Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Precious Blood

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The blood of our Divine Saviour. Jesus, at the Last Supper, ascribes to it the same life-giving power that belongs to His flesh (see EUCHARIST). The Apostles, St. Peter (I Peter, i, 2, 19), St. John (I John, i, 7; Apoc. i, 5 etc.), and above all St. Paul (Rom., iii, 25; Eph., i, 7; Hebr., ix, x) regard it as synonymous with Jesus's Passion and Death, the source of redemption. The Precious Blood is therefore a part of the Sacred Humanity and hypostatically united to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. In the fifteenth century some theologians, with a view of determining whether the blood shed by the Saviour during His Passion remained united to the Word or not, raised the point as to whether the Precious Blood is an essential part or only a concomitant of the Sacred Humanity. If an essential part, they argued, it could never be detached from the Word; if a concomitant only, it could. The Dominicans held the first view, and the Franciscans the second. Pius II, in whose presence the debate took place, rendered no doctrinal decision on the point at issue, However, chiefly since the Council of Trent (Sess, XIII, c. 3) called the body and blood of Jesus "partes Christi Domini the trend of theological thought has been in favour of the Dominican teaching. Suarez and de Lugo look askance at the Franciscans' view, and Faber writes: "It is not merely a concomitant of the flesh, an inseparable accident of the body. The blood itself, as blood, was assumed directly by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity" (Precious Blood, i). The blood shed during the triduum of the Passion therefore reunited to the body of Christ at the Resurrection, with the possible exception of a few particles which instantly lost their union to the Word and became holy relics to be venerated but not adored. Some such particles may have adhered and yet adhere to the instruments of the Passion, e.g. nails, scourging pillar, Scala Sancta. Several places like Saintes, Bruges, Mantua etc. claim, on the strength of ancient traditions, to possess relics of the Precious Blood, but it is often difficult to tell whether the traditions are correct. Viewed as a part of the Sacred Humanity hypostatically united to the Word, the Precious Blood deserves latreutical worship or adoration. It may also like the Heart or the Wounds from which it flowed, be singled out for special honour, in a way that special honour was rendered it from the beginning by St. Paul and the Fathers who so eloquently praised its redeeming virtue and rested on it the Christian spirit of self-sacrifice. As Faber remarks, the lives of the saints are replete with devotion to the Precious Blood. In due course of time the Church gave shape and sanction to the devotion by approving societies like the Missionaries of the Precious Blood; enriching confraternities like that of St. Nicholas in Carcere, in Rome, and that of the London Oratory; attaching indulgences to prayers and scapulars in honour of the Precious Blood; and establishing commemorative feasts of the Precious Blood, Friday after the fourth Sunday in Lent and, since Pius IX, the first Sunday of July.

BENEDICT XIV, De servorum Dei Beatificatione, II, 30; IV, ii, 10, de Festis, I, 8 (Rome, 1747); FABER, The Precious Blood (Baltimore, s.d.); HUNTER, Outlines of Dogm. Theol. (New York, 1896); IOX, Die Reliquien des Kostb. Blutes (Luxemburg, 1880); BERINGER, Die Ablässe (12th ed., Paderborn, 1900).

J.F. SOLLIER