovered chalice, and glance there as if among precious stones with a restless, timid gleaming, and the priest sees it, and the light seems to vibrate into his own heart, quickening his faith and love, it is the Blood of God which is there, the very living Blood whose first fountains were in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When the Blessed Sacrament is laid upon your tongue – that moment and that act which the great Angels of God look down upon with such surpassing awe – the Blood of Jesus is throbbing there in all its abounding life of glory. It sheathes in the sacramental mystery that exceeding radiance which is lighting all Heaven at that moment with a magnificence of splendor which exceeds the glowing of a million suns. You do not feel the strong pulses of His immortal life. If you did, you could hardly live yourself. Sacred terror would undo your life. But in that adorable Host is the whole of the Precious Blood, the Blood of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, and Calvary, the Blood of the Passion, of the Resurrection, and of the Ascension, the Blood shed and reassumed. As Mary bore that Precious Blood within herself of old, so do you bear it now. It is in His Heart and veins, within the temple of His Body, as it was when He lay those nine months in her ever-blessed womb. We believe all this; nay, we so believe it that we know it rather than believe it; and yet our love is so faint and fitful. Our very fires are frost in comparison with such a faith as this.