Blood of Christ Be Our Salvation

Last week on Good Friday a few dear friends gathered with Jana and I at church to hold vigil through the night. We lit candles in the darkened sanctuary and kept watch as the hours of the night passed. At the top of each hour, to mark the passage of time, I set my phone to sound a tolling bell and we would listen to someone read a passage of Scripture. Not everyone stayed the whole night. But a few of us made it through to morning.

Pictured here are some of the candles along with the Christ the Bridegroom icon Ben brought to the vigil. A perfect icon for a Good Friday vigil:
Matthew 25.1-13
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.

But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’

And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 
To pray through the night I used a couple of different prayer books. I like Catholic prayer books during Passion Week because there are many Catholic prayers that focus upon the five wounds and blood of Jesus.

In the wee hours of the night I was praying through a litany of The Precious Blood of Jesus. A litany, if you don't know, is a series petitions echoing a repeated chorus. The litany I used is similar to this one I found online (which I've abridged a bit):
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy

Blood of Christ, only Son of the Father
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, incarnate Word
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, of the new and eternal covenant
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, that spilled to the ground
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, that flowed at the scourging
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, dripping from the thorns
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, shed on the cross
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, the price of our redemption
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, our only claim to pardon
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, our blessing cup
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, in which we are washed
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, torrent of mercy
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, that overcomes evil
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, strength of the martyrs
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, endurance of the saints
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, that makes the barren fruitful
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, protection of the threatened
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, comfort of the weary
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, solace of the mourner
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, hope of the repentant
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, consolation of the dying
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, our peace and refreshment
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, our pledge of life
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, by which we pass to glory
~be our salvation
Blood of Christ, most worthy of honor
~be our salvation

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
~have mercy on us
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
~have mercy on us
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
~grant us your peace
No doubt many readers will be a bit spooked, disturbed and freaked out by a litany meditating upon blood. I understand. But my impulses during Passion Week can be quite Catholic. There is a medieval monk deep in my soul and he likes to make an appearance during Passion Week. To be sure, there are problems with any theology when pushed to the extreme but, crazy as it may seem, I actually like to focus upon the Passion during Passion Week.

And it helps, of course, that I have well-worked out atonement theology that guides me in praying a Passion-related litany. When I think of the blood of Jesus I don't think about how blood satisfies the wrath of God. When I think of the blood of Jesus I think of love being poured out.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

After reading the litany of the Precious Blood I picked up my notebook and jotted down a few lines in the candlelight.
the litany of
the Precious Blood of Jesus
I pray
the insistent repetition
like a heartbeat
like a rhythm of breath
as vital and as necessary
reckoning the accumulating weight of sorrow
accounting each drop
collecting the pain
following the etching of crimson on wood, flesh and earth
tracing the rivulets of love

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6 thoughts on “Blood of Christ Be Our Salvation”

  1. This is very interesting. Some of the litanies in the Psalms (if it's alright to call them that) I find easy enough to dismiss/hard to adopt as not only assertions ("His love endures forever") but as untested or, even worse, disproven in my own experience of things (I mean, along the lines of the "where the gospel fails" language in the comments a few posts back).

    Jesus' death only recently takes on new meaning for me as 1) a triumph over the domination system; and 2) an outpouring of love, as you write here, rather than as "exclusively" a soaking up of wrath, as I used to view it. In short, some ways are appearing to view Jesus' sacrifice on the cross as the "good news" it is supposed to be, instead of yet another example of overwhelming wrath. My own life seemed to lack no evidence of wrath and power, God's and others', so, what was the cross to me?

    The perspective in this post proposes an unexpected and hopeful answer to that ingrained and despairing question. If I take the fact of Jesus' death, view the blood as an outpouring of love and, better yet, substitute "love poured out for me" for "blood of Christ" in the above litany, I begin to see how you could say, Richard, without platitude, that the repitions of heart beats and breaths, etc., have something literally and figuratively life-giving to impress on me.

    But your excellent verse is a step that is not quite authentic for me, or at least not yet. What is, and what has coursed through me like some new life this morning, is repeating "love poured out for me" over and over; reading in the verses all the comfort, hope, and strength that will accrue to me as I learn to accept such a view of the story.

    The idea that rather than proofs and repetitions of wrath, life is or can be full of repeated, insistent, expressions of love for me - thst the repetition of anything could even be helpful- I lose words trying to describe what this new idea does for me. Is that what I am supposed to have been hearing all this time? I dont even know what to say, which is just as well, as there is plenty I need to start trying to hear, over and over again, and also for the very first time, apparently. Thanks for this post.

  2. Richard, you said,"When I think of the blood of Jesus I think of love being poured out". Yes indeed! I am an "old time" liberal who has no problem at all with "the blood of Jesus". Human beings "bleed" within their souls, and we owe it to all to assure them that it is not in vain; that love blesses their bleeding, our bleeding, to be the healing and cleansing for the ones we touch.

    I know of many who have lost loved ones to untimely deaths, many facing disease and death themselves, or going through extreme mental anguish, who forgot themselves for a time to be poured out on others who lay beaten and confused by their own tragedies. For me, the cross and resurrection of Jesus cry out that God's eternal miracle has always been how our own souls, our own selves, save ourselves when pain embraces pain and we "bleed all over one another". And if we just stay awake and the give the day our attention, God will bring us face to face with the individual, as well as with the people, with whom we are to mingle our blood.

  3. If we must live in fear of being abandoned by God then surely a blood oath, the oldest and strongest of covenants we know, should be our greatest comfort that Jesus will return.

  4. Very often our minds run in similar directions. This is what I wrote late at night on Maundy Thursday as I was reflecting on the cross:

    Someday I will get the opportunity to take you out to lunch and have a long conversation with this blogger who has shaped my theology so much.

  5. A h yes the Gordian knot "the cursing and blessings of the Torah law", cursed Of God is everyone who hangs on the tree.
    stumble in one point you're guilty of all of it...James
    the blood is the life and the life is in the blood.Genesis for them Gentiles.(everyone but those born under the law)
    Galatians chapter 4 verse 3 & 4 Jesus was born under the law to redeem those under the law and Thus being cursed of God,ushered in the new covenant of promise by His faithfulness, rom.3:19-27
    these verses should not be taken as anythinG other thenother thAnChristological and becomes demeaning to take it as an anthropological interpretation.

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