Wine glass instead of a golden chalice
OAKLAND, New Jersey – I was surprised to see here last Sunday the priest raising a simple wine glass instead of the usual golden chalice after using it in the consecration, the high point in the mass when bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ.
The sight was also an awakening for this Católico serrado, who as a sacristan of yore did not dare touch with bare hands the chalice where grape wine was transubstantiated into Christ’s blood as in the Last Supper.
To carry the chalice, the sinner that I was (still am) made sure that the linen was wrapped around the stem so the hands never touched it or left fingerprints.
Puede naman palang simple goblet lang, I caught myself musing, recalling how new priests – at least a few of those whom I know — looked forward to having their own gilded chalices that friends and family often gifted them with upon their ordination.
I have been under the impression that since Christ Himself is in the chalice, the cup must be made of the most precious material, possibly of the purest gold. It never occurred to me to ask if Jesus, born in a lowly manger, expected or desired such ostentation or regal handling.
After mass at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish here in Oakland, I waited at the sacristy door for Rev. John Cryan, the weekend associate who was the celebrant that morning, to ask for enlightenment.
Is the use of a wine glass instead of a golden chalice allowed by Church rules? The bearded priest said Yes. I pursued the point: What are the criteria for the cup or the vessel? That it be with dignity, he said. (Btw, his goblet carried the well-known Irish brand “Waterford.”)
Rev. Thomas Paul Lipnicki, the pastor who always chatted with parishioners at the main door after mass (most priests in the Philippines do not do this), added that the cup be not porous or absorbent. This means a paper cup or a clay vessel cannot be used for consecrating the wine.
Father John was glad to know I come from da Pilipins, a detail he probably sensed even before I told him, because of my giveaway accent. He said he has been to our country a number of times, particularly to Roxas City.
I was tempted to ask if he had been to action-packed Marawi City also, but held back as that might prolong the conversation. My son Peter and his wife Minnie (née Minerva Morales) were waiting in the parking lot with their kids Athena, 15, Apollo, 13, and Iris, 8. (I was visiting.)
• Which is better — gold or glass cup?
ON OUR drive home, I wondered why priests and bishops in the Philippines did not settle for simple wine glasses like Father John.
Aside from cutting costs, use of glassware in a Eucharistic celebration would project Christ-like simplicity and humility. Would Christ’s blood become more divine or extra-redemptive if contained in an expensive chalice richly lined with pure gold?
A bonus of simplicity would be that church paraphernalia made of glass might be less enticing to thieves who do not respect consecrated premises. The drawback of glass, however, is that it breaks or cracks more easily.
We assume that certain Church practices and policies are dictated by the local or regional context. The conference of bishops in Father John’s area may have seen no cultural conflict with wine glasses being used in the consecration as long as they exude dignity or nobility.
Besides, since God has assigned Filipinos to a land where gold nuggets sometimes break loose from mountainsides and gold dust flows freely in some streams, it may look logical to put all that aurum (Au) to good use in churches – a point the Spanish colonizers did not fail to see.
That is, of course, mostly speculative. More authoritative is the General Instruction of the Roman Missal which says:
“Vessels should be made from materials that are solid and that in the particular region are regarded as noble. The conference of bishops will be the judge in this matter. But preference is to be given to materials that do not break easily or become unstable.
“Chalices and other vessels that serve as receptacles for the blood of the Lord are to have a cup of nonabsorbent material. The base may be of any other solid and worthy material.
“Vessels made from metal should ordinarily be gilded on the inside if the metal is one that rusts; gilding is not necessary if the metal is more precious than gold and does not rust.
“The artist may fashion the sacred vessels in a shape that is in keeping with the culture of each region, provided each type of vessel is suited to the intended liturgical use.”
From Inaestimabile donum (Instruction concerning worship of The Eucharistic Mystery), n. 16:
“Particular respect and care are due to the sacred vessels, both the chalice and paten for the celebration of the Eucharist, and the ciboria for the Communion of the faithful. The form of the vessels must be appropriate for the liturgical use for which they are meant. The material must be noble, durable and in every case adapted to sacred use. In this sphere judgment belongs to the Episcopal Conference of the individual regions.”