1 July 2021

THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

You may think the less well of me for this. But the Feast of the Precious Blood, today, July 1. does ... if anything ... more for me that the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, about three weeks ago. Particularly when we consider the Office Hymns in the Breviary.

Don Anselmo Lentini, who was entrusted with the revision of the Breviary hymns in the post-Conciliar maelstrom, thought the Sacred Heart hymns could not be saved. "fere omnibus invisi erant" he observed. So he introduced (among others) a hymn made up of stanzas from hymns (Aeterna and Te saeculorum) which a Fr Genovesi, a Jesuit, had composed for Christ the King. Unusually, there seems to have been a bit of a rebellion against the draft offered on this occasion by his coetus. When Liturgia Horarum emerged, two of those "invisi" hymns were found ... after all ... to have survived (Cor arca and Auctor beati saeculi). The centonisation based on the work of Fr Genovesi did not survive.

Dom Anselmo left the hymns for the Precious Blood untouched ... because the Powers that Be had decreed that the entire feast should be suppressed. OOPS: not suppressed but subsumed into Corpus Christi (to become Corpus et Sanguis Christi). 

The throw-away cynicism of this 'logic' is as reprehensible as anything in the Novus Ordo Calendar.

Here is the opening stanza of the old Vespers Hymn, Festivis resonent, in Horatian Asclepiads, as translated in the fine old English Catholic Hymn Book of our Anglican Catholic days:

Now let our streets resound with vocal melody,

Now let each countenance shine clear with holy joy;

Raise high the torches bright, lighting our festal way,

As young and old in order go.

Savour the ironies that arise from continual clericalist meddling with the Liturgy. One year the Christian populace was liturgically encouraged to have spectacular public processions through the streets on a particular day; the very next year, the whole celebration had been cheerfully abolished.

Additional piquancy arises from the Magnificat Antiphon for this feast: "You will keep this day for a remembrance: and you will celebrate it as solemn unto the Lord in your generations, with a worship that will endure for ever [cultu sempiterno]". I wonder how sempiternus that cultus was in Westminster Cathedral.

Things were not always quite as bad as this. Blessed Pius IX instituted the Feast, ordering it to be on the First Sunday of July. By the pontificate of S Pius X, it had become incorrect to have festivals permanently lodged on Sundays, thus (nearly) obliterating the Sunday Mass. Accordingly, the Feast was shifted to July 1. But ... get this ... it was still permitted to observe an External Solemnity on the Sunday ... as your handy St Lawrence Press Ordo will confirm. 

In other words, under S Pius X some consideration was still entertained for popular habits of devotion. Liturgical steamrollers were still in their infancy.

But the twentieth century witnessed the high point of the glory of the wrecking-ball. At one moment, you could dedicate churches ... even Metropolitan Cathedrals ... to the Precious Blood; half a century later the celebration had disappeared from the Calendar. Now you see it, now you don't. It's positively Tommy Cooper. Or 1984.

Can anything be more expressive of an arrogant clericalism than the 1960s expectation that the plebs sancta Dei will instantly and obediently  jump to whatever novel fashion 'liturgical experts' ... the 'Grilloids' of the time ... have decided has (overnight) become 'correct'?

So why do I resent the disappearance from the 'mainstream' Church of the Feast of the Precious Bood? Because I dislike Clericalism. Because I valued the primacy the abolished Feast had given to Hebrews, an underrated NT book. Because the abolition swept away much of the theology of Sacrifice which we inherited from the Worship in the Temple of YHWH. And because the suppressed Lauds Hymn Salvete Christi vulnera preserved a great deal of the affection that the Medieval English, clerks and peasantry together, felt for the Devotion to the Five Wounds. 

An affection that led to the genocide of the English South West in 1549.

17 comments:

motuproprio said...

The NO does retain a Votive Mass of the Precious Blood, which could be employed on July 1st (except in the Diocese of Westminster -never referred to as an Archdiocese, I wonder why?- where it is the Dedication Festival -not I hasten to add, the Patronal Festival- of its Cathedral, kept as a feast throughout the diocese).

motuproprio said...

There is also the wonderful encyclical of Pope St John XXIII issued in 1960 (just before the deluge). https://www.papalencyclicals.net/john23/j23pb.htm

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father. Maybe the explanation for these execrable actions lies in the ecclesiastical energumen who were embarrassed by these expressions so redolent of truth and Tradition which. by their very existence, marked the stark differences in worship between members of the one true faith and those poor souls born into the institutions of so many imitators of the one true faith.

Where once we had a healthy desire to actualise the Great Commission and teach the world about the true worship of the true God we have now eviscerated the Great Commission and replaced it with the Great Ecumenism and so we now worship GED (Great Ecumenical Dialogue) rather than God.

scotchlil said...

mildly ironic that the Feast was abolished so soon after John XXIII had added the Litany of the Precious Blood to the litaniae approbatae in the Breviary... we do seem to get further and further from the 'rawness' of the Incarnation and suffering of our Lord in the newer liturgies...

frjustin said...

If it's any consolation, Father, the Maronites have never had a feast of the Sacred Heart - they have a far more ancient celebration on Great Friday of the Crucifixion, called the "Anaphora of the signing of the Chalice". During the Transfer of the Chalice, a Deacon proclaims the meaning of the celebration:

This is the holy chalice,
God's life-giving blood
which is consecrated for all mortals
by the priests.

This is the chalice of salvation,
God's living blood.
Come forward all peoples and rejoice for it absolves
those who partake of it.

This is the chalice which satisfies
the thirst of Adam's race.
Those who drink from it are delivered
from the flames of Gehenna.

The chosen nation prefigured this chalice.
But when he came in person,
other nations instead
welcomed him with joy.

The honorable priest Aaron,
prefigured this chalice
when he sprinkled the blood of birds
to signify the blood of the Lord.

The prophet Moses prefigured this chalice
by the lamb's blood
which he sprinkled in Egypt
to deliver the children of Israel.



Calvin Engime said...

The collect of this feast is a particularly eloquent witness to the Church's doctrine of the atonement against certain clergy of our time who wish to attribute a merely instructive purpose to the Crucifixion and I am glad it escaped the missal to survive to the present day as a part of the Litany of the Most Precious Blood approved by St John XXIII. (Unless a new, expurgated text has been officially published somewhere? I do not find the litany printed in the Enchiridion indulgentiarum although it is mentioned, nor in the 1973 ritual De sacra communione.)

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Dear "Motuproprio",

It is not a 'patronal feast' at Westminster Cathedral because, as with other feasts of our Blessed Lord, the Precious Blood is not a saint, and thus cannot be a 'patron saint'.

In the anglican patrimony with which this Blog is concerned, it would be referred to as a 'Feast of Title', as it is the title of the Church, a term used when the title is of Christ.

In general Roman usage it is a dedication, and unless I am mistaken is also the feast of the consecration of this church, and thus, whereas most churches celebrate two festivals, the patron (title) and the dedication, in this case it is combined into one.

As to the Diocese/Archbishop question, there is no space here nor am I competent, but it is an odd legal distinction, quite canonically correct, and connected, I imagine, to the lack of primacy of the See. To my knowledge all other English archbishops preside over archdioceses.

Damasus said...

There is still a Most-Precious Blood-procession in Bruges -starting from the Precious-Blood-Chapel - but since the 12th century on Ascension,(also added to the Unesco-cultural-world- heritage) . This year it was suspended due to Covid.

Damasus said...

I have to correct myself, it wasn´t in the 12th but the 13th century..

motuproprio said...

I stand corrected as to nomenclature; the Westminster Diocesan Ordo lists 1st July as the Feast of Dedication of the Cathedral throughout the diocese, Solemnity in the cathedral itself, using the propers for the Dedication of a Church, and so not the Feast of Title rather than not the Patronal Festival.

Rubricarius said...

The original feast of the Dedication of Westminster Cathedral was June 28th as it was consecrated on that day in 1910. With the abolition of the feast of the Precious Blood, its feast of Title, the Dedication was moved to the 1st July. In happier days there would be several occurring octaves in Westminster at the end of June, beginning of July.

The Patrons of the Diocese (nee Archdiocese) were the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph (third Wednesday after Easter), St Peter and St Edward the Confessor - all with octaves in Westminster.

Mark said...

1. I very much appreciate that my new edition of the Anglican Office Book has the Feast of the Most Precious Blood. I observed it for the first time this year.

2. It turns out there is a Most Precious Blood RC here in Corpus Christi, Texas of all places:
https://www.mpbchurch.org

3. I am sadly ignorant about the history of office hymns in the Daily Office. Any suggestions to remedy that?

frjustin said...

Mark: There is a general overview of the history of the hymns in the liturgy at
https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?RecNum=2606

For individual hymns of the Latin Office, a classic book by Matthew Britt is available in a number of formats at
https://archive.org/details/hymnsofbreviarym00britrich

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Dear Mark! There are two books you need. Your own glorious American author (crumbs you were erudite in those days!) Matthew Britt OSB “The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal” available in reprint. And Fr Adrian Fortescue “Latin Hymns” which are the old versions of the Breviary hymns before the Jesuit rape. (He will explain.)

Then you will know everything you need to know, assuming you, as I, are a layman.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

I should have added that it you would like a fascinating online study of the Office Hymns, and their history and metres, this is the place for you: :http://www.cathcorn.org/hotbam/

The page on metres is here: http://www.cathcorn.org/hotbam/intro.html#met

Banshee said...

Both of the books, the Britt and the Fortescue, are in the public domain in the US, and are thus available for free download from the Internet Archive (archive.org) as well as on Google Books.

Mark said...

Thanks all! That is very helpful.