Blood and Water From His Side - St. John Chrysostom
Resources for Good Friday and Holy Week
The Blood and Water from His Side
St. John Chrysostom
Early Church Father and Doctor of the Church
This Good Friday reading is an excerpt from The Catecheses (Cat. 3, 13-19; SC 50, 174-177) by St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest Early Church Fathers of the 5th Century. It is used in the Roman Catholic Church's Office of Readings for Good Friday with the accompanying biblical reading from Hebrews 9: 11-28 and is a powerful meditation on the passion. But it also tells us much about the connection between the passion and the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist which flow from the paschal mystery and connect us to its saving power. Note the evidence for a very realistic interpretation of the Eucharist as truly Christ's blood in contrast to the mere figure or symbolic prefiguration of the blood of Christ represented by the Lamb's blood on the doorposts in the Exodus account.
If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”, commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.
“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.
St. John Chrysostom was a monk who was ordained a priest and ultimately, against his will, selected as Patriarch Archbishop of Constantinople. His call to repentance and moral reform won him the emnity of the nominally Christian Empress who got him deposed on trumped-up charges and exiled. But his preaching inspired the hearts of the people of Constantinople and won him the title "Chrysostom" meaning golden-mouthed. St. John Chysostom, who died under the harsh conditions of his exile in 407, will always be remembered as one of the greatest of the Early Church Fathers and one of the greatest preachers of all time. His beautiful but always practical bible teaching has earned him the title "Doctor of the Church." For an introduction to the Early Church Fathers, click here.
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This article is featured in the Passion of Christ, Early Church Fathers and the Easter Season sections of The Crossroads Initiative Library.
The Early Church Fathers
A society characterized by the loss of respect for life, violence, exotic religious cults, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and even pedophilia. Sound familiar? The Early Church Fathers succeeded in bringing a Pagan society to Christ to be washed clean by his saving blood. If we pay attention to what they taught, we will succeed in doing the same for our own de-Christianized society! Album 1: The Apostolic Fathers and Irenaeus; Album 2: The Apologists, Ambrose, and Augustine
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Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, host of EWTN’s Early Church Fathers TV series, continues to acquaint us with the colorful personalities of the earliest Christian teachers, making their dynamic message accessible, enjoyable, and relevant to the challenges of everyday life. This, the second volume of series, consists of shows produced in 2006 and covering fascinating personalities such as the courageous St. John Chrysostom, the outspoken bible scholar, Jerome, and 17 other heroes of the Early Church.
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