The Precious Blood is sacrament, not sacramental!
“Every doctrine in theology is a call to the Precious Blood. Every ceremony in the Church tells of it. Every sermon that is preached is an exhortation to the use of it. Every Sacrament is a communication of it. Every supernatural act is a growth of it. Everything that is holy on the earth is either leaf, bud, blossom, or fruit of the Blood of Jesus.”Fr. Frederick Faber D.D., The Precious Blood: The Price of Our Salvation
July is dedicated to the Precious Blood of Christ, which we understand as the culmination in the Liturgical year of the preceding seven commemorations of our Lord’s blood-letting: the Circumcision, the Agony, the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion, and the Piercing of the Sacred Heart. Commemorating the Precious Blood logically follows the most recent Feast of the Sacred Heart, as described by Fr. Faber:
“The Precious Blood is the wealth of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart is the symbol of the Precious Blood; yet not its symbol only, but its palace, its home, its fountain. It is to the Sacred Heart that it owes the joy of its restlessness and the glory of its impetuosity.”
For this month, we should consider what we can do to bring greater reverence and appreciation for the Precious Blood. While Catholics deeply revere the Precious Blood, it could be argued that Protestants are just as dedicated to the “Blood of Jesus.” While some Protestants believe the ‘covered by the blood’ mantra is just a figurative reference to being purchased by the blood and saved, others take it a step further.
IS THE BLOOD A FORCE FIELD?
In a news report in April of this year, CNN reported on churchgoers (Solid Rock Church of Monroe) ignoring the State of Ohio quarantine requirements to attend a church service under a religious exemption. The reporter tried to shame the churchgoer:
“Aren’t you concerned you can infect other people if you get sick inside?”
“No,” the woman responded. “I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”
“But what about other people who don’t go to this church who you might encounter?” he pressed.
“I go to the grocery store every day. …They could get me sick. But they’re not, because I’m covered in His blood.”
In a culture so devoid of Christian faith, it can be a welcome and consoling moment to hear the Protestant invocation that ‘I cover someone (or something) in the blood of Jesus, particularly in a public forum. This article will explain however how this inverts and grievously sells short the true understanding and significance of the Blood of Christ.
PROTESTANTS DERIVE EVERYTHING FROM SCRIPTURE, RIGHT?
We have no examples from Scripture to support the modern-day external covering of blood. We see a blood cleansing referenced in Hebrews:
“But Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation: Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of a heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?”Hebrews 9:12-14
However, here the external Jewish ritual of the blood sacrifice cleansing the flesh of sin is being contrasted with that new High Priestly sacrifice of Christ being redirected inwards, with the blood figuratively cleansing the conscience of dead works.
We might look to the “sprinkling of the blood” reference at the beginning of 1 Peter 1:
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers dispersed through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect. According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, unto the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
However, here St. Peter is invoking the Jewish rite of blood sprinkling (Exodus 24:8) to the churches of the exiled Christian Jews, commending them for their sanctification to God that now requires participation with the Son and the Spirit. (The New Biblical Jerome Commentary, William Dutton, SJ). So again, in this example it is an Old Testament Jewish reference and not an instruction to Christians.
Perhaps the Protestant ‘covered by the blood’ catchphrase came from a loose reading from 1 John?:
“But if we walk in the light, as He also is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”1 John 1:7
Taken out of context, it might lead a Christian to think that walking in the light and being in fellowship is the prerequisite for a blood cleansing. However, when read in the full context, it is evident that is not meant from the following verses:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us.”1 John 1:8-10
Thus, it becomes evident from St. John’s concluding statement how important it is to acknowledge and confess our sin, which leads to the cleansing from unrighteousness.
In the New Testament, there are no examples nor is there any instruction given for believers repenting and then claiming a covering of the Blood as consummation or confirmation of absolution. This calling down the Blood of Jesus therefore misses the mark: the Blood no longer chiefly symbolizes an external cleansing, atonement for sin or protection (as in Passover) as seen in the Old Testament!
This most Precious Blood was shed once– and only once. Haven’t we heard that often by Protestants? By this act, divine satisfaction was completed. Thus, the Blood is not stored in some heavenly repository somewhere to be called down for spiritual protection or cleansing. As Catholics, we understand that spiritual protection is gained through sacramentals: prayer, holy water and blessed salt. And the Blood certainly is not some mystical spiritual cleanser, bringing purity or absolution—that is what we have the sacraments of Baptism and Penance for! As Catholics, we understand that the heavenly repository of the Precious Blood resides within the August Sacrament reserved within our Tabernacles.
Covering someone or something with the Blood of Jesus therefore is an exercise of “cheap grace” and costs only the effort to utter those words. So what are the New Testament understandings of the Blood?
Sacrifice of self, which is martyrdom.
THE NEW TESTAMENT SENSE OF BLOOD TURNS FROM OUTWARD TO INWARD
We know from science that blood is made in the bones, including of course Jesus’. This is why none of Jesus’ bones were broken: His bones represented the foundation and life of the Church which was being built upon His death. It is said that “the blood of martyrs was the seed of the Church.” Martyrs can accomplish great things, but it comes at great cost.
A majority of references to blood in the New Testament are associated with Jesus’ passion or are associated with martyrdom. Consider for example how Scripture compares and relates the fight against sin and martyrdom:
For you have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.Hebrews 12:4
As a Christian you are called to a certain martyrdom. A select few are called to a literal bloody martyrdom. Some are called to the bloodless martyrdom of being persecuted for having Christian beliefs. However, a majority of us are called to a “white martyrdom”: to die to ourselves and our self-centered desires and place God above all things in our life. There is nothing easy about the shedding (or covering) of blood: blood by its nature signifies sacrifice.
The mystical marriage of the crucifixion weds Christ to His Church in a bloody martyrdom. In the same way, we lay down our life for our spouses as laypersons in martyrdom of unconditional dedication. For the religious, they lay down their lives for their heavenly spouses and the parishes or orders they serve.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT (AND DRINK)
As the Church is inseparable from Christ, so we mystically become the Body and Blood of Christ through the reception of Holy Communion. We who receive worthily are the Blood!
St. Leo the Great teaches us:
“True participation in the Body and Blood of Christ has no other end than to transform us into that which we eat.“Sermons 63:7
For additional evidence that the blood is internal, not external, we can look to examples of testimonies of the saints. For example, one day after holy communion, Our Lord appeared to Frances of the Mother of God. The Lord said to her interiorly:
“I have shed My Blood for your sins, and now I come in Holy Communion to wash away the stains which remain.” When she had received our Lord, she saw her soul all covered with Blood.”The Chronicles of the Carmelites, quoted in The Precious Blood
From the life of the Carmelite Margaret of Beaune, we learn that she habitually saw the Blood of Jesus in the souls of men, and saw them so beautified by it. As a result, she could not stand to hear anyone blamed even justly due to the reverence for the Blood of Jesus that she beheld in them, even in wicked souls!
Humanity is so mystically linked to the Precious Blood. It is retold that …
Osanna of Mantua, in her vehement devotion, would go into ecstasy any time she saw human blood.Fr. Frederick Faber D.D., The Precious Blood: The Price of Our Salvation
MIRACLES DUE TO LACK OF FAITH OR REVERENCE
Eucharistic miracles are a valuable reminder of the Real Presence in the Blood for believers and non-believers alike. Many Eucharistic miracles caused by the lack of faith were discovered by the Host weeping blood such as Lanciano, Italy ( c.700), Regensbery, Germany (1257), or Bolsena-Orvieto, Italy (1263).
We have seen a “martyrdom” of the Eucharist itself: In a number of Eucharistic miracles resulting from when the Host was to be desecrated, a flow of blood was observed! Miracles such as Augsburg Germany (12th century), Alatri, Italy (13th century) or Santarem, Portugal (14th century) are attributable to sacrilege and profanation by the ironic great “faith” of non-believers in the divinity contained within the Blessed Sacrament. Source: Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomena in the Lives of the Saints.
Eucharistic miracles have resulted in incorrupt sacred species. Scientific study of these specimens has yielded even more proof and insight into what we believe.
MIRACLES OF LANCIANO, STICH AND BUENOS AIRES
The flesh of Christ embodied in the Eucharist is so intimately linked to the heart and the blood. Many of the Eucharistic miracles have rendered the host as heart tissue—how much more awesome is the Eucharist when we realize we are receiving a part of His Sacred Heart!
Perhaps the best known of all Miracles was the one of the first, which happened in the 8th century in Lanciano, Italy. From the testing of the five clots of blood formed, medical science was able to determine the blood to be type AB positive. This relatively rare blood type matches with the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium (the cloth of Veronica).
We know from medicine that type AB is the rarest. The flip side of that fact is that is a universal donor type: a type AB person can provide blood for all other types. AB+ blood is perfect for our Lord: He was the ultimate universal donor of His blood! His blood is shed for all people!
Scientific tests of the Blood reveal another crucial truth: the Blood is divine because DNA tests reveal the Mother’s DNA but the Father’s strand is missing!
Where the Blood relics have been allowed to be tested, they always match the same blood type and DNA.
BLOOD CURDLING SCREAMS
Certain biomarkers are seen when analyzing the Precious Blood. Examination of the Lanciano blood sample shows the blood has the same fraction of proteins as fresh living blood. The biomarkers seen when analyzing samples of the Precious Blood (such as with the miracle of Stich, West Germany in 1970 and Buenos Aires in 1996) indicate the person is in severe agony and near death. Source: Eucharistic Miracles, Joan Carroll Cruz, TAN Books, 1987.
Scientific study of the Buenos Aires miraculous Eucharistic flesh gives us additional insight: that tissue is specifically identified as the muscle of the myocardium, the left ventricle, the muscle that gives life to the whole heart and body. The pattern in which the muscle fibers are oriented and configured are extremely strained: heart surgeons recognize this as someone in extreme pain who was also oxygen-deprived (in the process of being asphyxiated).
Besides the blood type and DNA consistently matching, analysts have noted the heart muscle is in an inflamed state and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates the heart gives the appearance of being alive, since white blood cells would die outside a living organism. In addition, white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely around the heart.
The message is clear: the Passion of our Christ as mystically embodied in the Eucharist and the Precious Blood transcends time and space. The Eucharist is the suffering flesh and blood and not the victoriously resurrected flesh and blood! Thus, from these miracles it would appear the that our Lord wants to remind us more of His agony than of His victory. The vividness of Our Lord’s agony as exhibited in the Precious Blood should give us pause when we hear the “cover with the Blood of Jesus” catchphrase used flippantly by Protestants.
ARE YOU OUT FOR BLOOD?
Protestants LOVE the blood of Jesus. That is a good thing! Their desire for the intimacy with Holy Sacrament and the proper use of sacramentals should be understood as an opening to the witness of the profound mysteries of the Precious Blood. As Catholics, we actually have and become, rather than have to imagine, the Precious Blood of Jesus. In addition, we have relics of the blood and have had a number of instances of crucifixes or statues weeping blood. We can’t blame them for craving what they miss!
Catholics should make their devotion to the Precious Blood a witness to Protestants and non-Christians. A proper understanding of the Precious Blood is an opportunity for fraternal correction, instruction and evangelism. As a Catholic, what you say if someone said they would “cover you with the Blood of Jesus?”
Consider how Protestants may desire for an interior and deeply intimate relationship with the Blood rather than just a superficial external one.
As such, we need to speak up charitably and remind them that the Blood of Jesus is not out there somewhere to be called down. It is, rather… us!!!
- Douay-Rheims Bible
- Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomena in the Lives of the Saint
- The Precious Blood: The Price of Our Salvation, by Fr Faber