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!