On Thursday 1 July, the celebration of the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ presided by the Custody’s Vicar, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal, was held at the Basilica of the Agony at Gethsemane, just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The memory of the blood shed by Jesus was the object of worship from the very first centuries of the Christian era, but the historical roots of this celebration are to be sought in the stories on the life of Jesus. According to tradition, it was the soldier Longinus who pierced Jesus’s side with his lance to make sure that he was dead and, after converting, collected a jar of blood that flowed from the pierced side to then flee to Italy and stay in Mantua (Italy) in 37 AD, in the place where the St Andrew’s Basilica was later built.
In 804, after the discovery of the jar buried by Longinus next to his tomb, parts of the relic of the Most Precious Blood were taken to the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (France), the church of the Holy Cross in Guastalla (Italy), the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome (Italy) and the abbey of Weingarten (Germany).
Over the centuries, the feast day started to be celebrated in various places and this convinced Pope Pius X to fix the date of the feast day on July 1 in 1849. With the reform of the liturgical calendar in 1970, this feast day was replaced by the solemnity of Corpus Christi, in all the liturgical calendars except the Jerusalem one, which keeps the ritual linked to the place of Agony.
In his homily, the Custodial Vicar started by speaking of the Divine Blood of our Saviour. "Following the passages in the Bible, we see the blood as an important element of life,” Fr. Dobromir commented. "Several times, God orders not to shed blood, not to drink it and not to eat the flesh of animals that still contains traces of blood; because blood is life, blood is sacred (Deuteronomy 12,23)". Various places in the Holy Land, recalled the Vicar, are marked by the presence of Christ’s blood: Gethsemane and Calvary, in particular, are the two places par excellence to which the faithful look to meditate and translate the sacrifice of Christ concretely “into Christian life and relations with our brothers.”
"All of us are sinners who have been forgiven,” Fr. Jasztal emphasized, speaking of the forgiveness we obtain in the Precious Blood of Christ. "Those who have received the mercy of God are called to return love to God, applying limitless mercy towards their brothers because fraternal forgiveness is the consequence of the mercy and forgiveness of God, which we have received."
"Only by loving and forgiving can we continue our life as saved people and believers to be able to repeat in the end the confession of Paul to the Galatians: “I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” (Galatians 2,20-21)".
On this occasion, the stone inside the Gethsemane Basilica was covered in red rose petals by the Custodial Vicar, in memory of the agony and the blood shed by Jesus on Holy Thursday. At the end of the celebration, as tradition has it, the religious and the faithful present collected the petals to take them into the homes and continue the meditation on the celebration of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.