You may not know that one of the promises clergy & religious make upon entering their vocation is to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (AKA Divine office.) This is a routine of prayers that they pray at various times throughout the day to make sure that they don’t lose sight of their relationship with God within their service to His Church. One of the hours they pray is called the Office of Readings, which includes both a selection from the Bible and something from one of the saints. The following is the reading for Good Friday, taken from the Catecheses by St. John Chrysostom, one of the early Church fathers. I moved it back to the front of the blog in honor of what we celebrate today, because Chrysostom says it all so much better than I ever could. If you’re looking for the readings for the day, click here to get them from the USCCB website.
If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. Sacrifice a lamb without blemish, commanded Moses, and sprinkle its blood on your doors. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so much less will the devil approach now when he sees, no tthat figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it m own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.
There flowed from his side water and blood. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! As God then took a rib from Adam`s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and water after his own death.
Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.
These words are so true and I think that we need to earnestly pray for denominations that don’t understand how real the Eucharist is. Tonight at the Easter Vigil we will welcoming new Catholics into the Church. The RCIA candidates will be baptized and/or partaking in the same celebrating of the Eucharist for their very first time. I love Easter because it makes me realize the unity that Catholics have and the need to share this unity with others. I have heard it said that when we receive the Eucharist we are in perfect spiritual communion with one another through Christ we have just received. This is such a powerful way God has given us to grow together.