The Feast of the Most Precious Blood
Posted by james0235 on July 1, 2008
Sanguis Christi, inebria me! Blood of Christ, inebriate me!
(from the Anima Christi)
In the Liturgical Calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite July 1st is the Feast of the the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (This Feast exists in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in the form of a Votive Mass.) It commemorates all of the times Our Lord shed his most precious blood: the Circumcision, the Agony in the garden, the Scourging at the pillar, the Crowning with thorns, and in the Crucifixion.
You may recall that the Circumcision is specifically commemorated in the Mass on the Octave Day of Christmas. But, today’s Feast calls to mind all of the occasions Our Lord shed his Blood. And this same Blood is offered daily in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on altars the world over.
I read something interesting today online in the June 29th bulletin of Assumption Grotto in Detroit. The pastor writes:
I have often noted the practice of wine connoisseurs–those more adept than myself (if it were possible) in the art of drinking wine–who studiously oscillate their glass and ceremoniously sniff their beverage before consigning it to the quaff. Real wine lovers, you see, must first inform their olfactories before their tongues concerning the quality of the wine. Smell is among the senses that both informs and gives pleasure or displeasure, as the case may be.
Now, what in heavens has this to do with the Mass? Well, in the celebrating of the Tridentine Mass, there is a coincidence of word and gesture in the priest’s offering of the wine during the Offertory rite. He, while moving the chalice over the altar in the form of the cross says, “may this chalice ascend in the sight of Your divine majesty with a sweet odor…”
That God should take delight in smells may be a surprising idea, but it does have biblical precedent. After the flood, Noah offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord for his delivery and God who “smelled the pleasing odor” then promised never again to destroy all living creatures. In other places of the Old Testament there is ample reference to the fragrant incense offered to God.
At Mass, when I make that sign of the cross with the chalice, I too get a brief sniff of odoriferous wine and think that this is symbolic of the agreeableness of the sacrifice that is soon to be offered to God, namely, the sacrifice of Christ. You will note, by contrast, that this Offertory prayer is not said in the ‘ordinary form’ (new rite) of the Mass and that there is no gesture made with the chalice except for its slight elevation during the priest’s words of ‘blessing.’ I know that this is only a little thing, but it is one of those many subtle and meaningful touches that arrest my attention in the Tridentine Mass and which help to raise the mind to God.