Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Canticle of the Precious Blood

Four of the five psalm antiphons at 1st Vespers of Our Lord's Most Precious Blood are drawn from Isaias lxiii, 1-3; the whole of the first five verses are used in the modern Divine Office, but only as a Canticle for an optional extended Vigil at Eastertide, and so I suspect are rarely used. Consider, therefore, the mystery descried by Isaias, as deep in the future he foresaw the coming of One Whose vesture is dipped in Blood; Whose Name, the Word of God (cf. Apoc. xix, 13 - the fourth psalm antiphon), "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Apoc. xix, 16) Who shall tread out the winepress of the furious ineluctable wrath of God Almighty (cf. Apoc. xix, 15):

1 Quis est iste, qui venit de Edom,
tinctis vestibus de Bosra?
iste formosus in stola sua,
gradiens in multitudine fortitudinis suæ?
Ego qui loquor justitiam,
et propugnator sum ad salvandum.
2 Quare ergo rubrum est indumentum tuum,
et vestimenta tua sicut calcantium in torculari?
3 Torcular calcavi solus,
et de gentibus non est vir mecum;
calcavi eos in furore meo,
et conculcavi eos in ira mea:
et aspersus est sanguis eorum super vestimenta mea,
et omnia indumenta mea inquinavi.
4 Dies enim ultionis in corde meo;
annus redemptionis meæ venit.
5 Circumspexi, et non erat auxiliator;
quæsivi, et non fuit qui adjuvaret:
et salvavit mihi brachium meum,
et indignatio mea ipsa auxiliata est mihi.
6 Et conculcavi populos in furore meo,
et inebriavi eos in indignatione mea,
et detraxi in terram virtutem eorum.

1 Who is this that cometh from Edom,
with dyed garments from Bosra,
this beautiful one in his robe,
walking in the greatness of his strength.
I, that speak justice,
and am a defender to save.
2 Why then is thy apparel red,
and thy garments like theirs that tread in the winepress?
3 I have trodden the winepress alone,
and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me:
I have trampled on them in my indignation,
and have trodden them down in my wrath,
and their blood is sprinkled upon my garments,
and I have stained all my apparel.
4 For the day of vengeance is in my heart,
the year of my redemption is come.
5 I looked about, and there was none to help:
I sought, and there was none to give aid:
and my own arm hath saved for me,
and my indignation itself hath helped me.
6 And I have trodden down the people in my wrath,
and have made them drunk in my indignation,
and have brought down their strength to the earth.

By this is signified Christ's victory over all His enemies - here called by the symbolic name of "Edom" - at the cost of His Precious Blood. In the canticle, the blood bestaining the Hero is that of His enemies; but in the Passion of Our Lord, it was that Blood of our common humanity that was shed, Blood of an Incarnate God.

Deriving from this passage is a rather Evangelical hymn, "Who is this that comes from Edom?"

Victory to our God, and to the Lamb!

So, to quote the translation of Fr Caswall:

Glory be to Jesus,
Who in bitter pains
poured for me the life Blood
from His sacred veins!

Grace and life eternal
in that Blood I find,
blest be His compassion
infinitely kind!

Blest through endless ages
be the precious stream
which from endless torment
doth the world redeem!

There the fainting spirit
drinks of life her fill;
there, as in a fountain,
laves herself at will.

Abel’s blood for vengeance
pleaded to the skies;
but the Blood of Jesus
for our pardon cries.

Oft as it is sprinkled
on our guilty hearts,
Satan in confusion
terror-struck departs;

Oft as earth exulting
wafts its praise on high,
angel hosts, rejoicing,
make their glad reply.

Lift ye then your voices;
swell the mighty flood;
louder still and louder
praise the Precious Blood.

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