The Mystical and Life-giving Side of Christ
There is an ancient, pre-Christian legend about the pelican that goes as follows:
The pelican sets its nest in high and hard-to-reach places. When it goes in search of food for its chicks, predators seek to invade the unprotected dwelling and devour the young. Sometimes venomous snakes find their way to the hapless chicks and sink their poisonous fangs into the unsuspecting younglings.
When the parent returns, it finds its offspring in an almost paralyzed state, dying. But then it does something amazing. The pelican takes its own sword-like beak and starts driving the sharp tip into its own side until blood begins to come forth. It then gives its own blood to the half-dead chicks and the blood serves as an antidote to the snake’s venom. By partaking of their parent’s blood, the offspring are revived and come to life again.
This legend has inspired our own sacred poets to compose the following hymn, one of the hundreds of Lamentations written for the Holy Friday night service:
Like a pelican, being wounded in Your side, O Word, You granted life to Your dying children by transfusing Your life-giving blood to them.
You see, brothers and sisters, the legend of the pelican is quite an amazing icon of what our Lord has done for us. The connection is strikingly clear:
Like the young chicks bitten by venomous snakes, humanity has been wounded by the devil’s poison of sin and found itself anaesthetized and dying. And like the pelican that wounds itself in the side for its offspring and feeds them its blood to save them, so our Lord was pierced in His immaculate side with a spear in order for His life-giving blood to pour forth healing and salvation on His dying children.
Another hymn from this coming week speaks to this: “The Cross was fixed in Calvary and blossomed forth immortality for us from the ever-flowing fountain that is the side of the Savior.” And St. Ignatius of Antioch called the Body and Blood of Christ “the medicine of immortality and the antidote for death.”
Meditating on these mysteries, brethren, let us give great thanks to our God for the holy and life-giving Sacraments that unite us to Christ, and let us adore the most precious wounds of our Lord, especially the mystical and life-giving side of our sweet Jesus Christ, Who was pierced for us and for our salvation.