Blood of Christ, save us!

El Greco - El expolio
El expolioΔομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος | 1577–1579

On this feast of the Most Precious Blood of the Lord, which could not have occurred at a more opportune time when persecution is imminent, when the elected ditionis dux entertains no qualms not only in maligning our shepherds, but also in blaspheming God, let us remember the words of one Filipino bishop whose cause for sainthood has been opened. On 25 January 1953, at the opening of the second session of the First Plenary Council of the Philippines, D. Alfredo M.ª Obviar, then administrator of the Diocese of Lucena, delivered a solemn speech on importance of that Council of the Philippine Church, linking it to the Universal Church and Her journey throughout history.

Thus the Church accomplisheth the divine message. It is true that She, in spreading throughout the world to bring the light of the Faith to those who are seated in the shadow of death, had along her steps encountered relentless enemies, who swore Her extermination. There the same in Judea, in Rome, in Asia, in Greece, in Macedonia, as in other parts even unto our present times, Her enemies spare no means to sate their vengeance. There the persecutions are which the Roman emperors promoted against Her. But the Church obtained greater beauty and worth when she bathed in Her own blood.

For Her, the imprisonments, the flagellations, the white-hot sheets, the fire, the cold water, the sword, the racks, the iron hooks, the wheels studded with steel spikes, the teeth and the jaws of the wild beasts, which the hatred of man did know to invent in its mad frenzy, served only, as did other new incentives, to rouse in Her the most intense desire to die for the Faith and for Christ.

She knoweth how to witness with equanimity and serenity in Her visage the slaughter of Her martyrs, who marched unto the arena of the circus to fight against their executioners and against other wild beasts. By the steadfastness of Her children in the Faith, beneath the sickle of persecution, children, adults, the rich and the poor, men and women, popes and bishops, priests and deacons have fallen, with a smile upon their lips, praising Christ and forgiving their executioners.

Así cumple la Iglesia el mensaje divino. Es verdad que ella, al extenderse por todo el orbe para llevar la luz de la fe a los que estaban sentados en la sombra de la muerte, había encontrado a su paso enemigos implacables, que juraron su exterminio. Allí mismo en Judea, en Roma, en Asia, en Grecia, en Macedonia, como en otras partes hasta en los actuales tiempos, sus enemigos no perdonaron medios para saciar su venganza. Allí están las persecuciones que los emperadores romanos promovieron contra ella. Sin embargo la Iglesia cobraba más hermosura y valor cuando se bañaba en su misma sangre.

Para ella las prisiones, la flagelación, las láminas candentes, el fuego, el agua helada, la espada, los potros, las uñas de hierro, las ruedas erizadas de aceradas púas, los dientes y las garras de las bestias feroces, que el odio humano supo inventar en su loco frenesí, sirvieron únicamente como otros nuevos incentivos para despertar en ella el más vivo deseo de morir por la fe y por Cristo.

Ella sabe presenciar con ecuanimidad y serenidad en el semblante la hecatombe de sus mártires, que marchaban a la arena del circo para lidiar contra sus verdugos o contra las fieras. Por la firmeza de sus hijos en la fe, cayeron bajo la hoz de la persecución niños, adultos, ricos y pobres, hombres y mujeres, papas y obispos, sacerdotes y diáconos, con la sonrisa en los labios, alabando a Cristo y perdonando a sus verdugos.

Persecution brings out the best in the Church. Her illustrious sons rise to defend Her. We fly ever more to the Sacraments. “Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts,” said Saint Peter, “being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.” Parallels in history become quite alarming, especially at a time when everything that the Church steadfastly holds is conveniently explained away as hypocrisy. In the meantime, when freedom has not yet been deprived from us, let us not forget the call made by Saint John XXIII when he approved the Litany of the Precious Blood on 24 February 1960, when he issued the bull Inde a primis: recite or sing the Litany everyday for the whole month of July!

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Litany of the Precious Blood

John XXIII, on 24 February 1960, issued the bull Inde a primis [1], approving for public use a Litany drawn up the Sacred Congregation of Rites in honour of the Precious Blood. Of the five such litanies approved for public use prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Precious Blood stands out as the only one to have not been set to chant in the Liber, or in the Graduale. As such, to our knowledge, there are no chant notation for it that can be called ‘official’.

Cristo después de la flagelación
Cristo después de la flagelaciónBartolomé Esteban Murillo | after 1665

Precious BloodIn 2011, we decided to set the Litany to chant. The result (click on the image to access the file) is on the left.

The feast of the Precious Blood started as a Spanish devotion. Saint Gaspar del Bufalo later introduced the devotion to Italy, founding the Missionaries of the Precious Blood at the request of Pius VII in 1814. In 1849, Pius IX made a vow to extend the feast to the Universal Church if he recovered the Papal States. Sure enough, on 30 June 1849, the French army reclaimed the Papal States for the Church. On 10 August that year, Pius IX issued the bull Redempti sumus [2], fulfilling his vow, fixing the feast on the first Sunday after 30 June each year, the anniversary of the victory. This Sunday, of course, is the first Sunday of July.

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