ROME, 23 SEPT. 2003 (ZENIT).
Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of
liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.
Q: Is it allowable to consecrate wine at Mass in a flask or bottle? Is
it allowable to use a chalice and a flask, putting both on the altar in
cases of large numbers receiving under both kinds? I personally strongly
think not. The words of consecration would not be true: This is the cup
of my blood. The rubrics too only mention a chalice/cup, i.e., a
drinking vessel. The symbolism of the cup is of course important. Has
there been an official ruling? — B.B., Gladesville, Australia
[This reply was given prior to publication of
Redemptionis Sacramentum, 23
April 2004, which states, "Never to be used for containing the Blood of
the Lord are flagons, bowls, or other vessels that are not fully in
accord with the established norms." Moreover, "the pouring of the Blood
of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is
completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to
the detriment of so great a mystery" (106).]
A: As you yourself observe, the rubrics say nothing about this flask,
and while so far there has been no official ruling against it we cannot
appeal to silence to obtain tacit approval of abuses.
It is impossible for the Holy See to specifically forbid everything
which the liturgical imagination can contrive and we have to be guided
by the positive norms which speak only of chalices.
Even in the United States, where use of this flask, in some areas
dignified with the slightly archaic term flagon, is relatively common,
the recent norms published by the episcopal conference regulating
concelebrations speak only of chalices and of pouring the blood of
Christ from one chalice to another for distribution.
I am in full agreement with you as to the importance of maintaining the
symbolism of the words of consecration and would add that the use of
these flasks, decanters, bottles — or whatever name is given them —
tends to send the wrong message as their external form tends to be
associated with social events and parties rather than the sacred banquet
of the sacrifice of the Mass…. ZE03092323
* * *
Consecrating Wine in a Flask
answer to an Australian reader regarding the use of flagons for
consecrating wine (Sept. 23) generated a fair amount of correspondence, of
varying degrees of insight and courtesy. As some worthwhile comments were
made, I wish to address the question once more.
some readers were under the impression that I objected to the distribution
of the Precious Blood to the faithful. This is not the case. In these
replies I strive, insofar as it is possible, to limit myself to the
pertinent official norms. One thing is the broad faculties granted to the
local bishop by the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal to
regulate the occasions for the administration of communion under both
species within his diocese. Another question is the most correct or apt
means of carrying this out.
my original response, based above all on universal documents, I stated
that flagons were not mentioned in any official texts. I am aware that
GIRM 330 speaks of "other vessels," but within the context of
that number and the document as a whole, it is unlikely that it refers to
reader from Texas said that I overlooked the document "This Holy and
Living Sacrifice: Directory for the Celebration and Reception of Communion
under Both Kinds," produced by the National Conference of Catholic
Bishops in 1984. It is true that No. 40 of this document specifically
states: "The wine should be placed in flagons or pitchers of careful
design and quality."
should perhaps have considered this text; however, it has recently been
replaced by a new set of norms that, having received approval from the
Holy See, came into effect on April 7, 2002, as particular law for the
United States. It is available on the bishops' Web site, www.usccb.org.
This new document makes no mention of the flagon and in its Nos. 36-40
gives preference to the practice of pouring from one large chalice into
is probably more risk of spillage from this practice than from use of the
flagon. But the bishops have obviously preferred to give weight to the
symbolic value of partaking from the "one cup."
flagon is certainly a pragmatic solution to a practical problem. But it is
also a novelty with no counterparts even among those Eastern Churches that
never lost the tradition of Communion under both species. No matter how
beautiful or elegant, the flagon fails to fit well into the overall
symbolic language of the eucharistic rite.
I agreed with my original correspondent as to the flagon's seeming to
contradict the words of consecration —
regarding taking and drinking from the cup —
it was from this symbolic, rather than from a theological, standpoint.
believe we need to consider how the liturgical objects we use, because
they are also symbols, may eventually affect the perception of the thing
another American reader took me by surprise by suggesting that I follow
the Holy Father's example in consecrating flagons of wine.
I always strive to follow his example I would point out that Communion is
almost never administered under both species at papal masses as it would
be impracticable. If memory serves me well, it was done once, in St.
Louis, where the celebration in a covered stadium apparently made it
fact, at some of the outdoor masses, the local bishop has even temporarily
suspended the faculty for receiving Communion in the hand so that the
danger of a Host falling due to the jostling and stumbling typical of
large crowds on uneven terrain be reduced to a minimum.
own, admittedly small, firsthand experience in helping to organize these
trips at the Vatican has taught me that the input of the host diocese is
far from negligible. So one must not be too hasty in drawing universal
liturgical lessons from the Pope's pastoral visits. ZE03100721
* * *
Follow-up: Consecrating Wine in a Flask, Continued
In my reply to a correspondent last week who suggested that I follow the
Holy Father's example in consecrating flagons of wine at youth
gatherings, I observed that if memory served me well the only papal Mass
where Communion had been distributed under both species was at St.
Father Thomas Keller, the archdiocesan master of ceremonies of St Louis,
who assisted then Bishop Piero Marini, papal master of liturgical
celebrations, in organizing the event, has kindly pointed out to me that
the wine was consecrated in chalices and not in flagons and that the
entire celebration was conducted according to the instructions received
by the Holy See.
Another priest correspondent who assisted at the Mass informed me that
in fact Communion was not distributed under both species to the entire
congregation. I am very glad to be able to rectify any misunderstanding.
Likewise, in mentioning that some bishops had forbidden the distribution
of Communion in the hand during outdoor papal masses, I was not
referring to St. Louis, which did not make any such disposition.
Communion-in-the-hand was barred, for example, by the cardinal
archbishop of Bologna, Italy, when the Holy Father celebrated the
concluding Mass of a national Eucharistic Congress in an open field
attended by several hundred thousand people. ZE03101420