Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A New Litany - The Red of Christ's Blood

Deep Were His Wounds, And Red ~ (William Johnson 1958)

FRANCIS, OUR NEW POPE IS STIRRING THINGS UP around the world. He's invited us to"flip the tortilla" which means to get things going, to look at the other side. So here's a new litany prayer at the end of July, the Month of the Precious Blood. But this prayer focuses just on the red of Christ's Blood. The fundamental insights about red come from some study of color symbology, heraldic, botanical and cultural appreciations and uses of red. I've even become aware of the psychology of color used by paint companies.

Early on in his papacy, Pope John Paul II was speaking with a group of pilgrims who, after reflecting with him on the condition of the world, asked simply, "What are we to do?" The pope answered at once, "Look East." He may have had in mind that we develop a new appreciation of the Orthodox and Oriental Churches. Or perhaps he meant for Westerners simply to learn how the Eastern mind sees things. So my investigation of the color red also reflects Asian appreciation and understandings. Then I have conjoined those color-insights with the spiritual gift Christians have in adoring the Blood of Christ. And so no one is left in confusion, after the Litany Prayer there are brief explanations which might help us to understand a little better.

Blood of Christ, full stop.
Blood of Christ, flooding our sinful districts.
Blood of Christ, consuming fire.
Blood of Christ, joy beyond excitation.
Blood of Christ, our recognition.
Blood of Christ, which wards off evil.
Blood of Christ, expander of minds.
Blood of Christ, our blooming.
Blood of Christ, fresh dynamism.
Blood of Christ, heaven's answer to our holocausts.
Blood of Christ, covering the nations.
Blood of Christ, reaching upwards.
Blood of Christ, our celebration.
Blood of Christ, our happiness.
Blood of Christ, promise of long life.
Blood of Christ, inviting creativity.
Blood of Christ, righteous anger.
Blood of Christ, desert flower.
Blood of Christ, calling to the bride.
Blood of Christ, our dawning.
Blood of Christ, heaven's victory.
Blood of Christ, our preference.
Blood of Christ, divine largess.
Blood of Christ, all beautiful.

Blood of Christ, full stop. Red is the western color of stop lights and stop signs. Christ's red blood that says, stop destroying the earth-paradise given to you. Stop falling back on war as the solution to problems. Stop killing your children. The red of Christ's Blood is also God's answer to our red-blushing, humanity's shame and embarrassment.

Blood of Christ, flooding our sinful districts. We speak of Red Light Districts which are areas of exploitation through pornography and prostitution. The Blood of Christ  in its fluidity seeps into these places of human degradation, manipulation, wealthy excess and advantage taking.

Blood of Christ, consuming fire. As primitives,  fire was likely one of our first experiences of the color red. Again, we consider Brother Roger's invitation: "Stay close to the fire which is Christ and eventually even the thorns of your life will burst into flame." A saint is one consumed with the fire of God's love. 
Blood of Christ, joy beyond excitation. Red signifies real joy contrasted with excitation. We don't seem to understand joy any more,  only being excited. We're overwhelmed with commercials to solve the problem of ED. Sad to say, these products are not used by old men nearly so much as by young men who are dis-empowered by overloading on pornography or who want to maximize their excitation with a combination of drugs. "I bring you news of great joy" the angel said to the shepherds of Christmas night. A joy more enduring than the excitation of a theme park ride or a test drive in a vehicle that crashes through the muddy wilderness! We can't imagine!

Blood of Christ, our recognition. Red is the color of recognition. Mother Teresa says  the greatest poverty of the first world countries is our loneliness. How many people have no one? The elderly sit in nursing home lobbies hoping  the next person to walk through the electric door will be someone who has come to visit them. "I have called you by name, you are mine," (Isaiah 43:1)God knows that I exist. God took a moment to create the idea of you, of me.

Blood of Christ, wards off evil. The devil is often depicted as the Red Man. But in Chinese culture, red wards off evil. We might invoke the Blood of Christ when we're up against it: the evil of so much killing, the evil of the world ignoring fundamental rights, the evil of hatred, the evil of power abuse, the evil of failing our children. 

Blood of Christ, expander of minds. A young teacher tells of meeting third grade students who can't name the planet we live on. There are Americans whose thought of the world stops at the edge of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The people of the Middle East say of Americans that we collect information for our news rooms but never ask "why?" On a transatlantic flight I was seated next to a 40-something year old woman from Texas who talked the entire crossing as if the Civil War was still being fought. Red signifies expansion.

Blood of Christ, our blooming. Our blooming signifies our becoming, our personal evolution, the awakening of our mental health. Jesus cures lots of people physically, but he understands that the closed minds of the religious officials was a greater problem. In psychology there is the term individuation which is: the process by which an individual in the course of his or her life is pressed to realize his innate capacities to the full and become what  she has it in her to become. That's blooming.

Blood of Christ, fresh dynamism. We're becoming a culture of zombies: over medicated, too much electricity in the atmosphere, music that's reduced to the bass line, staring at technology that we're no longer able to ponder a painting. We need to recover an inner dynamic, soul life -  instead of resorting to high energy drinks. Red is a dynamic color.

Blood of Christ, heaven's answer to our holocausts. Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, tells us of the day the Nazis gathered the community of men and hanged a twelve year old boy in front of them. A twelve year old boy is bar mitzvah age - the age of becoming an engaged and responsible Jew - the promise of the future. And so the attack upon the community that day was a psychological-spiritual one. Of course, we can understand the question: Where was God in that moment? Many people reject God because of God's seeming absence. Maybe to say that God is omnipotent means something different to God than it means to us. While the Jewish Holocaust is unique - there are other holocausts too: that of the genocides, the factory -like aborting of children. When Dresden was burned during the Second World War the fire was so great it formed one flame shooting up into the night sky. In Christ, God bleeds with us in the worst that can happen.

Blood of Christ, covering the nations. Recently a diocesan Catholic Newspaper featured a front page picture of the Virgin Mary looking heavenward, holding a crucifix and wrapped with an American flag worn as a shawl. This is silly. Sixty five nations claim Mary as their patroness. And seventy-seven nations have flags employing the color red. Sometimes these religious images are used in a pre-conscious way, as the circle of  twelve stars on the flag of  European Union. Long before this Euro flag was created the Virgin Mary was symbolized as wearing a crown of twelve stars. And while many nations employ the color red in their flags for a variety of reasons, it may indicate, in a pre-conscious way, that the earth is under the protective mantle of God's life-blood. Of course, these thoughts might be even bitterly rejected by some, but there you have it.

Blood of Christ, reaching upwards. Saint Paul writes to the young Christian community at Philippi, "My brothers and sisters, I need only add this. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and admirable." (Philippians 4:8) 

Blood of Christ, our celebration. The news is more often than not, bad news.  Young men valorize brute strength and crushing the other. But how enriched we'd be if we celebrated the best that's in us. If we celebrated the touch of God in transforming a life! Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche (the Ark), communities throughout the world of shared life with special needs persons. At the heart of the L'Arche communities is celebration: that someone got a job, that someone is new to the community, that someone is moving on, that someone has good news about his or her health, that someone achieved some particular and personal victory. That God is gently present and moving us along. Red invites celebration.

Blood of Christ, our happiness. In a school for young people who have lost their way, when asked, "What is it that you want?" the teenager will most often say, "I just want to be happy." Indeed! That's what the drugs, sex,  alcohol, high speeds and rebellion were all about - a futile, dead-end search for happiness. But real happiness is being at peace and comfortable in my own skin - okay with my self and other people and God. Red signifies human happiness.

Blood of Christ, promise of long life. The TV commercials are filled with promises that guarantee health and long life. Take these pills, see this physician, have this surgical endowment, drink this drink, work this machine. A far cry from "An apple a day..." Long life. Monks and nuns tend to live long lives. They live rightly, avoiding excess and lifestyle stupidity. But the long life Jesus promises is so long it's eternal. But eternal life doesn't start once the casket lid is closed and we're lowered into the grave. It starts now - living today "To the greater glory of God" the Jesuits say. In the East, red signifies a long life.

Blood of Christ, inviting creativity. When he visited Brazil for World Youth Day, the pope told the huge crowds, "Go home to your countries and make a mess." Make a mess!? When we were little children and we had paints and colored chalk and were invited to be creative, we often made a mess in doing so. The color red is the color of creativity That we would make a mess in creating  new ways of announcing God's rule, God's  presence among us, God's desire to love us into becoming new-persons. Red: the color of creativity. 

Blood of Christ, righteous anger. The color red is the color of anger. Do I ever share God's righteous anger? The few Spanish missionaries who were angry about the way the Natives were treated by the colonizers. The few righteous Gentiles who were angry about the way Hitler treated Jews, homosexuals, Poles, handicapped persons, priests. How about being angry about damage-control-lies told by people of power and influence?  But we should get beyond the anger of road rage and see the the red of Christ's Blood as an encouragement to share God's anger about the systems we've created here that degrade, ignore and abuse a lot of the people with whom we share life on this planet.

Blood of Christ, desert flower. We tend to think of the desert as a dead place. But in the spring the desert manifests itself as brilliantly alive with flowers. The picture accompanying the post today is of a small red flower that's broken up through the seemingly dead desert floor. God bringing to life what's dry and lifeless within us!

Blood of Christ, calling to the bride. The traditional color for a bride in the West is white. But in Asia, the color for a bride is red. In Christ, God espouses himself to us. God entering into the heart-to-heart committed relationship of husband and wife. God, bridegroom of the soul (which is feminine).

Blood of Christ, our dawning. There's red in the morning sky - albeit it a rosy, pinkish red. Our dawning. "Ah, it just dawned on me," we might say. We should  look to say that more often, instead of thinking we have to know it all already. When was the last time you heard someone say "You know, I"m sorry, you were right all along" When was the last time you had a new idea (a dawning) about God?

Blood of Christ, God's victory. In ancient Rome, returning victorious generals smeared their faces with red. Christ, the victor over sin and death! And red is the color of the three kinds of plague pustules, the others being black and  yellow. Christ, victor over our dis-ease. What is it that you name as your affliction? Invoke the Blood of Christ!

Blood of Christ, our preference. Red is one of the two colors most preferred by people. Can we imagine what the world would be like if that signified more than just our favorite lipstick or nail polish color. Red - our preference for heaven's truth, heaven's idea of goodness.

Blood of Christ, divine largess. Red signifies the wide and generous bestowal of God's gifts of life and grace. Grace is God sharing God's own energies that make us cooperators and co-creators with God. In the open heart and the bleeding wounds of Christ: head, hands, feet and side, there is God wringing out of himself God's compassion, kind mercy  and desire for our return.

Blood of Christ, all beautiful. The Russian word for red means beautiful. That we would be better detectors of the beauty of our planet. There is a whole other universe around us if we can stop to listen in. I was sitting with a young man recently at a picnic table under a great shade tree. Our conversation was animated, but in one moment we were both quiet and immediately aware that we were surrounded by bird song and that a gentle breeze was moving the willow branches above our heads. Invoke the red Blood of Christ: that we might begin to see each human person as beautiful - at least in what they may become by God's kind love and grace.


  1. This is all-magnificent Father!

  2. Wonderful prayer! To read the explanation of each line afterwards was like getting the Cliff notes to a famous poem. It suddenly all made sense. Red the color of blood. Red the color with many meanings. The Blood of Christ can remind us of them all.

  3. This does say it all. The blood that Christ shed for us is to be remembered in every facet of our lives. This litany is simple in structure yet so complex in its meaning for us. Thank you Father Morris for writing this and sharing it with us all.

  4. I wrote the other day to say I would be exploring the archives. I imagined that would be the end of my communication. But after reading through some of them, I am riveted. This "Red of Christ's Blood" is such a powerful Litany. I especially appreciate how you explain the symbolism of each line. I wouldn't get that on my own. Loving this a lot!

  5. I'm glad - especially when an old post is discovered by someone. God bless your summertime.

  6. This is an amazing Litany prayer, explaining your thoughts behind each line. So many shades of red and so many ways to apply their symbolism to the Blood of Christ. Thank you for directing us here. I pray to see the beauty in it all.

  7. I'm glad you found the Litany - what an opportunity for me!

  8. Pray, I plead Blood of Jesus; I cover myself, my family, and those that are important to me in the Blood.