|ROME, 19 OCT. 2004 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: [A bishop from the Philippines asks:] I had a session today with a
missionary institute of sisters of diocesan right. One of them asked why
they should not be allowed to receive the consecrated wine at the altar
table itself during special occasions such as jubilees of the
congregation. I told them that another table for the same purpose may be
placed at a lower level for them to partake of the Sacred Blood. But
they said that in the past it had been the practice here and that the
lay people did not mind the sisters' going to the altar to partake of
the Sacred Blood. Please tell me when the sisters (and brothers) or the
lay people may be allowed to receive the Sacred Blood at the altar.
A: The point is covered, among other documents, in the instruction "Redemptionis
Sacramentum," No. 94, which states:
"It is not licit for the faithful 'to take ... by themselves ... and,
still less, to hand ... from one to another' the sacred host or the
sacred chalice. Moreover, in this regard, the abuse is to be set aside
whereby spouses administer Holy Communion to each other at a Nuptial
Thus, it would be incorrect for the sisters to take the chalice at the
altar; nor may they take the chalice themselves from another table.
A minister is always required to administer the chalice as well as the
This minister should be a priest, deacon or instituted acolyte. Should
none of these be available, then one of the sisters, the Mother Superior
for example, may be designated as an extraordinary minister of Communion
and could assist you in administering the chalice to the other sisters.
The reason for this is that Communion is always a gift received from
Christ through the ministry of the Church and this is indicated by
always receiving through a minister.
Only the celebrating or concelebrating priest may normally take
Communion by himself.
Even the deacon and extraordinary ministers of Communion must usually
receive Communion from the priest before distributing it to the
Even the Pope has observed this norm in recent years when he has
assisted at some Masses without celebrating. He received Christ's Body
and Blood through the ministry of the deacons and celebrant.
It is clear that the mind of the Church does not foresee any occasions
when anybody except celebrating or concelebrating priests may receive at
the altar itself. ZE04101923
* * *
Follow-up: Religious Receiving the Chalice [from 11-02-2004]
Following our reply to a Philippine bishop's question regarding
religious taking the chalice at the altar (Oct. 19), a New Jersey reader
suggested that I had misread the question. What was really asked, the
reader said, was on what occasions could a religious receive, rather
than take, Communion at the altar as is specifically foreseen in some
rites such as during a Mass of perpetual profession.
I don't believe I misread the question since the bishop specifically
mentioned that he had suggested the use of an alternative table from
which the religious could partake of the chalice. And this suggestion
would have been useless if they were receiving through the hands of a
However, I welcome the suggestion, as it has afforded the opportunity to
mention the possibility of a religious receiving at that altar on some
very significant moments of his or her life, especially those which
express a definitive self offering to God.
A member of an association of Catholic university graduates from an
African country, perhaps Nigeria, wrote that they frequently share our
column among themselves. One of whom wrote some "posers" to our piece.
Not wanting to be a source of discord, I will attempt to answer his
Is Communion in the hand not the same as taking the host by oneself?
Not exactly, because a minister still presents the host to the
communicant who then receives it. What differs is the mode of reception
(on the tongue or in the hand) not the fact of reception.
What is the difference between "cup" and "chalice"?
Actually both terms should be equivalents, as the Precious Blood should
always be offered in a chalice. The term "cup" is used in the current
English translation of the Mass to refer to the chalice, although it is
possible that the new translation now being prepared will return to the
more traditional term.
He also suggests that I should have taken issue with other issues such
as extraordinary ministers and desecration of the Eucharist.
I can only observe that I usually try to stick to the question at hand.
The limits of space do not allow me to range widely.
We have dealt with the subject and norms regarding extraordinary
ministers of holy Communion on several occasions.
Also, the original question referred to an error of knowledge regarding
a liturgical norm. There was no hint of the least disrespect for the
Eucharist on the part of the persons involved, much less a question of