As tradition has it in the Holy Land, on Wednesday 1st July, the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ was celebrated at the Basilica of the Agony in Gethsemane, just outside the walls of Jerusalem.
The celebration started with the scattering of red rose petals on the stone under the altar of the Basilica. It was the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, who presided the Eucharist and introduced the celebration with this gesture, in memory of the agony and the bloodshed by Jesus on Holy Thursday on the very same rock.
Following an ancient pre-Conciliar tradition, the celebration was fixed on the first of July in 1849 by Pope Pius X as a consequence of the spread of the devotion by Catholics all over the world. With the reform of the liturgical calendar in 1970, this feast day was replaced by the solemn feast of Corpus Christi in all the liturgical calendars except in the Jerusalem one, which keeps the ritual linked to the place of the Agony.
In his commentary on the Gospel, the Custos dwelled on three words: Commemorate, celebrate and receive.
The act of commemorating is linked to the memory of the gift of his life that Jesus makes to all of us. "The blood of Jesus, his life that he gave, is what transforms our life," Fr. Patton underlined."It is what makes the real and full liberation of each one of us and of the whole of humanity."
Celebrating is the act thanks to which memory becomes the present and becomes effective and allows the faithful to be materially present at the Easter supper, at the sacrifice of the cross and the resurrection which overcomes death.
The last word to which Fr. Patton gave his attention was receiving, recalling that at the moment of consecration it is Jesus himself who says “Take and drink it all; this is the cup of my Blood for the new and eternal alliance, poured for you and for all those in remission of sins.” "Today, therefore, in this place which is so significant, we commemorate, celebrate and receive with faith the gift of the most precious blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” concluded the Custos of the Holy Land. "It is a gift that fuels our earthly life and makes us capable of following in the footsteps of Jesus, but it is also a gift that already projects us into eternal life and allows us to anticipate “the pledge of future glory.”
At the end of the celebration, as per tradition, the religious and the few faithful presents collected the rose petals from the rock of the Agony: a small gesture to take home a piece of today’s celebration.