Question: Why can we not receive the Eucharist by intinction? At one time it was permitted. Why has it been stopped, especially in this age of communicable diseases?
—Donald Pellegrino, Ocala, Fla.
Answer: Communion by intinction (where the host is dipped in the precious blood by the priest or minister and then given to the communicant) is still permitted. Hence, it would seem that the decision to end the practice is a decision rooted in your own parish.
Though permitted, intinction is not a very widespread practice in most parishes in America. There are likely several reasons for this.
When intinction is used, Communion cannot be received in the hand, which is an option some prefer. Thus it would seem that only some stations could have intinction. This then creates further complexities about who lines up where, and how options are explained at each Mass.
Further, the practice requires either special equipment, (paten with a small cup) or someone standing nearby with a chalice. The use of chin paten is required when intinction is used.
None of these complexities are impossible to overcome, and intinction can be, and still is, practiced in some places, but the complexities help to explain the rarity of the practice.
As for wanting a way other than a shared cup, please note you do receive the precious blood. For in the Host alone, even in the small fragment, there is contained the whole Christ: Body, Blood Soul and Divinity.
The common cup has reference to the fact that Christ shared his precious blood from a common cup. The concern for communicable disease is understandable, but not a definitive concern for most healthy people. The option always remains to refrain from partaking.
Question: Regarding Matthew 24, it would seem Jesus’ predictions on Jerusalem’s ruin were fulfilled. However, what of his descriptions of alterations in the sun, moon and stars? Where these fulfilled?
—Paul Forester, Clinton, Md.
Answer: Biblical scholars have differing opinions on what elements of the Mount Olivet discourse relate to the destruction of the Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and what might refer to the end of the world. Some details relate to the events of A.D. 70 — for example: wars, Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, etc. Even some other details such as earthquakes and famines occurred around at that time.
Other details may be references to the end of the world, (e.g., the sun and moon darkened, signs in the heavens and the Son of Man coming on the clouds), or they may also have occurred in A.D. 70. Josephus, an historian at that time, describes clouds of smoke as Jerusalem burned, which dimmed the sun and eclipsed the moon and stars.
A balanced approach would be to acknowledge that the signs had an historical reference, but also symbolically point to the end of the world, of which Jerusalem is a sign.
As for Christ “coming on the clouds,” it is a prophetic language describing judgment on ancient Israel for lack of faith. It is also clear that Jesus will come in judgment on this world as well.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C. and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.