By HENRY EDWARDS
MONG all the pastoral sermons of Monsignor Ronald Knox there are two which greatly touch me and move me. They are upon the Precious Blood.
Perhaps one of the reasons that I have found myself rereading them is that in each of them is a quotation from that
"stricken hind". William Cowper, who must surely rank
among the greatest of the minor poets. As a child 1 knew the verses quoted:
"There ig a fountain filled with Blood Drawn from Emmanuel's veins; And sinners plunged beneath that flood Lose all their guilty stains." AND,
"The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day. And there may I, as vile as het Wash all my sins away."
As Mgr Knox points out, the exact imagery is not important, though Crashaw writes: "That Blood, whose least drops sovereign be to wash my worlds of sin from me."
AMONG my father's old books I find a script of an old Welsh sermon delivered by one of the 1859 revivalists. In English it runs in part like this: "The Son of God is going to farm the old earth Himself these days, and, fair play to Him. it is His property— every furrow of it belongs to Him. Dearly He paid for it with His Blood and He will turn its fields of thorns and briars into vineyards of red wine by and by."
You see. there, another way (ransom) of accounting for this devotion to the Precious Blood, a way tha, has become unfashionable. I am told. But the preacher, one John Jones, Blaenannereh, had earlier some experience of a soul which had sweated in a Gethsemane "He went too near the Blood," cried John Jones, when that soul made an act of contrition.
And there are records that during that strange revival, phenomena like those of Atigmatics were seen by many. In one place a young man was so overcome with prayer that blood stained his garments, while the revivalist leader, David Morgan, cried : "In thy blood, live!"
Rebuked by deacons
II' is not at all surprising that from time to time people would cry out such ejaculations as "God be thanked for the Blood"! One man during a discourse on the barren fig-tree was so disturbed by the preacher's queries: "Shall we cut it down?", "Have you any remedy to propose?" that he jumped up from his pew and shouted, "Try Blood to the roots!" One of the first of my countrymen in the days following the withdrawal of the Faith to receive a special grace in this respect was David Jones of Caio, who, though living well before the coming of Methodism and what has been attacked as "emotionalism", leapt about in the chapel and was rebuked severely by the deacons.
But he. a cattle drover, answered then, with one of those evangelical answers which has remained one of the great hymns of Welsh Evangelicalism (Mae plant y byd yn WO. It ends (I translate):
"What, though I leap rejoicing?
thought; Sweet reverence guides my
Like David's godly dancing When home the ark was
brought; Or, like the lame man's rapture.
Healed at the temple gate— The Precious Blood of Jesus
Brought health and good estate."
Babes and the sick
ISUPPOSE that people of different ages and, perhaps, different, though quite licit Christian traditions will not all give the same answers to the question: Why should we value • the Precious Blood? At least, there may be a special emphasis, for instance, upon It as ransom, or upon It as cleansing or upon It as potent, Forget It, however, says Mgr. Knox and you have forgotten to be a Christian. As Masure writes: "The Father did not act by halves, and since our failures have brought blood and tears into the world, He has seen fit that His Son should pass through blood and tears."
But at every Mass we are brought before this truth. Perhaps the feast of Corpus Christi and a certain devotion to the Body of the Lord may have slightly obscured for us the Chalice of the new and eternal testament, though in these isles we have the tradition that wealthy Joseph of Arimathea carried the Cup which held the Wine of the Last Supper to that almost mystic shrine of Avalon, to become the heart of a whole universe of legends. We may recall that at one time babes and, I believe, sick people. received Communion under this Species: and in some eastern Catholic rites a babe after baptism is given C'oinmunion by the priest who takes a drop of the Precious Blood upon a spoon to put upon the baby's tongue.
Moment of the Mass
INDEED. Communion under both Species has come our way with the diaspora, The fact may very well help us to realise the importance of this devotion. But I shall confess that of all the moments in the Mass that of the elevation of the Chalice is the most consoling.
Put it down, if you like, to some emotionalism—perhaps due to an Evangelical upbringing: it remains that the moment is a Moment. And I have rather more than a notion that so many of us do not altogether realise it.