Mr Shinsuke Yoshikawa is a member of Una Voce and a TLM community in Tokyo. This was his 2nd trip to Guam and today he attended Mass with us. After Mass, a small group from our community went to lunch with him. We hope he will have more visits to Guam in the future.
Mary enters Heaven and is Crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth
Twelve stars formed a crown and was seen by Saint John on the head of a woman in heaven, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet (Rev 12:1).
God Exalts the Humble
One of the traits of a loving God is His generosity in sharing His glory and authority with His creatures. Look how He worked through Moses, a man imperfect in speech and whose faith faltered a bit when he struck the rock twice. Yet God made Moses His agent on earth, upholding the great authority of Moses.
Look how God worked through the prophets; humans with their own human limitations as well. Finally, look how our Lord worked through the Apostles, sharing with them awesome divine prerogatives, such as the forgiving of sins! And our Lord tells them that at the Judgment, the Apostles will sit on "twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28)."
God loves His faithful children and shares with them His glory and authority. Would He do less with the Mother of God the Son? She who never - not once - faltered in her faith and obedience?
She herself said, "The Lord hath done great things for me" and "He hath exalted the humble." (Luke 1:46-55)
She who had heaven inside her (the child Jesus) is now in heaven as Queen. Her dignity as the Bearer of God entitles her to this. It was she who assisted God in His plan to bring Christ into the world; she now assists Christ in His plan to save the world till the end of time.
As Queen, she has her own prerogatives. She has direct access to her Son, and her wishes are commands to Him, for she can want nothing that her Son also does not want.
Higher than the Seraphim
Of all creatures, none can claim to have been the Mother of the Son nor the Spouse of the Holy Ghost. The Seraphim, the highest order of angels, pale in comparison to Mary, who housed within her own body God Almighty, and brought Him into the world through the power of the Holy Ghost who overshadowed her.
Now, all creation - the angels and the saints - bow before her, because, while she was on earth, she bowed before all. In her humility, she obeyed an Angel - Gabriel. In her charity, she went to assist her pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Now, all the angels and saints bow to her queenship.
Even nature bows before her, as she is wrapped in the light of the sun and stands on top of the humble moon. Twelve stars crown her; twelve representing the Church (the Old Israel of twelve tribes; the New Israel of twelve Apostles). She is Queen of the Church.
If God is to be adored and obeyed, let His Vessel also be highly honored and obeyed.
A Queen with One Mission
In earthly kingdoms, it is often the Queen who attends, in greater part, to the service of the poor and needy. She is personally attending, in this regard, to one of the King's duties towards His subjects.
It was the Queen who often funded and ran hospitals for the sick and gave material relief to the destitute. Many times, the Queen sold her own treasures in order to do this.
We have in our own historical example in the Marianas, a Queen who personally funded the Catholic missions, seeking the spiritual welfare of the people.
Our Lady is Queen in the same way. She has only one project, one concern : the salvation of mankind.
In a sense, Our Lady's one goal is to see us crowned : with the crown of life (Rev 2:10), of glory (1 Peter 5:4), of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8), of rejoicing (1 Thess 2:19) which lasts forever (1 Cor (9:24-25).
God is a God who crowns His righteous ones, and at the highest level, His own Mother, Queen of Heaven and Earth.
The Church has solemnly defined that Mary is now in heaven, body and soul.
It would have been very strange had Mary's body remained in her earthly tomb, and no one claim to have it! The early Christians valued the physical location of religious events, and they valued whatever relics could be had of the saints, including their bodies.
Different towns and cities competed with each other, claiming to have this or that relic.
But Christianity knows of no tomb of Mary with her body still in it. Not even a tomb where her body was once for many years, until the body was stolen or destroyed in war. None at all.
It is the universal belief of the ancient Church that the body of Mary is no longer on earth, and has not been on earth for a very long time.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII put the matter to rest, solemnly defining the Dogma of the Assumption. At the end of her earthly life, not many years after, Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul.
How it Happened
Again, the Church herself does not formally define how the Assumption happened; only that it did. But, there is our honorable tradition, which goes along these lines :
As we mentioned in the last post, Saint Thomas was the only Apostle not swept in a cloud and transported immediately to the bedside of Mary. We do not know for sure why God left him out, but we can speculate that God did this so that what followed could have happened.
On the third day after Mary's soul left her body, and thus in imitation of Christ's three days in the tomb, Saint Thomas, who was in India, was swept up into the air.
In the middle of the air he saw the Blessed Virgin also in the air. He asked her where she was going. She didn't answer. She simply gave the Apostle her cincture and continued on her way upwards.
Reaching Jerusalem, Saint Thomas asked the Apostles to allow him to see the body of Mary in the tomb, since he was much grieved to have been missing when she passed from this life. The other Apostles obliged, and when they opened the tomb, they saw no body! All that remained were the burial cloths, and a wonderful fragrance!
Other traditions state that the Apostles heard angelic singing during the three days Mary's body was in the tomb, and that flowers sprung up in the tomb where her body had been laid.
The painting above shows the Apostles standing around the empty tomb of Mary, with flowers instead of a body in the tomb.
The Salvation of the Creature is Complete
The Assumption of Mary show us that Christ has truly accomplished His work; men and women can be saved! He Himself ascended into heaven with His human body. But Christ is not a human person. He is a divine person, with two natures. His divine nature He has had for all eternity. His human nature He took on at the Incarnation.
When Christ assumed a human nature; when He did all He did and suffered all He went through in His human nature; when His human will obeyed God's will unto death; when He rose from the dead - in all these things Christ saved human nature. The curse of sin which wounded human nature was cured.
But does the cure work? Where is the purely human person, a creature, who has been totally cured?
She is in heaven, body and soul.
Christ's salvation does its job! Christ can save us, because He has already done so in Mary.
Enoch and Elijah
There are some who wonder about these two Old Testament figures, who, in different ways, are said to have somehow escaped natural death and to have left the earth. In Elijah's case, Scripture says, "into heaven."
But the Church has not solemnly defined that they went body and soul into heaven, meaning the abode of God. It is possible that they were placed in some natural, celestial place above the earth (heaven in the sense of the realm above the earth) until the opening of heaven when Christ died. The Church allows us to believe, but does not oblige us to believe, that perhaps Enoch and Elijah went to the heavenly abode of God by special privilege.
The Church also has not solemnly defined if the bodies of those who rose from the dead on Easter morning (see Matthew 27:52-53) went to heaven. Matthew says these resurrected people went into the city and appeared to many people. Did they eventually rise into heaven? Did they die and were buried again? What happened after that is unknown.
It is Mary alone, among the creatures of God, whom we have been obliged by Holy Mother Church to believe has been taken up to heaven, body and soul. Her salvation is complete in all respects, and our salvation has the fullness of hope knowing that she is there!
Our Lady was blessed with the most beautiful passing from this world.
The Church has not dogmatically defined that Our Lady underwent a death like ours. In the solemn definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, Pope Pius XII stated that,
"Mary...after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven." (Munificentissimus Deus, 1950)
The sobriety of the Church, when it comes to some matters on which the Scriptures are silent and on which Church Tradition is not wholly unanimous, especially in a number of details about the end of her life, allows her to say simply that Our Lady completed her life on earth.
But just because the Church has not solemnly defined a dogma does not mean that the Church does not hold something as true.
The greater bulk of Tradition holds that Mary's soul separated from her body. Doctors of the Church, the ancient Fathers and many saints teach that Our Blessed Mother's soul left her body. She died. But what a different, most blessed and sweet death it was!
Those, in the minority, who say that she did not die at all make some points that are important to know. For, if they do not clearly show that Mary did not die, these points at least help explain why her death was so different from ours.
Death, as the Bible says, is the wages of sin. Men die because of Original Sin. But Mary was conceived without Original Sin. Therefore, there is no penalty for her to suffer. Just as labor pains are another penalty due to sin (Genesis 3:16), and Mary did not suffer those when she gave birth to Christ (see Isaiah 66:7-8 for a foreshadowing of that), this smaller group of theologians assert that Mary similarly did not die.
But Our Lord, too, was completely sinless, and yet He died. He didn't have to die; He voluntarily died, for our salvation.
Mary did not need to die, as if obliged to pay a debt; she voluntarily died, because she wanted to share in everything her Son underwent. The Mother is not superior to the Son.
And she also wanted to be a Mother to us, her children. She wanted to share in what we will all undergo, and to show us that, if we are one with her and Christ, we do not need to fear death when we die in the state of grace.
This was also the will of God, that she die. But there would also be great differences between her death and ours, just as Christ died differently from us in some respect, and just like us in other respects.
How Our Lady Passed From this Life
The overwhelming teaching of tradition says that Our Lady moved back to Jerusalem from Ephesus, with the Apostle John. She would visit the places where her Son had suffered His passion and death, and where He was buried, and she would weep in sorrow. She prayed that God would let her know in advance of her death, and that she be surrounded by the Apostles when her time had come.
Gabriel appeared some time later and told her the time had come. She, in turn, told her guardian, the Apostle John, who sent out word to the other Apostles, scattered throughout the world. The tradition states that God brought them all, except Saint Thomas, to Jerusalem in a cloud.
With the Apostles and many believers at her side, she told them she would not leave them orphans but would always be with them and pray for them, even more boldly now before the Throne of God in heaven.
On August 15, surrounded by the Apostles, with much prayer said among them all and many words of encouragement, Christ appeared with great splendor, accompanied by many angels. The love between Christ and His Mother was intense; they spoke; she laid back and Christ took her soul into His own hands. She died without pain, violence or fear. She died in peace and in joy, knowing she was leaving this vale of tears to join her Son forever in heaven.
The painting above shows Jesus receiving the soul of Mary in the form of a child. Mary, as it were, is born again, into eternal life!
The Church leaves alone the question whether Our Lady died of natural causes. What is certain is that she died for love, for love of her Son whom she wanted to join in death and in resurrection. Saint Francis de Sales says that she died because her soul was ravished with an intense love for her Son. In a sense, she could no longer remain on earth. Her love for Jesus beckoned her to heaven.
A sweet perfume came from her lifeless body, which suffered no decay or corruption from the time of death. The next morning, they placed her body in a new tomb in Gethsemane, and closed it shut.
For someone in love with Christ, death is not something to be feared morbidly. The holy person is humble and does not presume. The holy person is even more aware of his or her defects and asks for prayers and the sacraments. He or she calls on the mercy of the Lord, but has confidence in that mercy! The holy person dies with an intense desire to see God, not to evade Him, as if that were possible.
Nothing can be more sad than the death of those who fear seeing God and fear death. Their guilty consciences sting them. They regret so many decisions in life. Some regret having been born at all. Yet, many of them still cannot find it in themselves to ask God for mercy. Many people die a sad, bitter death.
How blessed to die like Mary! "Oh blessed in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His just ones!" (Psalm 116) Let us follow her in life and in death.
Mary had a unique, and never-to-be-repeated, distinction; the unfathomable, highest dignity, of being the Mother of her own Creator!
What divine humility! The Supreme Being, whom all the universe cannot contain, makes Himself small and lives for nine months in the womb of Mary.
The wonders of this God-child's dependence on His human mother! She must supply Him with oxygen. It is her liver which removes waste products from His blood.
Our little child Jesus is enveloped in the placenta, which catches nutrients from Our Lady's blood and transports them to Him. Besides obtaining nutrition from what Our Lady herself eats and drinks, the Lord receives nutrition from Our Lady's own body.
After His birth, He drinks from the milk of her breasts, as the painting above shows. God, the Source of Life, drinks from the body of His own creature whom He has made His Mother!
In all this, our Lord is redeeming fallen humanity. Not only is humanity brought back to its original innocence, it is raised to an even higher dignity, for a woman, a daughter of Adam and Eve, is made Mother of God.
She is not Mother of God in the sense that she gave Jesus His divine nature. She is Mother of the One who was conceived in her womb; of the One who was born from her womb. In her womb, she carried God Himself, not just the human nature of Jesus. Otherwise, why did Elizabeth say to Mary, "But whom am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:42)
Elizabeth, inspired by God the Holy Ghost, acknowledges that Mary is not mother just of the human Jesus, but also of Jesus who is Lord.
She carried all of Jesus, who is God made man. He is man thanks to her maternity.
Our Mother, too
Mary never stopped being a mother.
She loved her Son forever more; following Him, suffering with Him, burying Him, reigning with Him.
Because her Son married a Bride, the Church, she became Mother of the Church.
She remains in heaven interceding for us, just as she did for the wedding party in Cana.
To paraphrase Saint Bonaventure, God could have made a more majestic and beautiful world, with more amazing landscapes, vegetation and animal life.
But God couldn't have made a more beautiful Mother. She was to be Mother of the Perfect God-man Jesus. She had to be, as far as a human mother of a divine Son can be, a perfect Mother.
In her earthly life, Mary is the model of perfect human living, combining in perfect harmony the active, contemplative and unitive aspects of life.
It is both a blessing and a struggle that God has made our human lives on earth multi-faceted. We are to use our minds and our bodies. We are to work and rest. We have to tend to the needs of the soul and of the body.
The challenge is to keep all these facets in balance. Not paying so much attention to one to the detriment of another.
Our Lady serves as a model of a human life excellently lived, in perfect balance.
She lead an active life. Even before she became Mother of God, she worked in the Jerusalem Temple as a young girl and was excellent in making special fabrics for the Temple services, according to tradition.
As mother of the Holy Family in Nazareth (pictured above) she did what every mother did. There were no maids or servants. Theirs was the offering of the humble class when they offered sacrifice at the Temple.
At Cana, Mary is involved in the goings on in the kitchen, as it were. Tradition holds that she was a family member in the wedding party so it seems she was actively engaged in how the banquet was going. When she noticed they ran out of wine, she did something about it.
But she also lead a contemplative life. One constant theme stressed in the Gospels about Mary is how she stored things in her heart and pondered them. She was a prayerful, reflective thinker. When Our Lord told her things she did not immediately grasp, she hung on to His every word and sought their meaning.
As a Temple virgin in her childhood, Mary knew the Psalms and the sacred writings. She prayed in the Temple, and tradition says that she was alone, in the middle of prayer, when Gabriel came to her at the Annunciation at her home in Nazareth.
In both doing and prayerfully reflecting, Mary was being one with her Son. She followed Him, suffered with Him, rejoiced with Him. When He returned to heaven, she still had work to do - to be the Mother of her Son's Church. God is always working through Mary, and she is always doing what God asks her to do. Union.
When her time came to leave this earth, she joined her Son in heaven, body and soul. Union. Like Him, she has our salvation constantly in mind, taking her maternal role to heart, interceding for us and coming to earth when God permits to warn us and remind us to pray and do penance, for the end comes nearer.
Mary's soul, after Christ's human soul, was the holiest in the human race, adorned in highest measure with all the virtues and graces of the Holy Ghost.
The painting reflects the soul of Mary as a dove, symbol also of the Holy Ghost.
Gabriel told Mary at the Annunciation that the Holy Ghost would come upon her, and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her.
The term "overshadow" echoes the scene in Exodus (40:34) wherein a cloud covers and fills the tent where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. A cloud is a symbol of the Holy Ghost. Clouds bring us life-giving rain, and the Holy Ghost gives us saving grace. Mary is the new and perfect Ark of the Covenant, filled to the highest degree possible with the Holy Ghost.
"Full of Grace"
One of the weaknesses of human language is its inability to perfectly express things. Even in the natural, words often fail to convey what we think, feel or experience. Imagine how limited created words can be in expressing divine truths!
The earliest words we have of Gabriel's greeting to Mary that Annunciation Day are in Greek. Gabriel called Mary "kecharitomene."
The root of that word is "charis," meaning "grace" or "favor." A grace is something freely bestowed on someone because of the kindness and benevolence of the giver. We get the words charisma, charism and charismatic from it.
Grammatically, kecharitomene means a grace or favor that has been given in the past in complete perfection, which continues into the present. Thus, we translate kecharitomene to mean "full of grace," so perfectly full that one cannot add to its fullness.
Gabriel is so caught up in our Lady's spiritual perfection that he does not even address her by her human name Mary. To him, she is "the one perfectly filled with grace, then and now," and that is how he addresses her.
Her soul is so perfectly full of grace, nothing else can fit! There is no room for Original Sin. By the merits of her own Son's passion and death, God has prevented that sin from touching her soul from the first moment of her human existence. In Mary, we see the first victory of Jesus! In past Old Testament passages, greetings such as the one Gabriel gave Mary are shouts of victory. Rejoice! Hail! In you Mary, Jesus has beaten the devil! In you we see a woman who has not been touched by Satan's work, not even for a single instant!
Our Lady is full of God's grace. Gabriel makes this clear in his next statement, "The Lord is with thee." The Lord is with Mary first by grace; she had that from the first moment of her immaculate existence. And as soon as she says "yes" to God's plan, the Lord will be with Mary secondly in physical fact. She will be carrying God in her womb. As she carried all of Jesus in her womb, she also has all the graces in her soul.
"My soul magnifies the Lord"
Mary's spiritual beauty is a gift God gave her. He did this to magnify His own glory. The glory of the artist is in his work; God's glory is in His work. In praising Mary, we hail her Creator without Whom she would not exist.
Our Lady is like a mirror. A mirror reflects what is placed before it. And when light shines on a mirror, the mirror magnifies the light. A mirror does not show forth its own light, but it has the property of magnifying light from somewhere else.
Like all of us creatures, Mary owes everything to God. But because God made her in the best possible way, she has a unique role in magnifying the greatness of God.
"And a sword shall pierce your soul"
Mary's soul was embellished with all the graces. But this did not mean she was exempted from pain and suffering. In fact, just as our Lord's passion reveals the depth and perfection of His virtues, Our Lady's sharing in her Son's suffering shows the depth and perfection of her virtues.
Our Lady did not die on the cross. But she died a million spiritual deaths for every slap her Son received; every insult; every kick; every nail.
Grace does not take away free will; grace assists it. In all her pains, Mary, aided by grace, chose to love, to believe, to suffer, to hope. Her virtues glowed more radiantly because the sword pierced her soul.
Teacher, and More
If Mary is our Mother, she is our teacher. We meditate on her life and we learn from it. We can imitate her, like a student learns from the teacher.
But she is more than teacher. She is also Mediatrix (channel) of all graces. All a human teacher can do is explain, encourage and create some conditions for learning. But a human teacher cannot give the student aptitudes and talents the student doesn't have already by nature. A teacher has to work with what he or she is given, and build on them.
Mary can do more. She can win for us graces from God which we do not have by nature.
She can be Mother of our souls.
We cannot imitate Mary in her immaculate conception, for we were all born under the curse of Original Sin.
But we can imitate Mary in her holy life. We do this not just by imitating her virtues, but by receiving grace from God to be holy. We can do nothing without grace, just as her soul was full of grace. She can obtain for us those graces, since she gave us the greatest grace of all, Jesus our Savior.
Mary had, after our Lord, the most beautiful physical appearance in all the human race.
She had to be of exquisite beauty, for the beauty of the soul is reflected in the beauty of one's physical appearance. God is the creator of the human body and He endowed it with beauty. He intended the body to be the servant of the soul, and not the soul's master. He wanted us to do many good and noble things through our bodies. God wanted to reward the body, as well as the soul which directs it, for the good it does.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they wounded both their spiritual and physical natures. Even their bodies would share in the punishment; their bodies would weaken and age and eventually die.
The weakening of our soul is shown in the rebelliousness of our bodies. Since the Fall, our body's appetite for sensual pleasure grew more demanding, seeking pleasure for its own sake and not for the purposes God intended. We can call this carnality or sensuality.
Mary did not share in that sin of Adam and Eve. Her body reflects the beauty of her immaculate soul.
Her physical beauty is not of a carnal nature. Her physical beauty lifts us up, fills our heart with awe and wonder. We catch a glimpse of divine beauty, since her soul is full of divine grace.
Mary had to be beautiful because the things of God must reflect His beauty. We adorn our churches. We use the best we have. The best linen, the best fabric, the best flowers, the best metals. These are the things men fashion from the elements of earth. Imagine the work of the Master Artist, God Himself, who fashioned Mary in the womb of Saint Ann.
God Himself showed us the pattern as He commanded Moses to cover the entire Ark of the Covenant with gold. Mary is the true Ark of the Covenant, not housing the Ten Commandments but housing God Himself in her virginal womb.
Her appearance and movements speak of modesty, peace and purity. She had tremendous dominion over herself; all was in balance, nothing was out of place. Her name, Mary, meaning "Lady," matched her dignified stateliness. She is truly "Lady," meaning Mistress of the house; the house of her own soul and body. She rectifies the imbalance in human nature - the carnal over the spiritual - which resulted from the Fall of Adam and Eve.
A Beauty that Cures Sensuality
Saint Ignatius Loyola had just begun to repent of his sinful past. He had a strong resolve, prompted by grace, to lead a new life of penance and dedication to the pursuit of holiness. But memories of past sins of the flesh came back, and he begged Our Lady for help. Then, she appeared, holding the infant Jesus. She allowed Ignatius time to contemplate this vision, which filled him with new feelings he had never experienced before, as if to make him a new man.
When the vision was over, he would never be the same. Not even the slightest, involuntary carnal thought ever disturbed him again. Our Lady had granted him the grace of perpetual chastity.
Saint Ignatius receives the Grace of Perpetual Chastity
The Testimony of Approved Visionaries
When Saint Bernadette first saw the Blessed Mother in the grotto, she was not sure who she was. So she simply called her "the beautiful lady."
Lucia, in Fatima, describes Our Lady as radiating an intense, clear light, more than the rays of the sun when going through water.
In Paris, Saint Catherine Laboure saw Our Lady, who instructed her to have the Miraculous Medal struck, and said she could hardly describe Our Lady's "ravishing beauty."
A Beauty that is Meant for Us Also
People remarked that when Saint Bernadette was able to see Our Lady, Bernadette's own face took on a look of gentle radiance. Since the people could see nothing in the Grotto, it was Bernadette's own countenance that convinced many that something real was happening which they could not see.
No painting or statue can ever come close to the real, physical beauty of Our Lady. But if we contemplate her beauty, her physical splendor reflecting the beauty of her immaculate soul, some of her beauty will be impressed on our own souls and then on our faces, just as skin takes on the effects of the sun (heat and color) when exposed to it.
The most special moment in Mass will now happen. Jesus will offer His life to God the Father on behalf of us sinners. He died on the cross and His blood was shed so that we sinners can be forgiven and go to heaven when we die.
The bread and wine that the priest blesses, or consecrates, becomes the real Body and the real Blood of Jesus. Even though they still look like bread and wine, Jesus said, "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood." We will receive Him in Holy Communion when the priest gives us the Host to eat.
This sacrifice at every Mass is the same one that Jesus offered on Good Friday on Mount Calvary almost two thousand years ago. It is not a different sacrifice; it is the same one. Jesus died once, but we make His death present again at every Mass because He told us to do this when He said, "Do this in memory of me."
You will know that the bread and wine are changed when the priest lifts up high the Host, the circular piece of white bread, and the chalice, or special cup.
The feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus was put on the church calendar just in the 19th century. In 1969, it was placed in conjunction with the feast of Corpus Christi. I can see how doing this strengthens the understanding among us that, in Holy Communion, if one receives the Host alone, one receives all of Christ, His Sacred Body, Precious Blood, soul and divinity.
Even in the New Missal, which lacks a separate feast for the Most Precious Blood, there is a Votive Mass of the Precious Blood which can be said anytime the church calendar allows votive Masses to be said.
But, as the Extraordinary Form today follows the 1962 calendar, we can also happily observe this as a separate feast on July 1 and for good reason.
At the Last Supper, Christ consecrated the bread and the wine separately.
There was a reason for this. Namely, death occurs when body and blood are separated. This dual consecration points to the death of Christ on the cross.
And, as with many things in the spiritual, there are other reasons for this separate consecration as well.
"There is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood." (Hebrews 9:22)
The Letter to the Hebrews in the passage just cited is speaking of the Old Testament sacrifices, which were prophetic of the perfect sacrifice yet to come in Christ; a "shadow of the good things" that were still on their way (Hebrews 10:1). Instead, Christ entered the Holy Place (where atonement for sin is obtained) by His own blood (Hebrews 9:12).
This Blood was shed even in His Infancy
(The Circumcision of the Lord)
Saint John tells us, "The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7) And, again, "To Him who loved us and washed away our sins in His own blood." (Rev 1:5).
So precious is this blood, as the payment for our sins, that when the soldier pierced the lifeless Body of the Lord, His Precious Blood came out separately from His Body (John 19:34).
HOW CAN WE ACCESS THIS PRECIOUS BLOOD?
Saint Paul answers us. When we were baptized, we were baptized into His death (Romans 6:3). The water we use in the Sacrament of Baptism is mystically His Blood which washes us clean of sin. Saint Paul has first-hand knowledge of this truth when he himself converted to Christianity and was told by the holy Ananias, "Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins." (Acts 22:16)
Baptism washes away our sins; Original Sin for everyone; personal sins, in addition, to those baptized at an older age, who have the use of reason and therefore who are capable of committing personal sins.
Baptism has to be the first access we have to the saving and Precious Blood of Jesus, because we cannot access His Blood by any other means until we are born again and made spiritually alive and capable of benefitting from His Blood.
But the second way to access His Precious Blood is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In Mass, we fulfill His command to "Do this in memory of Me." Do what? To offer the Body which is broken and the Blood which is shed "for the remission of sins." Even before we receive Him in Holy Communion, we are already blessed and graced by assisting at this sublime Sacrifice.
Then, we access His Precious Blood by receiving Him in Holy Communion. As stated already, when we receive the Host, we are receiving the entire Person, including His Precious Blood.
THE BLOOD IS IN THE BODY, THE BODY CONTAINS THE BLOOD
Saint Thomas Aquinas expresses this truth beautifully :
Caro cibus, sanguis potus:
Manet tamen Christus totus,
Sub utráque specie.
The Flesh is food, the Blood drink:
All of Christ remains however
under either form.
Saint Paul knew that the wine that is offered at the Eucharist is no longer wine when we drink It, either through the chalice or when we eat the Host. He taught that if one received Holy Communion unworthily, one would be "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 11:27)
"The life of the flesh is in the blood."
"Unless you eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, you shall not have life within you."
The Church of Santo Domingo (Saint Dominic) de la Naval is a Dominican church in Quezon City (greater Manila area). It is a huge and spacious church situated on a main thoroughfare. But its main attraction is this ivory and wood statue of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval, dating to the 16th century.
In 1646, the Dutch tried to conquer the Philippines. The combined Spanish and Filipino troops begged Our Lady's intercession before this image, and the sea battles with the Dutch ended in a clear victory for the Spanish and Filipino forces. Barefoot, the Filipino soldiers walked back to this statue to render thanks.
Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form is celebrated at this altar of Our Lady at Santo Domingo every second Sunday of the month. It was a privilege for me to sing Mass here before Our Lady's venerable image.
The Mass is usually well-attended. Many young people make up the congregation.
That Sunday, we observed the External Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, so after Mass, we exposed Our Blessed Lord in preparation for the Eucharistic procession. The ombrellino I ordered in Manila for our Guam community got its first use at this procession, seen unfolded on the left.
Now comes the most special part of the Mass, when the bread and the wine will be changed into the true Body and Blood of Jesus.
The priest will make the sign of the cross over the bread and wine and repeat the words that Jesus said at the Last Supper when He said, "This is my Body," and "This is my Blood." Jesus then said, "Do this in memory of me." And so we obey Jesus' command and we do this at every Mass.
When the priest lifts up the Sacred Host and the Sacred Chalice, let us lift up to God the Father, along with Jesus, our own little selves, with all of our little sacrifices and gifts of love. Just as the little white Host is small, we too are small and humble. But when we are one with Jesus all our gifts to God are beautiful to Him.