The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

The cup comes back

posted by jmcgee

After weeks of anxiety about the swine flu, at least one U.S. diocese will be bringing back the communion chalice.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

Last fall, it was a sign of the season – the flu season, that is. Area Roman Catholic churches stopped offering communion wine from the common cup during Mass for fear of spreading the H1N1 virus.

Although public health officials say flu season isn’t over, the suspension will end Jan. 10, Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese announced Thursday.

In a written statement, D’Arcy said he consulted with other Indiana bishops, diocesan vicars, a panel of advisers known as the College of Consultors and “particular health officials” whom he did not name in making the move.

“There was a general, though not unanimous, consensus that it is time to consider the lifting of suspension of communion from the cup,” he said. “Taking everything into account, the suspension is lifted effective on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord,” Jan. 10.

Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan said H1N1 activity in the area has waned from its peak in mid-October to early November.

Far as I know, my diocese hasn’t lifted the ban, and will keep it in effect until April.  

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted January 1, 2010 at 10:37 am

We never had a ban here in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. As a liturgical coordinator and EM I can tell you that there was no rhyme or reason about the cup these past few months.
Each week I would watch in amazement as sometimes we had so much precious blood left over and other weeks I would watch in equal amazement as chalices were dry long before the lines were done.
I say why ban this… people can, and do – choose for themselves.
In July I went to mass in suburban Philadelphia and at the beginning of mass an announcement was made that basically said that the cup was not in use and that there was to be no touching of anyone during the peace ritual or hand holding during the Our Father. That really upset me because it was clear that even families were not to touch.
We must be safe and practice good hygiene but… It was during the height of the H1N1 mania in the fall that we had a visiting priest from Haiti. He spoke about how people live in garbage dumps, fighting dogs, birds and other people, for a filthy scrap of food.
It did make me ponder the reality of those on the fringes and those of us with the luxury of purell and so forth. Anyway, maybe that is just me. I was reminded of St. Francis’ embrace of the leper and so much more.

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posted January 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

In the Diocese of Richmond reception of the Blood of Christ was never stopped. People were cautioned not to receive from the cup if they were not feeling well or if they were concerned about danger to their own health. The number receiving from the cup during this period was reduced but is almost back to the numbers before the flu outbreak. Hand sanitizers were made available for all liturgical ministers and instructions were provided on the sign of peace and Our Father:
In lieu of a handshake at the Sign of Peace at Mass, people may smile or make a small bow of the head to others as a sign of reverence.
In lieu of holding hands at the Lord’s Prayer, people may pray with hands folded, or extended or raised in the traditional posture known as the orans gesture.

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posted January 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Deacon Kendra:
The Anglican Diocese of Edmonton never stopped using the common cup.
One other practice we took up was to allow communicants to receive the Body only, if they so wish. On the other hand, we did discontinue the practice of intinction (dipping the Body into the Blood); unless this is done in exactly the correct manner, there is a real danger that the Blood itself may become contaminated with disease-causing micro-organisms.
I wonder if the old Catholic practice of _requiring_ communicants to receive only the Body was a response to a highly contagious disease of the past, such as the Black Death. If yes, it would be important for all Christians to know this: such knowledge would encourage many Protestants to seek peace with their Catholic brethren on one of the topics that (at first) seemed central to the Reformation.

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Deacon Alexander Breviario

posted January 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm

YES, it is an interesting dilemma for the Church to consider… I agree that we must be vigilant in ALL circumstances where health and well being are involved which dictates the necessity to practice good hygiene, but there have been many parishioners after mass who have approached me these past few months to voice their concern that it WAS the “Blood of Christ” that was being received and not just wine. Their question was whether or not the Church truly believed in the presence of Christ in the Precious Blood and if the ban of the communal chalice was in fact watering down this belief that few these days seem to understand… I must say it gave me cause to consider the thought, and while I was quick to defend the Bishop’s decision, it did make me wonder if we were in fact creating more confusion and division in the ranks…
I would agree that continuing the practice of the communal chalice at the discretion of all who want to receive is probably viable alternative, but I would also suggest that the necessary catechesis should also be provided…
Regardless of the approach taken, the one thing I have learned is that you can never please everyone. This is just one of those dilemmas we will have to accept…

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posted January 2, 2010 at 5:03 am

I am a Greek Orthodox but I follow intensively the catholic blogs and appreciate very much what they are doing for the glory of our Lord.This dicussion however of the dangers of the flu through the communion of Christ’s blood and flesh is very strange to us since it shows a lack of faith.This faith has been always upheld by all the Orthodox Churchs in all ages and there have never been known cases of anybody getting sick from the holy communion.And in our church the communion is received from a common chalice with a spoon,and then the priest receives all that remains in the chalice.So why should Catholic Bishops who are responsible for upholding the true faith sow desbelief?Why are they allowed ?

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posted January 2, 2010 at 5:58 am

Douglas MacNeill asks if the if the old Catholic practice of requiring communicants to receive only the Body was a response to a highly contagious disease of the past. MacNeil is spot on with this supposition. The stoppage of the cup was caused by health conditions.

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posted January 2, 2010 at 5:58 am

Douglas MacNeill asks if the if the old Catholic practice of requiring communicants to receive only the Body was a response to a highly contagious disease of the past. MacNeil is spot on with this supposition. The stoppage of the cup was caused by health conditions.

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Deacon Alexander Breviario

posted January 2, 2010 at 7:22 am

You make an interesting point. As part of my diaconate formation process, I recall attending an Orthodox Eastern rite church that was in communion with the Catholic Church, or versa visa depending on your perspective, and participating in the celebration of mass that involved receiving Holy Communion as you described. I recall the Deacon at the mass having a very active part in the celebration of the mass and he was quite busy to say the least. I also noticed when receiving Holy Communion that the priest was very skilled in his ability to distribute Holy Communion (Eucharist and Precious Blood) with the spoon with great precision and reverence, making sure that no physical contact was made with my person. Could this possibly be why your point is spot on?
In the Catholic rite that I practice as a Roman Catholic Deacon, the communal chalice is truly communal meaning each person that comes to receive the Precious Blood takes the chalice places it to their lips drinks and receives from the cup directly. In the Orthodox rite you described, and that which I experienced firsthand, the spoon or the chalice never touched my person and Holy Communion was poured with the spoon into my mouth in a much more sanitary process.
So while the question of “true faith” is still something to be pondered and debated, it’s obvious that the Orthodox Eastern rite reception of Holy Communion is very different in delivery and reception by the parishioners.
Thank you for your comments and please accept my apology for anything I may have misstated or possibly not fully understood.
Deacon Alex B…

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posted January 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

I attended Greek Orthodox communion recently, where I saw youth putting their lips on the spoon – disarming. I had marveled in being taught the ability to receive communion without touching the spoon’s surface.

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Holly Hansen

posted January 2, 2010 at 9:15 am

We are a bi-denominational family, Lutheran and Catholic. In the diocese of Springfield, IL the chalice was never banned and the Lutherans continued to use the chalice both for intinction and for directly drinking. The Lutherans also offer the option of receiving from a small individual glass.

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Mike P

posted January 2, 2010 at 11:16 am

I’m in the Archdiocese of Chicago and nothing was ever said about not having the Precious Blood distributed, although my pastor in the fall did not have it available when they first mentioned about it in the news.
My father, who was one of the first Extraordinary Ministers at my parish, and also a pharmacist, always said that the germs from any flu virus would not survive on the gold chalices…something about the gold would kill them.
I’ve also recently attended a Byzantine Parish near me (I have a contact who is the music director there so I sing in his choir) and at their Communion, the priest is careful as to how people receive…

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posted January 2, 2010 at 11:27 am

The reception of communion under a single form in the Roman Catholic Rite was not a response to the Black Death, but a theological choice. No one understood how the plague was transmitted at the time, and in fact, since it’s an airborne pathogen, forbidding reception from a common cup would likely have had little effect. Recall at that time, people regularly shared cups in daily life.

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posted January 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Well one thing never forbidden was the priests receiving from a common cup during concelebrations, I guess swine flu does not affect ordained catholic clergy. Christ did say: take..and drink….

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