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Take and Drink - 24th January 2016
Q. I am a member of a parish team which prepares children to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation. Our sessions are attended by families from many different countries and cultures and consequently a question has come up that I hope you might be able to assist me with. It is regarding people dipping the host into the consecrated wine at Communion which I believe is called intinction. We do not practise intinction in our parish, but is that an Australia wide rule or is it just local to our State? Do you know if it is practised in other countries? What is the official church view on the practice of intinction?
A. The document that guides the celebration of Mass is The General Instruction of the Roman Missal. It is found in the front of the Missal used by the priest at Mass and its content applies to the Catholic Church everywhere. There are a few minor differences from country to country but the matter of intinction is not one of those.
Paragraph 286 of the General Instruction explains the procedure for receiving the Precious Blood by taking the chalice and drinking from it.
The practice of taking the host and dipping it in the consecrated wine before consuming it is called intinction. Paragraph 287 of the General Instruction sets out how Communicants are given the Precious Blood by intinction:
“Each communicant, holding a communion-plate under the mouth, approaches the Priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The Priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says, ‘The Body and Blood of Christ’. The communicant replies ‘Amen’ and receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the Priest.”
It must be the priest who takes the host and dips it into the consecrated wine, not the communicant. This very complex procedure is simply too impractical for most parish Masses.
Receiving communion is always a gift from God and not something we take. We receive Communion; we do not take it. For this reason, liturgical law does not permit people to serve themselves communion. It is as inappropriate to dip the host into the chalice and take the Precious Blood as it would be to take a host from the plate.
When communicants practise intinction, germs are spread as hosts that have been handled are dipped into the cup from which others will drink. In addition, particles of wheat are introduced into the consecrated wine, creating a problem for those coeliacs who can receive the Body and Blood of Christ only from the cup.
It is important to remember that at every Mass, Christ invites us to “Take this, all of you, and eat it/drink from it”. Receiving Communion is the action of eating the bread and drinking the wine together at the Lord’s Table. Drinking from a common cup signifies our life together in Christ and our commitment to one another.
If a communicant dips the host in the precious Blood, there is nothing that a Communion Minister can or should do at the time. If many people are doing this, then the parish priest needs to inform parishioners about the correct procedure for receiving Communion.