Question: In many parishes throughout the United States, holy Communion is given not only under the form of bread, but also from the chalice. Did the Second Vatican Council approve this practice? Some people seem to drink from the chalice very casually, and I am afraid this could be an abuse. Please comment.
— R. M., city withheld, Texas
Answer: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) from Vatican II states: “The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, Communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See” (No. 55). While the council envisaged only a limited use of participation in Communion from the cup, subsequent documents approved a wider usage, so that in the United States Communion from the cup is now possible at many weekday and Sunday Masses.
The 2003 Vatican General Instruction of the Roman Missal states the rationale for giving Communion from the cup when it says: “Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is distributed under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clear expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the relationship between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological [heavenly] banquet in the Father’s Kingdom” (No. 281).
In stipulating the use of the chalice, the Church has always been careful to ensure the understanding that Christ is received fully and completely either under the form of bread or under the form of wine. Those who do not receive from the chalice are not lacking in the full reception of the eucharistic Christ. Nevertheless, the Church encourages drinking from the cup in order to bring out the full meaning of the Eucharist. Clearly, then, the reception of Communion from the chalice is not an abuse; far from it: It is a positive and noble sign.
You say that “some people seem to drink from the chalice very casually.” I have to say that this is not my experience. In all the parishes and institutions in which I have served, the chalice has been given to the people at every Mass (except school Masses, in which the children do not handle the chalice very well). Not everyone in the congregation receives from the chalice, but I find that those who do receive from the chalice approach the matter with notable devotion and seriousness.
New Mass changes
Question: Some of my older friends in the parish say that they are afraid they will not recognize the Mass when the new changes are introduced next year. Do you think this is a legitimate concern?
— Name and address withheld
Answer: I can assure you that there is no cause for concern. The rubrics (actions) of the Mass will not change. What will change are the translations and some of the people’s responses. While pastors and catechists need to prepare their people for the changes, there exists the danger of over preparation, which will result in an exaggerated fear of the new translations. I believe (or hope) that within six months, Catholic congregations will feel thoroughly at home with the new translations and responses.
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.