The Blood of Christ is especially precious because it is Christ's own great ransom paid for the redemption of mankind.
The feast, celebrated in Spain in the 16th century, was later introduced to Italy by Saint Gaspar del Bufalo.
In the United States, the feast was assigned to the Friday after the fourth Sunday in Lent, by a decision of the Fourth Provincial Council of Baltimore (1840).
When Pope Pius IX went into exile at Gaeta in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1849), he had as his companion Father Giovanni Merlini, third superior general of the Fathers of the Most Precious Blood. After they had arrived at Gaeta, Don Merlini suggested that the pope make a vow to extend the feast of the Precious Blood to the entire Church, if he would again recover possession of the Papal States.
The Pope took the matter under consideration, but a few days later, on 30 June 1849, the day the French army conquered Rome and the insurgents of the Roman Republic capitulated, he sent his domestic prelate Joseph Stella to Father Merlini with the message: "The pope does not deem it expedient to bind himself by a vow; instead His Holiness is pleased to extend the feast immediately to all Christendom."
On 10 August of the same year, he officially included the feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on the first Sunday in July, the first Sunday after 30 June, the anniversary of the liberation of the city of Rome from the insurgents.
Pope Pius X assigned the date of 1 July to this feast.
In 1933, Pope Pius XI raised the feast to the rank 1st Class to mark the 1,900th anniversary of Jesus's death.
Novus Ordo Missae Calendar
The feast was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969, "because the Most Precious Blood of Christ the Redeemer is already venerated in the solemnities of the Passion, of Corpus Christi, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. But the Mass of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ is placed among the votive Masses".
Why a Feast of the Precious Blood of Jesus?
The sacred liturgy is very eloquent in its expression of the meaning of the Precious Blood.
Figures from the Old Testament: Announcement of the Blood of Christ
We have the offering of Cain and Abel; the sacrifice of Abel is pleasing to God, whereas that of Cain does not find favor. This opposition brings forth the crime of hatred, and the only solution Cain finds is in the murder of his brother. The parched earth soaks up the blood as it screams to Heaven for revenge. This prefigures the scene at Golgotha where the Blood of Christ cried to Heaven for the redemption of mankind.
During the exile in Egypt, when the Jewish people were oppressed, the great event of the Passover took place. A one-year-old lamb, by divine command, is slain; the blood is then sprinkled on the doorposts enabling the people within the home to escape the avenging angel. Houses thus reddened with blood are spared from the angel of death. The blood on the doorposts was a type of the Blood of Christ. Can the blood of an animal save a man? No, it cannot, but as a type of the Savior’s Blood, it most certainly can.
When the destroyer sees the threshold of a human heart marked with Christ’s Sacred Blood, he must pass by. And another soul is saved (Pius Parsch - Volume IV, page 225, The Year of Grace).
In the vision of the prophet Isaias, a man is seen treading upon the grapes. The prophet asks, “Why are your garments so red?” He replies, “The wine-press I have trodden alone because from the nations there is no one with Me.” The man trampling the grapes is our Divine Lord, His garments crimson by the Blood of the Redemption. In the holy Gospel, so many references are made to the shedding of His Blood, from the moment of the Circumcision to the sweating of Blood in the Agony in the Garden of Olives, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns and the Blood-spattered way to the Place of the Skull where Jesus was Crucified, and finally to the Piercing with the Lance.
We have the symbol of Adam and Eve. In the book of Genesis, God opens the side of Adam, removes a rib, and forms the body of Eve, infusing also the human soul. Eve becomes the mother of all the living. The Church in her wisdom goes beyond the mere event and in spirit beholds the Second Adam, the divine Christ. Asleep in death and from His open side on the Cross flows the Blood and water, symbols of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, symbols of blessed Mary the Second Eve, and the Church, the mother of all the living. Through the effusion of blood and water, Christ willed to redeem God’s many children and bring them to their eternal abode.
Life of Jesus
In this feast of Our Lord, the predominant image is one of blood offered in sacrifice. The separation of His Blood from His Body caused the separation of His human soul from His body, which brought about His death. He willed to die. In His own words, “I lay down My life for My sheep. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it again.” (John 10: 18)
Now the bloody death of Christ on the Cross is not an automatic redemption of the world, both crushed by and addicted to sin. It demands that we appropriate the merits won for us on the Cross; we are to cooperate voluntarily with the graces won by the shedding of Blood. At Mass the same identical Jesus Christ, now glorified, is present on the altar as He was present in His mortal humanity on the Cross. It is the same Jesus who continues, prolongs in the Mass what He did once and for all on Calvary, except that now in the Mass He is no longer mortal, capable of suffering in His physical person. On Calvary He was, by His own volition, capable of enduring pain, suffering unto death.
What He did then was to gain the blessings of our Redemption. What He does now in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is to apply these blessings to the constant spiritual needs of a sinful, even suffering humanity. In the Mass Jesus continues no less than on the Cross, to offer Himself to the Heavenly Father.
Now the highest form of honoring God is sacrifice. The Mass is a continuation of the Sacrifice of Christ, it is a re-presentation of Calvary. It is a sacrifice of praise and gratitude to the Eternal Father. But whereas on Calvary this sacrificial adoration was bloody, causing physical death by crucifixion, in the Mass the same Jesus is now sacrificing Himself in an unbloody manner because now He is glorified, immortal and incapable of suffering or dying in His own physical person.
The Mass is a true sacrifice because the same Jesus Christ who immolated Himself on Calvary now offers Himself on the altar. The priest is the same, the victim is the same and the end or purpose is the same identical purpose as on the Cross. The priest is the same Jesus Christ whose sacred Person the ordained priest represents and in whose Person he offers the sacrifice and that is why He says “This is My Body, this is the chalice of My Blood.” The victim is the same, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind in His human nature, with His true Body and Blood and His human free will, only the manner in which the sacrifice is offered is different.
On the Cross, it was a bloody sacrifice, in the Mass an unbloody one because of the glorified state of Jesus in Heaven. But the essence of the sacrifice is voluntary, the total offering of oneself to God. Christ makes this voluntary offering in every Mass, signified by the separate consecration of bread and wine transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of the Redeemer. The purpose is the same, to give glory to God, to thank Him, to obtain His mercy, and ask Him for our needs. The feast of the Precious Blood is in itself a recapitulation of the treatise of sacrifice in Eucharistic theology.
O God, Who by the Precious Blood of Thine Only Begotten Son hast redeemed the whole world, preserve in us the work of Thy mercy, so that, ever honoring the mystery of our salvation, we may merit to obtain its fruits. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, forever and ever. Amen.