Here is round four of Q & A’s related to the Eucharist. If you didn’t catch the previous ones, check out my previous blog entries. This week, there is only one question since the answer is more involved.
Question: “When did the laity first start receiving from the chalice?”
Answer: Here’s a brief history. The Liturgy in its earliest form always had both species offered to those present up to the late 11th and early 12th centuries. Due to practical and prudential judgement in view of cost, logistics, availability, the age of recipients, and especially the potential of spillage, etc. the offering of the chalice fell out of custom. Afterwards, it gradually became reserved for the priest himself since it was essential for the sacrificial nature of the Mass, though not necessary for others to receive both species since reception of either is reception of Christ’s true presence (Body and Blood). It eventually became the universal practice and even declared church law. In the Council of Trent (1570), it was explicitly forbidden to be given out to anyone other than a priest. In 1963, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council allowed a reintroduction of the Precious Blood to the faithful (see the document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 55), and in 1970, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship allowed the bishops’ conferences to discern its use and practice. Already by that time it had been permitted for a bride and groom at a nuptial Mass or at a Mass for the reception of converts to the Faith. In 1984, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), decided to give the decision to the bishop of each diocese. So, some dioceses allowed it where others did not. Here in the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, it has been allowed and is offered at most parishes. Be mindful, however, that in churches or dioceses where the chalice is not being offered, it is not a violation of anyone’s rights, faith practice, or even of what Christ instituted at the Last Supper since we do receive Him in each individual species. You might remember a few years back when our Archbishop asked us not to offer the chalice due to the outbreak of the H1N1 virus. The may be times when such a health situation, again, may warrant such a decision. In developing countries, offering the chalice is impossible due to sheer cost. We can afford offering the Precious Blood, therefore we do. It has been profitable for our faith, and we are grateful for its allowance. For some, as already described in last week’s Q & A, who struggle with alcoholism, they may very well refrain from receiving from the chalice, yet still receive Christ’s true presence in the host.
Hope this helps. Next week’s question: “When we receive only the host, should I bow when I pass the minister with the chalice?” Do you think you could answer this one? Return next week and find out.
Fr. William Holtzinger