THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT
By Mary Anne Cronican
At every Mass, at every second, the memorial of the New Covenant is celebrated bringing together in the actions and words of the priest, the joining of eternity with time—heaven with earth. It is the moment when we leave time and enter eternity united as witnesses to and sharing in the eternal Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. We are present at the moment of our redemption when heaven and earth embrace!
The bread is consecrated and becomes the Bread of Life. The wine is consecrated and becomes the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ our Savior.
It is impossible to fully grasp this reality and is understood only in the realm of faith.
Perhaps we can gain a somewhat deeper understanding and sense of gratitude for this awesome Sacrament of Love by examining it in relation the the OT and the relevance of the blood sacrifice offered by the Israelites and the fulfillment in the Sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary.
Blood to the Israelites of the OT was the life of the living being (Gn 9:4, DT 12:23). They believed it to be not only the life-giving element for both mankind and animals, but also considered it sacred and it was used in rites of worship. Atonement was possible only through the shedding of blood (Gn 9:6). In the sacrificial ritual of the OT, blood symbolically represents the life and blood of the victims (the one offering) offered to God, represented by the altar (Lv 5:1-5). The covenant between God and the Israelites was sealed with the blood of animals as we see in Exodus 19 and 24. The blood of the Passover lamb smeared on the doorposts protected the Israelites from the angel of death in Egypt (Ex 12:7, 13).
After God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses held a covenant ritual by slaughtering animals and spreading the blood of the victims (representing his own blood) on the altar, which represented God, and sprinkling it on the people, signifying that the covenant partners share a common life (Ex 24:6ff). This was done in atonement for the sins of the people and to seal the covenant with God. After the blood ceremony, they ate together (Ex 19:10).
The sacrificial significance of the blood of the Eucharist follows the ritual practices and formulae of the OT covenant sacrifice. The Blood of Jesus is poured out in atonement for sins and for purification and reconciliation. The difference is that the sacrifice of Jesus is not symbolic but is actually the sacrificial Blood of Jesus. The blood of animals cannot atone for sin (Hb 10:4). Only a perfect sacrifice could re-unite us with God and the only perfect sacrifice could be Jesus. The Blood of Jesus excels the blood of animals. It is only through blood that purification (justification) and remission of sin can be effected (Hb 9:20-22).
As the Mosaic Covenant was sealed with the blood of animals, a prefigurement of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Blood of Jesus sealed for all time the New Covenant, atoning for sin, and reconciling all of mankind with the Father.
At the precise hour that Jesus died on the cross on Calvary, the animals for the Passover celebration were being slaughtered. This is significant because it represents the ending of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New and Eternal Covenant in the Blood of Jesus.
It is also significant to note in Ex 19:10, that after the blood ritual they “ate and drank” analogous to our Eucharist where bread and wine are consecrated and we eat the Bread of Life and drink the Blood of Jesus.
Thus, the symbolic prefigurement of the OT came to fulfillment in the Sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary. Every time we enter Church to participate in the sacred Mysteries of our redemption--that unfathomable act of Love—we leave time and enter eternity and when the priest consecrates the bread and wine, eternity and time, heaven and earth unite at Calvary with all of heaven present!
Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.