Don’t deny the chalice to the laity!

In a thought-provoking article on the Liturgy in the Irish Catholic, Fr. Eamon Conway posed a very important question: “Is there any excuse for not inviting everyone at Mass to receive Communion under both species?” Like him, I too am not convinced by all the excuses. More importantly, I believe the question itself raises some profound issues regarding our understanding of the Eucharist and it cries out for some in-depth catechesis in our churches on this central mystery of our faith.
In order to see what the bishops themselves have to say about this, check out the document written by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in 1998 titled One Bread One Body–a teaching document on the Eucharist in the life of the Church. Paragraphes 23-67 are especially enlightening. (Available on the internet) In par. 52 we read…”Catholics are encouraged to desire Communion under both kinds in which the meaning of the Eucharistic banquet is more fully signified.” This raises the troubling question: why have the bishops themselves not followed through on their own teaching for the past fourteen years? And how can Catholics be expected to desire something whose significance they do not appreciate or understand? How can priests and bishops pronounce the solemn words of the Consecration, “Take this all of you and drink from it” and then deny the Chalice to the laity? In par. 52, the bishops quote from St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century….”After partaking of Christ’s body, go to receive the chalice of his blood……” The document continues, “Receiving from the chalice expresses powerfully the sacrificial nature of the Mass. By taking part in the Eucharist we are drawn deeper into the new and everlasting covenant which was sealed with the blood of the Lamb. Our communion together in the blood of Christ is our communion with the sacrificial self-giving of Our Lord As we take the cup of salvation we say that we are ready to drink from the cup that he drank and to give ourselves in sacrificial love as servants of salvation.”
Fr. Gregory Collins OSB in his wonderful book,”Meeting Christ in His Mysteries” says this in relation to the chalice being denied to the laity: “If one can receive the total Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity through communion with the host alone—-so runs the objection—-then why be concerned with receiving the chalice? Apart from Christ’s original intention in instituting the mysteries, (i.e.’take this all of you and drink from it’) and of the almost universal prevalence of general communion from the chalice in the worship of the early church, such arguments completely miss the point. The liturgy is a sign-language made up of symbolic actions through which Christ manifests himself. It is not a matter of ‘more’ or ‘less.’ Rather it is about recognising the symbolic significance attached to the actions of eating and drinking and the richly symbolic meaning of the chalice as set forth in Holy Scripture.” (Page 329)
All of the above confirms for me what I deeply believe—that there can be no excuse for not inviting everyone at Mass to receive Communion under both species—not even the excuses of cost or logistics, which are very poor excuses, indeed. Please, don’t deny the chalice to the laity!

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  1. In the Fifteenth century Jan Hus, a theologian from Prague, taught that in Scripture, Jesus said unless you eat my body and drink my blood you will not be saved. He said thus the laity should receive under both species. Rome ruled the cup was for the priest.
    He also taught that there was no scriptural basis for purgatory and that it was invented as a means of raising money and selling indulgences. He said the catalyst for purgatory was simony.
    He also taught that the priest had nothing to do with transubstantiation but rather it occurred when a believer received the host and wine. It was the faith of the communicant that caused the change and if he didn’t believe it had changed then all he received was bread and wine.
    Hus was burned at the stake as a result of the Council of Constance which occurred a century before Luther.
    At Vatican II an impassioned Bishop spoke about Hus and impressed a fellow slav who when he became Pope John Paul II instructed Cardinal Ratzinger to investigate Galileo and Hus with a view toward rehabilitation. Galileo made it and Hus did not.
    You will find that many of Jesus’ admonitions have been ignored by the Church for whatever reason. In Matthew 23 Jesus tells us never to call anyone on earth Father because we have a Father in heaven. He referred to God as Father as you will note in the Our Father prayer which Jesus gave us. Yet despite His admonition, every cleric in the Church is called Father!!

  2. Peter Stobart says:

    Dear Rosaline,
    You have my 100% support on this. I haven’t yet read “One Bread one Body” but will certainly do so.
    Just a thought: has anyone queried the present situation (of only receiving on one kind) with their parish priest?
    Your Brother in Christ

  3. I sense some irony in those two posts Sean. I knew nothing of Jan Hus so read a little last night. The list of aplogoies from JPII in the first post. And some people think him an ‘anti pope’ apologising for evil. Though I don’t think him a great judge of character.
    Benedict speaks of Christians uniting against the forces of anti Christ inanity. We can list those too. Almost a sense of outnumbering. Now the power is not there – join forces. Like hierarchs in US aligning with those they might not otherwise, spending millions in their scapegoating exploits, involving themselves in politics as they seek to comabat other ‘evils’ they might, with the grace of God, apologise for one day too. Why aren’t they getting papal wrist spankings like the priests in South America who really were trying to fight evil.
    More faces than a Buncrana bunion.
    That human beings were murdered like that not that long ago is evidence this Church has a long way ahead of it and a lot of evolving to do.

  4. In our parish the Chalice has been offered at one of the Sunday Masses. Recently I have offered it at all of the weekday masses that I celebrate. Most have really appreciated being able to receive from the chalice.
    Most priests don’t offer the chalice, thinking that it takes too long and thinking that people want a quick Mass! It’s surprising how many priests pride themselves on how quickly they can celebrate mass. Most people really appreciate it when a little care and effort goes into the celebration of the week-morning masses.
    During week-morning masses that I celebrate, we have congregational music, a brief homily, prayer of the faithful, and communion under both species. Mass last just under 30 mins. By receiving under both species, communion time has become more reverent and prayer filled becuase we have to take our time. With a little planning and patience, communion under both species works out very well.
    It’s not really Bishops’ fault, at the end of the day it’s up to priests in their parishes to implement this. One can get tired of priests giving out about bishops on different issues when at the end of the day it’s up to priests in parishes to read the documents. gather lay people together and implement development and good practice. If the truth be told, the majority of priests are more awkward, stubborn and conservative than the bishops’ conference and that’s saying a lot!

  5. Having travelled widely in Britain and Ireland, I simply don’t understand our incoherent approach to the rception of Holy Communion under both kinds. However rather than simply waiting for the law of the Church and the will of the Holy Father to be implemented, I think it is something that we the lay faithful should ask of our parish priests/Bishops.
    But I fear the root of the problem in Ireland lies in a poor understanding of what the Eucharist is and what it’s reception is all about. I’m sure all of us have come across the “take the bread and leave” attitude which betrays a poor/non-existant understanding of Christ’s Real and objective presence in Holy Communion. [While Jan Hus shouldn’t have been burned, his theology was wrong and placed far to much emphasis on human action, with the believer effecting the change subjectively rather than God doing so objectively]
    I think we might need to start with widespread catechises of what communion is before (or at least at the same time as) introducing Holy Communion under both kinds. Or we might see a “take the bread and wine and leave” attitude rather than any realisation or real fruits of receiving Christ under both species.

  6. Peter Stobart says:

    Please forgive me if I am a bit slow of the mark, but I cannot see how much of what Kevin says relates to what Rosaline originally wrote.
    Can you enlighten me Kevin? Thank you!

  7. Catherine says:

    Heartiest congratulations Rosaline for raising this most important issue for us, the laity. I find your article speaks eloquently and expresses so well what many of us yearn for. I have often wondered how any priest can say at every Mass “take this, all of you. and drink from it”, and then deny it to the congration … it makes no sense to me.
    I am heartened by Patrick’s response and to hear what he is doing in his parish. Evidently where there’s a will there’s a way. All of this gives me renewed hope for our Irish Church.

  8. Rosaline,
    I read your prophetic article, “Don’t deny the Chalice to the Laity.” Thank you for pleading with Church Leadership to catechize the Laity in Liturgy. It saddened me to know that people are not instructed about the Treasure that is their right and privilege. You are speaking about the very Source and Center of our Christian Catholic Faith. May the Shepherds in today’s Church hear your prophetic plea as a call to action.

  9. It is very refreshing to read Patrick’s positive, inspirational contribution to this discussion. I love his account of how he celebrates daily Liturgy in his parish. (Lucky parishioners!) It speaks of a real reverence, not only for the Mystery of The Eucharist but also for the dignity of the people whom Christ invites to eat and drink at His table. It is enlightening to hear from a priest’s point of view what can be achieved “with a little care and effort” and that providing communion under both species is really up to the priests themselves without waiting for the bishops to pronounce on it again. After all, they have already done so in the 1998 document quoted in the original article. (It could only help, however, if they were to highlight it again!)
    I believe there is one sentence in Patrick’s reply that bears the fingerprint of The Holy Spirit, a kind of clarion call: “…At the end of the day it’s up to priests in parishes to read the documents, gather lay people together and implement development and good practice.” Along these lines, Mark Patrick Hederman, in his homily for Pentecost Sunday 2011, in relation to listening to the promptings of The Holy Spirit, says this: “Usually we don’t know the reason for a particular hunch until we have followed it; the reason is at the other side of our doing, staring us in the face.”
    I wish such “hunches” to all who are following this discussion, no matter which side of the altar they stand for the Liturgy. And I am hopeful that one day in the not-too-distant future we will look back at all those years in the Irish church when the Chalice was denied to the people of God and say, “What on earth were we thinking?”

  10. Soline Humbert says:

    I personally know a parish in the Dublin Diocese (2 churches) where the congregation partakes from the chalice at all Masses, Sunday and weekdays. If it is possible there, it is possible everywhere: where there is a will there is a way…but is there a will?

  11. Paul Walsh says:

    Surely the members of the Irish Episcopal Conference, having Liturgists at their behest, could themselves be educated as to the appropriateness of offering Communion under both species. Overseas, the parishes in which I ministered had communion also from the chalice at all Masses…and this for more than 20 years. Here in Ireland, my parishioners receive the chalice on weekdays, and seem delighted with the opportunity, and distressed when for whatever reason the chalice is not offered. This is surely one way of enabling our Irish Catholics to appreciate the riches of full participation in the Eucharistic liturgy.

  12. Sean (Derry) says:

    I personally know a parish where the priest administers the Host and leaves the Chalice on the altar, where he encourages those who wish to also receive the Precious Blood to go the Chalice and self-administer. This is clearly wrong.

  13. Catherine says:

    After reading Rosaline’s article and all of the responses, I believe the time has come for each member of the Association of Catholic Priests to listen to this call and take it on board in your parish.

  14. Sorry Peter for delay (No. 7). I don’t imagine or expect anything I write to be read here. It was, upon reflection, wholly irrelevant to the proposal on the laity sharing under both species.
    People should receive both species if they wish. I’d like to these days as faith grows.
    Not sure if that helps. Apologies again. God bless Peter.

  15. Peter Stobart says:

    Thank you, Kevin for your reply. It is good to see so many folk are of one mind on this!

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