Some of the changes in the new translation of the Mass seem like no change at all. For instance, whereas we once used the word, shed, we now say that Jesus’ blood will be “poured out for you.”
One simple reason this change is significant lies in the distinction it makes between an ordinary shedding of blood and the sufferings of Christ. To shed is to release in a temporary sense. A gash may cause us to shed our blood for a while, but Jesus wasn’t simply gashed in His Passion. He was deeply wounded. In John 19 it is recorded that while Jesus was on the cross, a solider
“thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water poured out.”
In the fourth century St. John Chrysostom taught that the Blood and water symbolized Baptism and the Eucharist. Christians begin discipleship by dying to their old selves in Baptism and reinforce that self denial by consuming the eternal outpouring of Christ’s self-denial in the Eucharist.
The expression “poured out” is also found throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the Book of the Prophet Joel God reveals that, “it shall come to pass — I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.”
For Christians, the entire Old Testament is filled with predictions of the coming of the Messiah. Here God says that He will send His Spirit upon humanity. The Hebrew word ruah is translated as spirit and it means breath, or wind. The prophet Joel anticipates that the Lord will breathe something new into His faithful people by pouring out Himself into those who will believe.
In the context of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper this means that Our Lord pours out His blood on the cross in order to pour into His people a new life, much like God poured out Himself into Adam and Eve when giving them the breath of life.
In Acts 17 St. Peter urges his fellow Jews to accept baptism and then worship around the altar each Sunday in order to receive and nurture this new life.
For subsequent generations of Christians, to pour out themselves is to labor for the Gospel so that the joy of its truth may spread to others.
In Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6, St. Paul says he is being “poured out as a libation” as he faces opposition, imprisonment, and the threat of death for preaching the Gospel.
In ancient rituals the pouring out of a liquid onto the ground was a sacrificial offering meant to show that, by worshipping, believers die to themselves and give God His portion.
Sts. Peter and Paul urge those to whom they preach the Gospel of Christ that they must pour out themselves in order to give God His due.
The words ‘poured out’ pack a heavy punch. They remind us that our Catholic-Christian witness in the world is a pouring out of self denial so that Christ may increase and we may decrease.
Laboring against the tide of hostility to Christianity in our world, or to our children who reject the Faith we have tried to give them is nothing other than a continuance of Christ’s outpouring on the cross.
It may give us a proverbial gash, but it puts us in excellent company.
Father BRYAN BABICK, SL.L., is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston.