Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Drink This Cup?

Do you ever wonder, reading this blog, whether I grew up in a liturgical/ecclesiological cave? The fact is, I sort of did. We went to church even Sunday (or Saturday night), very good public schools (and CCD) during the week, and I wouldn't say "the Church" was ever a topic of conversation at the dinner table.

I can remember entering the Society and listening to guys furiously debate this or that policy, a recent appointment, or just the state of "things" (which usually meant whether or not John Paul II and his bishops were wrecking or saving the Church, depending on who was talking) -- and I recognized nary a name or an issue. And about much of it, I could have cared less. I didn't enter the Jesuits to get all wrapped up in us vs. thems.

A lot has changed in me in the 18 years I've been a Jesuit, but if I pay attention I still walk around with a lot of the attitudes and questions I entered with. And in large part that's what been behind this whole project of walking through all the little steps in the liturgy.

I was thinking of that today, in relationship to the topic of receiving of the cup. Where I grew up, the cup was always offered. And as far as I knew (with due notice of my general cluelessness), everyone always received from it.

As I've grown up in the Church, I've been surprised to realize actually, a lot of people (most) don't receive the cup. And more shockingly, in some places -- I want to say in a lot of places -- it isn't even offered. What is up with that?

The best reason I've heard is germs. Everyone drinking out of the same cup -- it's just not a path to sanitary good news. As I understand it, the metal in metal chalices is a natural killer of microbes. And studies have also shown that wine -- particularly red wine -- has compounds within it that kill throat and mouth bacteria.

That's not to say we should not worry about H1N1, etc. But in the normal course of things, such as now when H1N1 is out of season, a good majority of germ concerns are maybe not such a big deal. Still, if health is a person's worry, at some level who can really argue with that? Not me.

My concern is that some people might think instead they are somehow not worthy of receiving the wine. That receiving the precious blood somehow requires some sort of higher standard, or is really reserved just for the priest. In an earlier era, the practice of distributing only bread to the congregation led to this informal interpretation. But the Church does not believe that there are two communions -- one for the ordinary folk and one for Father. In fact, Vatican II talks about receiving under both species as a "fuller sign" of the sacrament. All should feel welcome to receive under both species.

And in the parishes or dioceses where this is not occurring, if the rationale is not health, I would really like an explanation. Maybe there's a good one. Again, let's remember: I grew up an ecclesiological Mowgli.

Someone start singing "Bare Necessities."


rtfgvb792 said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

kmbrco said...

No cup served in my experience. I always thought wine was for a child I would have been afraid to drink it anyway...

Jim McDermott, SJ said...

Wow. That's interesting. I don't think it's a unique experience, either. Thanks for sharing it!