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Drinking from the Chalice
TAKE AND DRINK
In some parishes it has become common for people to dip the consecrated bread in the wine instead of drinking from the cup at communion.
This practice, which is called intinction, is not one which should be encouraged. Some people may wish to use it for reasons of hygiene. The health issue is being monitored very carefully and at this point there does not seem to be any compelling reason to change our practice of drinking from the cup. In fact more germs may be spread by communicants dipping bread into the common cup.
Precautions should, of course, be taken: enough wine should be consecrated for people to take a proper sip; there should be sufficient cups to avoid too many people drinking from the same cup; those who are ill should refrain from taking the cup; the minister should wipe the rim inside and out firmly with a clean cloth and rotate the cup slightly between communicants; the cups should be washed in hot water after each Mass; cups should be made of metal or solid glass rather than wood or pottery.
But, why not play it safe? Why is drinking from the cup so important? It has to do with the sacramental sign. These signs open up the mysterious and wonderful action of God in our midst. That is why we want to make our signs strong – so that they will bear the weight of the mystery they contain. And this is why we are invited to share communion under both kinds in the first place.
The General Instruction states that: “Holy Communion has a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds. For in this manner of reception a fuller light shines on the sign of the Eucharist banquet.” Now the eucharistic sign is not just the bread and the wine. The sign is eating the bread and drinking the wine together at the Lord’s Table. With intinction, as with communion in the form of bread alone, the eucharistic sign is weakened.
Finally, the liturgical laws make intinction impossible today. While intinction is one of several methods allowed by the Missal, it presumes that the minister dips the bread into the wine and places it into the communicant’s mouth. When people were allowed to choose communion in the hand, it was explicitly stated that “it is never permitted to place on the hand of the communicant the Host that has been dipped in the Lord’s Blood”. Communion in the hand therefore effectively precludes intinction as a way of receiving communion.
No provision is made for people to serve themselves communion. Receiving communion is not an individual, private affair. The tradition has always been to receive, not to take, communion.
Drinking from the common cup is a powerful sign of our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ as we respond to the invitation of Jesus: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it.”