Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blood of Christ, inebriate me

THERE IS A LEGEND THAT WHEN GOD CREATED THE ROBIN, God made the bird gray, with no trace of red, yet called her Robin Redbreast. Long confounded, the bird returned to God one day and asked about the discrepancy. God reassured the bird that the name was correct but that the red breast would need to be earned. In time the little bird neared Jerusalem, building a nest where eggs hatched and chicks emerged. And in those days the timid gray bird witnessed a great crowd surrounding a man who was being taken outside the city to be crucified. The bird said: "This man is so beautiful and looks about with such mild glances that everyone ought to love him."

The bird flew in wide circles around the crucified man, and little by little gaining courage, she flew closer and closer to Jesus, observing the crown of thorns around his head. Then the bird drew so near it was able to pull a thorn from Jesus' brow. The blood spread quickly, flowing out and coloring the feathers of the gray bird's breast, whereupon she returned to her nest to announce the news to her brood. And no matter how often the bird bathed in water, the red color never vanished but even spread to her chicks. We should never laugh at these legends or dismiss them as naive; they are expressions of a different world that loved Jesus with great warmth.

Keeping with the ornithological-spiritual theme for a moment, there is another legend about the Blood of Christ. The sixth strophe of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Eucharistic Hymn, Adoro Te Devote (O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee ) says:

O loving Pelican! O Jesu Lord!
Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood:
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Can purge the entire world from all its guilt.

According to medieval legend, in a time of famine a mother pelican would self-sacrificingly draw blood from her own chest and give the blood to her chicks to sustain them. Of course the image symbolizes Christ as caring and life-protecting Mother.

Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) has left us a fine collection of devotional prayers in which he likens Jesus to a mother, mindful of Jesus' own use of that image recorded in Matthew 23:37-39. Saint Anselm writes in his prayer addressed to Jesus:

You have died more than they,
that they may labour to bear.
It is by your death that they have been born,
for if you had not been in labour,
you could not have borne death;
and if you had not died,
you would not have brought forth.
For longing to bear sons into life,
You tasted of death,
and by dying you begot them.
You did this in your own self,
your servants, by your commands and help.
You as the author, they as the ministers.
So you, Lord God, are the great mother.

Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion

Saint Anselm is praying that on the cross, Jesus suffered the pains of childbirth. Crucified, by labour pains and blood-letting, Jesus gave re-birth and life to the new humanity we see in the saints. A student of art wondered aloud if perhaps this maternity of Christ is depicted in Cimabue's crucifix, (1287-1288) in which the body of Jesus seems to bear the pregnancy from which will issue that new humanity.

Now the word inebriate refers to the Eucharistic Blood of Christ some Christians receive in the Mass of the Roman Church; the Divine Liturgy of the East.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who according to the will of the Father, through the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, by Your death gave life to the world: deliver me by this Your most holy Body and Blood from all my transgressions and from all evils; make me always adhere to Your commandments and never suffer me to be separated from You; who with the same God the Father and the Holy Spirit live and reign, God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Priest's Prayer Before Receiving Holy Communion)

In our own time, translations of inebria tend to: fill all my veins or fill me up. But clearly we see in the Latin our own English word inebriate - a much stronger choice. Inebriate or inebriated is a negative word meaning drunk or intoxicated. But here it poetically suggests that in the Eucharistic Blood of Christ, I would be knocked off my feet by Christ; wonderfully beside myself in Christ; opened up, saturated with Christ. Seen this way it expresses a very beautiful and intimate desire: asking for a fullness of Christ which is more than I can handle!


  1. Thank you for taking the time to write this very informative article.

    God bless.

  2. Beautiful writings.It feels like we are sitting at Mass... Such a beautiful feeling... Thank You...

    The Whelan's

  3. Dear Father,

    I am so glad to have come across your bog. What a joy to read. I hope you continue to enrich us with your wisdom and inspirational words.