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What's the Cup in the Pastor's Hand during Holy Communion?

Updated on July 25, 2012
Chalices of St. Columba's Church, Miri
Chalices of St. Columba's Church, Miri

What is that Cup?

It is typical to find Cups on the altar during an Anglican Sunday service with Holy Communion. This service is also known as Holy Communion, Eucharist or Mass. Depending on the church practice, the exact numbers of would vary. But there must be a minimum of one.

The Cup, more properly known as Chalice, is used only by the presiding priest during the Eucharist. Selected ministers and laity may use the Chalice for distribution of the Wine. These laity are licenced lay readers. In the Diocese of Kuching, these lay persons are limited to sub-deacons. Deacons, vocational and transitional, may assist the priest during Communion.

What is in the Cup?

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the priest, or deacon, would pour the wine into the chalice(s). He would then add water into the chalice(s).

Can the wine be poured into the chalice earlier than this? Yes. In St. Columba's Church, Miri, we filled the chalices (all 11 of them) with wine before the 2011 Christmas Eve Mass began. But that being the case, the chalices must be covered. We don't want anything unwanted to drop or enter into the chalices, now would we?

After that, the priest would hold up the celebrant's chalice, where there is more than one chalice. He would then give thanks over the wine.

In the Diocese of Kuching, the authorised order follows Rite A of the Alternative Service Book 1980. Therefore, the offertory prayer is as follows:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation: through your goodness we have this wine to set before you, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become for us the cup of salvation.

Those present, i.e. the congregation, would respond with "Blessed be God forever".

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When does the Blood comes in?

During the Eucharistic prayer, the priest recites the prayer which turns the wine into the Blood of Christ. Before I delve further, there are two approaches to this: transubstantiation and consubstantiation.

Transubstantiation means that the wine, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is turned into the Blood of Christ in form and in essence. What began as wine with a mix of water is now the Blood of the Living Christ. This understanding is adapted by some of the High Church or Anglo-Catholics.

Consubstantiation means that the wine, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is turned into the Blood of Christ in essence. While, in the chalice, it is wine, it is also in Spirit the Blood of Christ. This understanding is adapted by most evangelical or low church Anglicans.

Irrespective of the understanding, real presence is still a concept accepted by the Anglican Church. Just as much as the debate rages between the Protestant churches with the Roman and Orthodox churches rages on, the same argument exists within the Anglican Church.

The prayer recited by the priest that changes the Wine into Blood, per Rite A, Alternative Service Book 1980, is:

In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave you thanks; he gave it to them, saying, Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins, Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

The priest will then genuflect, raise the Chalice, and genuflect. The Church Bell and the sanctus bells would be rung with the three movements.

Why do Anglicans do this?

The Eucharist is central in Anglican worship. It is what binds the whole church together. The administration of the sacraments by the priests, and the grounding of the Faith in the Word of God are equally important.

Anglicans accept that the Word of God must be the basis of our Faith, our doctrines and our Christian life. At the same time, there is a need for sacraments and traditions which fills the gap not addressed by pure Word. Before the compilation of the Bible, the Church relied on traditions from the Apostles. But tradition cannot supersede the Word of God. To quote Verney Johnstone, the Anglican Church is fundamentally Catholic, incidentally Protestant,

We do this to remember Christ's sacrifice in each Mass. We are reminded of His person, His divine nature. We do this, and all other sacraments, to remind us of God's grace expressed physically through these ordinary things.

But the foundation is faith in Christ as Lord, in God's creating powers and the Holy Spirit's counsel and prompting. Grounded in Word, tradition and experience, the Anglican Church has the Chalice on the Altar.


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    • Aldric Tinker profile image

      Aldric Tinker 5 years ago from Malaysia

      I couldn't agree with you more. No matter how tiring the week was, I am always looking forward to the Mass. Especially the Ministry of the Sacrament.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I wil read this several times. Around these parts we use the term Lay Eucharistic Minister for the laity that serves the congregation during a Eucharist.

      Most folks nowadays work hard for their living, have stress and responsibilities, and worries and troubles all week long. I find the Eucharist to be both a retreat and a mountain top experience.

      I hope that reading this will help others appreciate the Chalice.