|ROME, 24 AUG. 2004 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: For daily Mass my parish priest prepares the chalice before the
celebration with the wine and water in the sacristy. So when it is time
for the Liturgy of the Eucharist he just takes the chalice with wine and
water and continues on with the prayers. Does the Church allow this?
Toronto. Is there any reason why the bread and wine are offered with
separate prayers at the presentation of gifts at Mass? Is it acceptable
for the priest to say one prayer over the bread and wine, combining the
— D.C., Carenage, Trinidad and Tobago
A: The practice described of preparing wine and water beforehand is not
quite correct, although unfortunately not uncommon in some quarters.
There is no good reason to do so since the time "saved" is minimal. And,
of course, saving time is not an overly important criterion in liturgy.
There are certainly times when rites must necessarily be abbreviated, but
abbreviation does not imply hastiness.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), No. 73, permits the
chalice to be prepared at the credence table rather than at the altar, but
always during the preparation of the gifts.
It is usually preferable, however, to prepare the chalice at the altar so
that the faithful may observe the meaningful rite of adding the water to
the wine. An earlier column dealt with this rite.
It is possible to prepare additional chalices before large concelebrations.
But the preparation of the principal chalice should still preferably be
carried out at the altar by the deacon and offered by the main celebrant.
A priest may not take it upon himself to change the liturgical text by
offering a single prayer over the gifts just as he may not change other
The practice of a separate offering of the bread and wine is a
long-standing liturgical tradition which is found in one form or another
in all the ancient manuscripts of the Roman rite, even though this rite
has undergone many changes over time.
Some other rites, such as the Armenian and the ancient Hispanic (or
Mozarabic) of Spain, do have a single prayer over both gifts. But, unlike
the Roman rite, some of these rites have minute and painstaking ceremonies
for preparing the gifts just before Mass begins.
In both ancient documents and in recent commentaries the separate offering
of the gifts seems to be taken for granted. There is little reflection as
to possible theological or spiritual motivations for this practice.
GIRM 72 however seem to suggest that the reason for this rite is to
somehow parallel the separate consecration of the two species and to
reflect the gestures of Christ at the Last Supper:
"At the Last Supper Christ instituted the Paschal Sacrifice and banquet by
which the Sacrifice of the Cross is continuously made present in the
Church whenever the priest, representing Christ the Lord, carries out what
the Lord himself did and handed over to his disciples to be done in his
"For Christ took the bread and the chalice and gave thanks; he broke the
bread and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take, eat, and drink: this is
my Body; this is the cup of my Blood. Do this in memory of me.'
Accordingly, the Church has arranged the entire celebration of the Liturgy
of the Eucharist in parts corresponding to precisely these words and
actions of Christ:
"1. At the Preparation of the Gifts, the bread and the wine with water are
brought to the altar, the same elements that Christ took into his hands."
From a historical perspective, the separate offerings in the Roman rite
would appear to stem from the ancient practice of each member of the
faithful, or at least those intending to receive Communion, approaching
the sanctuary after the Liturgy of the Word to offer bread and sometimes
wine from their homes for the sacrifice.
In most Eastern rites the people left their gifts before Mass in a place
designated for this purpose.
The Roman custom led to the development of an elaborate procession of the
gifts and to the celebrant and other ministers receiving the gifts
separately before placing them on the altar. During this period, however,
the gifts were merely received and there were as yet no elevations or
Once the gifts were paced upon the altar, the celebrant said the prayer
over the gifts and then commenced the canon.
As the number of those receiving Communion dropped after the 10th century,
the procession gradually disappeared from the liturgy. It has been
restored, albeit symbolically, in the present Roman rite.
At the same time, a series of offertory rites, prayers and priestly
"apologias" (prayers in which the priest admits his indignity before the
celebration of the mystery and still found in the present rite) were added
to the rite between the 10th to 13th centuries.
From this time, the rites of preparing the paten and chalice were taken up
by the priest and deacon. Always retained were the separate offerings of
both species. ZE04082421
* * *
Preparation of the Gifts [from 09-07-2004]
In our Aug. 24 column we replied to a question concerning the preparation
of the chalice before Mass and the use of a single prayer of oblation.
A Dominican priest from Charlottesville, Virginia, has kindly pointed out
that the celebrant who used the single prayer may have been a member of
the Order of Preachers.
He writes: "In the Dominican Rite Low Mass the chalice was prepared before
Mass and the oblation was made with a single prayer and single raising in
both the Solemn and Low Masses. At Solemn High Mass the chalice was
prepared during the Gradual.
"Both of these practices were also found in the liturgical family
embracing the local uses of northern France and the Sarum Rite in England,
from which family the Dominican Rite evolved.
"It is not uncommon for some Dominicans to use the old single oblation and
to prepare the chalice ahead. The motive is nostalgia, not haste."
The priest adds that, while he harbors much affection for the Dominican
rite, he himself never follows this practice since it is contrary to the
spirit and rubrics of the Roman rite.
I believe that his is a prudent decision when celebrating Mass for a
congregation. Otherwise, the faithful may be confused by the difference in
All this serves to show, however, that, even before the reforms of the
Second Vatican Council, the Latin Church was not an absolute liturgical
monolith. It allowed for several particular rites, either those pertaining
to venerable religious orders or to certain regions or dioceses such as
Milan in Italy, Lyon in France, Braga in Portugal, and in Croatia where
for centuries the Roman rite has been celebrated in Croatian. ZE04090722