The Blood of Christ in Christian theology refers to (a) the physical blood actually shed by Jesus Christ on the Cross, and the salvation which Christianity teaches was accomplished thereby; and (b) the Eucharistic blood used at Holy Communion. The ancient Christian churches (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic) believe that in the Eucharist, the faithful receive Jesus' blood under the species of wine.
Ancient Christian Churches (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Churches the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Church of the East) together with some Anglicans, believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Roman Catholic Church uses the term "Transubstantiation" to describe the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Eastern Orthodox too have authoritatively used the same term to describe the change, as in The Longer Catechism of The Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church and in the decrees of the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem.
The Lutheran churches follow the teaching of Martin Luther in defining the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements as sacramental union (often misconstrued as consubstantiation), meaning that the fundamental "substance" of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which remain present. Lutherans also believe in and teach the Real Presence. Most Protestant churches do not believe in the Real Presence, but observe Communion rites as Memorials.
In the Early Church, the Faithful received the Eucharist in the form of consecrated bread and wine. Saint Maximus explains that in the Old Law the flesh of the sacrificial victim was shared with the people, but the blood of the sacrifice was merely poured out on the altar. Under the New Law, however, Jesus' blood was the drink shared by all of Christ's Faithful.
The tradition continued in the Eastern Church to comingle the species of bread and wine, whereas in the Western Church the practice of communion under the species of bread and wine separately was the custom, with only a small fraction of bread placed in the chalice. In the Western Church, the communion at the chalice was made less and less efficient, as the dangers of the spread of disease and danger of spillage were considered enough of a reason to remove the chalice from common communion altogether (or giving it on only special occasions). The Protestant controversy turned this into one of its main issues. As a consequence, the Roman Catholic Church first wanted to eliminate ambiguity, declaring that Christ was present both as body and as blood equally under both species of bread and wine. As time went on, the chalice was made more available to the laity. After the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church gave a full permission for all to receive communion from the chalice at every Mass involving a congregation.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the bread and wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus when consecrated.
The devotion to the Precious Blood was an especial phenomenon of Flemish piety in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, that gave rise to the iconic image of Grace as the "Fountain of Life," filled with blood, pouring from the wounded "Lamb of God" or the "Holy Wounds" of Christ. The image, which was the subject of numerous Flemish paintings was in part spurred by the renowned relic of the Precious Blood, which had been noted in Bruges since the twelfth century and which gave rise, from the late thirteenth century, to the observances, particular to Bruges, of the procession of the "Saint Sang" from its chapel.
Litany of the Most Precious Blood
The following litany is a part of Roman Catholic devotion to the Precious Blood:
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Blood of Christ, only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, save us.
Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word of God, save us.
Blood of Christ, of the New and Eternal Testament, save us.
Blood of Christ, falling upon the earth in the Agony, save us.
Blood of Christ, shed profusely in the Scourging, save us.
Blood of Christ, flowing forth in the Crowning with Thorns, save us.
Blood of Christ, poured out on the Cross, save us.
Blood of Christ, price of our salvation, save us.
Blood of Christ, without which there is no forgiveness, save us.
Blood of Christ, Eucharistic drink and refreshment of souls, save us.
Blood of Christ, stream of mercy, save us.
Blood of Christ, victor over demons, save us.
Blood of Christ, courage of Martyrs, save us.
Blood of Christ, strength of Confessors, save us.
Blood of Christ, bringing forth Virgins, save us.
Blood of Christ, help of those in peril, save us.
Blood of Christ, relief of the burdened, save us.
Blood of Christ, solace in sorrow, save us.
Blood of Christ, hope of the penitent, save us.
Blood of Christ, consolation of the dying, save us.
Blood of Christ, peace and tenderness of hearts, save us.
Blood of Christ, pledge of eternal life, save us.
Blood of Christ, freeing souls from purgatory, save us.
Blood of Christ, most worthy of all glory and honor, save us.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord!.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord!.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
V/. Thou hast redeemed us, O Lord, in Thy Blood.
R/. And made us, for our God, a kingdom.
Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, Who didst appoint Thine only-begotten Son the Redeemer of the world, and hast willed to be appeased by His Blood; grant unto us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate (with solemn worship) the price of our redemption, and by its power be so defended against the evils of this life, that we may enjoy the fruit thereof forevermore in Heaven. Through the same Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R/. Amen.
The Orthodox teach that what is received in Holy Communion is the actual Resurrected Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. In the West, the Words of Institution are considered to be the moment at which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. But for the Orthodox there is no one defined moment; rather, all that Orthodox theology states is that by the end of the Epiklesis, the transformation has been completed. The Orthodox also do not use the theological term Transubstantiation to define the conversion from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, they simply use the word "change".
According to Saint John Damascene, the Sacred Mysteries (under the form of bread and wine) do not become incorruptible until they are actually received in faith by a believing Orthodox Christian.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, there is no individual devotion to the Blood of Christ separate from the Body of Christ, or separated from the reception of Holy Communion.
When receiving Holy Communion, the clergy (deacons, priests and bishops) will receive the Body of Christ separately from the Blood of Christ. Then, the remaining portions of the consecrated Lamb (Host) is divided up and placed in the chalice and both the Body and Blood of Christ are communicated to the faithful using a liturgical spoon (see also Intinction).
Relic of the Blood around the world
- Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges, Belgium
- Weingarten Abbey, Germany
- Abbey of the Holy Trinity, Fécamp, France
- St. Jakob Church, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
- Basilica di Sant'Andrea di Mantova, Mantua, Italy
- The Sudarium of Oviedo
- "The bread and wine are changed, or transubstantiated, into the very Body of Christ, and into the very Blood of Christ" (question 339).
- "In the celebration (of the Eucharist) we believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, nor by a bare presence, as some of the Fathers have said concerning Baptism, or by impanation, so that the Divinity of the Word is united to the set forth bread of the Eucharist hypostatically, as the followers of Luther most ignorantly and wretchedly suppose, but truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptised in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sitteth at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world" (Decree XVII).
- Evelyn Underhill, "The Fountain of Life: An Iconographical Study," The Burlington Magazine 17.86 (May 1910, pp. 99-101) p.100.
- The first historian of the "Saint Sang" was the Abbé Carton, "Essai sur l'histoire du Saint Sang," Bruges, 1857. (noted Underhill 1910:100 note).
- Sollier, J.F. (1913). "Precious Blood". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Precious_Blood. Retrieved 2009-05-16.
- Vincent, Nicholas (2001). The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood relic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521571286.
- Michael Heinlen, An Early Image of a Mass of St. Gregory and Devotion to the Holy Blood at Weingarten Abbey, Gesta, Vol. 37, No. 1 (1998), pp. 55-62
- Caroline Walker Bynum, The Blood of Christ in the Later Middle Ages, Church History, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Dec., 2002), pp. 685-71
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