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Syrian and Iraqi Christians at the heart of devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus

In the Roman liturgy, the month of July is consecrated to the Precious Blood of Jesus, a lesser-known devotion whose Flemish origins go back to the 15th century. “Precious Blood” is a name for the Blood of Christ, and the devotion is one of thanksgiving for its salvific qualities. There are many congregations dedicated to it, such as the Adorers of the Precious Blood, the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood, the Missionary Hospitallers, and the Augustines of the Precious Blood. Their spirituality is centered on serving and living alongside those who suffer.

In Jerusalem a solemn mass in the Basilica of the Nations at Gethsemane begins the devotions on the first of July. Officiated by the Custos of the Holy Land, the celebration brought together a large number of male and female religious and members of the laity who came to place themselves under the protection of Jesus’ blood. Fra Pizzaballa structured his homily around the Church’s insistence on the corporality of Christ. “Why, after contemplating the body of the Messiah ascending to heaven, does God remind us of the Body (celebrated on June 19), the Heart (Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, celebrated 27 and 28 June in the Holy Land), and finally the Blood of Jesus,” was the question that permeated the rich reflection that the Custos of the Holy Land proposed.

Starting with the first reading, taken from the Book of Exodus (12:21-27), the Custos repeated God’s invitation to move from the ancient rites of blood aspersion to the recognition that the Messiah brings a new message through his blood that was spilled. His blood becomes “a sign of life, and Christianity is a message, the message of a new reality that has been incarnated in man, in all mankind,” he stressed. In inviting us to drink his Precious Blood, Jesus offers us an occasion to refresh ourselves at the Fountain of Life, a fountain that will never run dry.

It is a message that scandalized and still scandalizes the Jewish people and some Christians, but that invites man to reflect on his own weaknesses and threats. “Because why would Jesus invite us to drink his blood if we did not need it?” The Custos answered his own question by affirming that “God gives us life, independent of us, and no one can take it from us. The Precious Blood reminds us of the eternal covenant that God made with mankind, that God moves toward and among everyone with the gift of life. Man saves his life if he agrees to be saved by the Blood of Jesus. Let us allow God to transform our lives and makes of us new men.”

The Prayer of the Faithful begged of Jesus to let his Precious Blood flow over all difficult situations, bringing healing, hope and peace. There was a particular intention for the Christians of Iraq and Syria who are going through a dark time of their history. This prayer was continued in the Eucharistic celebration, significantly celebrated with the chalice and paten donated by Pope Francis during his recent visit. The communion hymn, Pange Lingua, which is often sung in the Holy Land, took on even deeper meaning on this day:

Man in wine Christ’s Blood partaketh:
And if senses fail to see,
Faith alone the true heart waketh
To behold the mystery.

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