Preparation of Chalices for Holy Communion Under Both Kinds

  1. Why did the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments revise the USCCB Norms in regard to the pouring of the Precious Blood at the time of the Lamb of God from a flagon into chalices for distribution (See BCL Newsletter, July, 2004)?

    On March 22, 2002, the USCCB approved Norms which provided for the pouring of the Precious Blood during the singing of the Lamb of God into chalices for distribution to the faithful. These norms were confirmed by the Holy See on March 22, 2002. On March 25, 2004, the Congregation published an instruction under the title, Redemptionis Sacramentum [RS], which prescribed that “the pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to the detriment of so great a mystery. Never to be used for containing the Blood of the Lord are flagons, bowls, or other vessels that are not fully in accord with the established norms” (RS, no. 106). On April 27, 2004 Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, wrote to Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation, noting the discrepancy between Redemptionis Sacramentum and the USCCB Norms in regard to pouring the Precious Blood and the use of flagons. Cardinal Arinze responded on May 6, 2004 (Prot n. 660/04/L) with a letter modifying the Congregation’s “original confirmation in regard to numbers 36 and 37 of these Norms” and including an emended text of the USCCB Norms which eliminates both the pouring of the Precious Blood and the use of flagons.

  2. Does the Congregation have the authority to change particular law in this regard?

    On August 2, 2004, Cardinal George wrote to Cardinal Arinze once again, noting that several Bishops “have questioned the competence of the Congregation to revise its
    recognitio of norms approved and confirmed on a prior occasion.” On August 4, 2004, Cardinal Arinze responded (Prot. n. 660/04/L) to Cardinal George’s letter, observing that while “a provision of complementary legislation, once granted recognitio, may not simply be revised…,” it must be borne in mind that: (1) “an Instruction may develop the manner in which a law is to be put into effect (cf. can. 34 §1)...” and (2) “the effect of Redemptionis Sacramentum, nos.105-106 was to render inoperative certain elements contained in nos. 36-37 of the Norms since a presumption upon which the complementary norm has been based could no longer be maintained as being in accord with the ius commune.” Therefore, “the Congregation has attempted to supply a formulation according to which the existing legislation could be implemented in the light of the new Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, maintaining insofar as possible the evident intentions of the Bishops in a way which would conform with the general norm of law.”

  3. Is the prohibition against pouring the Precious Blood likely to change?

    No. Even if the USCCB wished to reassert the USCCB Norms to permit the use of flagons, the action must be confirmed by the Congregation, which is empowered to change any decision of a Conference of Bishops, even substantially, in order to bring it into conformity with Redemptionis Sacramentum.

  4. Isn’t the practice of pouring the Precious Blood from a flagon during the Lamb of God the practice of the ancient Church?

    There is no precedent for the consecration of the Precious Blood in a flagon before the expansion of the faculty for distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds in our own day. Nor is there any precedent for pouring of the Precious Blood during the Breaking of the Bread. The Congregation’s prohibition of pouring and the use of the flagon, as cited in Redemptionis Sacramentum, seems, at least in part, to be based on the lack of precedent in the Roman Rite for the consecration of wine in any vessel other than a chalice.

  5. How was Holy Communion under both kinds distributed in time past in the Roman Rite?

    Widespread evidence of the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds to the faithful dates at least from the time of Hippolytus and continues into the twelfth century. From the seventh century, the Roman ordines describe a practice whereby at the time of the distribution of Holy Communion (but not during the fractio) a small amount of wine from the main chalice (calix sanctus) was poured into a chalice of unconsecrated wine (calix ministerialis) held by the deacon. The admixture of the Precious Blood and unconsecrated wine in the chalice for distribution was called the sanguis Dominicus, though there is disagreement in the liturgical tradition as to whether the mixed substance was to be considered the Precious Blood in a strict sense.

    In some instances, especially at Rome, there is evidence of the consecration of wine in several chalices, some of which were used for distribution to the faithful. This practice was, however, not as popular as the distribution of wine with a small amount of the Precious Blood mixed in.

    There are many other differences between the present ritual of the Roman Rite for distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds and the customary, earlier practices of the Church, including, for example, the use of a tube or reed, various forms of intinction, and the use of large chalices for distribution, some of which held a capacity for close to two liters of wine.

  6. But aren’t there patristic and other texts which refer to the pouring out of the Precious Blood at the Lamb of God which are analogous to references about the fractio of the consecrated bread?

    While there are numerous and rich biblical, liturgical and patristic texts which speak of the Blood of Christ poured out for us, none are applied to the liturgical action at the fractio, or to the pouring of the Precious Blood as a preparation for Communion. Each reference to the Blood of Christ poured out for us is to his blood shed for our redemption on Calvary, or to the Precious Blood in and of itself, but not as a part of a pouring rite analogous to the fractio.

  7. If a flagon is not used, what is the best way to accomplish the preparation of a sufficient number of chalices for distribution?

    Two models seem to have emerged in the preparation of multiple chalices at the Preparation of the Gifts, each of which is fully in conformity with the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America (2001).

    In the first model, chalices are prepared after the presentation of the gifts in the usual manner (see GIRM, nos. 142, 178). If there are a large number of chalices, care should be taken that they are not filled in haste. In the second model, particularly appropriate at larger celebrations, the chalices for distribution may be filled before the celebration begins and kept on a side table (see GIRM, no. 73). The prepared chalices may then be brought to the altar after the gifts have been received. However, care should be taken that the wine not be spilled as the chalices are taken to the altar. Likewise, when there is a danger that insects, dust, or other elements might contaminate the wine in the prepared chalices, they should be covered with a pall or another suitable cloth.

  8. Can flagons be used in another way at Mass?

    Flagons may quite appropriately be used to bring forward the wine at the Presentation the Gifts.