Blog Template Theology of the Body: Eucharist without the wine

Monday, February 26, 2007

Eucharist without the wine

I experienced and learned something new yesterday. My wife and I visited a large Catholic church here in town for the second time yesterday. Since I'm not Catholic I obviously don't take communion, but when my wife went up to take it last week she told me that she couldn't find the stations where the wine was served. I thought she just must have missed it and so yesterday I told her to just follow the crowd (sometimes that actually is good advice!) and surely she'd find it. Well, she didn't. It turns out that this particular church does not serve the wine at all!

My first instinct was to say, "This can't be; this is wrong!" I also knew that they wouldn't do this unless it was permitted, so last night I looked up the rules, which can be found here on the Vatican website. The particular rule is in paragraph 102 and states:

"The chalice should not be ministered to lay members of Christ’s faithful where there is such a large number of communicants[189]that it is difficult to gauge the amount of wine for the Eucharist and there is a danger that “more than a reasonable quantity of the Blood of Christ remain to be consumed at the end of the celebration”.[190] The same is true wherever access to the chalice would be difficult to arrange, or where such a large amount of wine would be required that its certain provenance and quality could only be known with difficulty, or
wherever there is not an adequate number of sacred ministers or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion with proper formation, or where a notable part of the people continues to prefer not to approach the chalice for various reasons, so that the sign of unity would in some sense be negated."

I've been trying to figure out which of the exceptions this church is following. It is a very large congregration (and its going to get even larger if the number of children is any indication - this is a group that seems to take Catholic teachings on birth control seriously), so maybe they are concerned about the amount of wine required, but I've been to similarly sized Catholic churches that have served the wine. Perhaps they are worried about the access to the cup, since it is a relatively narrow church physically, but they manage to get everyone up front to receive the bread (did I mention that they also kneel?). The one explanation that I've considered (and rejected) is that communion takes a long time just with the bread and maybe they are just doing this to speed things along. In short, I can't quite figure out why they don't serve the wine.

But while I now know that the rules permit it, I return to my first instincts, which is that there is something wrong with this. I'm curious as to what others think about this. Have you ever experienced this? Even if it is allowed, do your instincts rebel against this in the same way as mine do?