Chalice or Cup?

Given the debates over whether or not the terminological choices in the forthcoming ICEL translation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal are the right (best, most appropriate, most intelligible, etc.) choices, I thought I’d share the following, from the Angelic Doctor (affectionately know in some circles as the “Pudgy Dominican”) himself.

From Summa Theologiae III.60.7 ad 2:

Granted that in any language various words are held to signify the same thing, nevertheless one of those words always is that used principally and most commonly by those persons whose language it is for that signification. And this is the word which should be selected in sacramental signification.

[L]icet in qualibet lingua contingat diversis vocibus idem significari, semper tamen aliqua illarum vocum est qua principalius et communius homines illius linguae utuntur ad hoc significandum. Et talis vox assumi debet in significatione sacramenti.

68 comments

  1. Being half Italian, and my mom now 90 and completely Italian and drinking wine everyday, we don’t drink wine from cups!!!!
    We drink vino from glasses. Darmi un bicchiere di vino. (Give me a glass of wine.) Ringraziarla per la tazza di caffè. Thank you for the cup of coffee. He took the cup filled with wine, un tasso? I doubt it. He might have taken a glass of wine, but what’s wrong with chalice which has a more “romantic, religious sound” and feel to it, and something substantial and precious for so precious a gift? Not ordinary, but extraordinary. Cup just doesn’t cut it!

    1. “More romantic, religious,” yes… tall, silver and with a gothic node. Perhaps enameled?

      I don’t think that’s what Paul had in mind when he used the Greek term ποτηριον, and I don’t think that’s a fair description of what Jesus used at the Holy Supper.

      Yes, Father, a tremendously precious gift. A scandalously precious gift, of which none of us is worthy — and part of that scandal is the poverty into which it’s giver was born and the criminal dereliction in which he died. Our chalices should reflect the value of that gift (though I think glass and earthenware can achieve that as well as silver and gold). But our thanksgiving for his words and deeds needs to tell the truth of his story as it likely was, not as we would like for it to have been.

      1. We should be careful in assuming that Jews of Jesus’ time necessarily used quotidian tableware for their ritual domestic meals.

      2. K. Saur makes a very good point. Joseph, the carpenter, and his family were not dirt poor; they were not by any means terribly rich, but we nowhere read of their begging for alms at the city gates. They owned and maintained a donkey–the Volkswagen of their day.

        Let the Scriptures be our guide.

        Saint Paul was a tent maker, but he owned a horse (now that was living high in them there days) and traveled about freely. Middle strata Jews during that time were all engaged in such trades.

      3. But Jesus, the carpenter’s son was staying in what appeared to be the home of a rich man. It might be possible that He drank out of a chalice.

    2. In the Old Testament, and even with Jesus, the word cup is used to describe a situation or ordeal that is now, or to be experienced. Therefore when Chalice is substituted for the word cup in the Liturgy of the Eucharist the deeper meaning is lost.
      We also need to drink the cup when given.
      There is also a good teaching on “The Four Cups” by Dr. Scott Hahn.

      [Psa 11:6 RSV] 6 On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and brimstone; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
      [Psa 16:5 RSV] 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; thou holdest my lot.
      [Psa 23:5 RSV] 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
      [Psa 75:8 RSV] 8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, with foaming wine, well mixed; and he will pour a draught from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.
      [Psa 116:13 RSV] 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
      [Isa 51:22 RSV] 22 Thus says your Lord, the LORD, your God who pleads the cause of his people: “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more;
      [Jer 25:15, 17, 28 RSV] 15 Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. … [Lam 4:21 RSV] 21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, dweller in the land of Uz; but to you also the cup shall pass; you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.
      [Eze 23:31-33 RSV] 31 You have gone the way of your sister; therefore I will give her cup into your hand. 32 Thus says the Lord GOD: “You shall drink your sister’s cup which is deep and large; you shall be laughed at and held in derision, for it contains much; 33 you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, is the cup of your sister Sama’ria;
      [Zec 12:2 RSV] 2 “Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples round about; it will be…

  2. Calix in a liturgical context is similar to the technical use of the word to describe a part of a flower. It means “a stemmed drinking vessel”. There is a perfectly good word for this in English: “goblet”. It appears that Vox Clara did not want this used for fear of associations with Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, etc.

    The problem for us will be twofold: (a) Jesus did not take a chalice and ask others to take one; (b) one of the Memorial Acclamations still begins “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup….” Apparently the reason Vox Clara decided to stick with the word “cup” here was in order not to change an existing assembly text unnecessarily. Go figure.

    1. Let’s be clear about Catholic Tradition, every time a priest takes a chalice and consecrates the wine in it, it is Our crucified and Risen Lord Jesus doing it. What is it with this liturgical fundamentalism? Our Lord consecrates in chalices multiple times every day of the week and now for almost 2000 years on this side of the second coming. This is the Lord’s Real Presence now, not some past deed. It is eternal.If we take this liturgical fundamentalism too far, Fr. Cody will have to move out of his glorious church and so will I and we’ll all have to go looking for an upper room for the last supper and include all the other food that was on the table and certainly an hour fast wouldn’t hold since we’ll have eaten a fine meal. It gets kind of absurd.

      1. To a point, Father, I agree — liturgical fundamentalism is dangerous business. But so is layering more meaning onto the part of the prayer that is narrative than is there. This isn’t the last supper all over again — nor is it meant to be. (That’s not to deny the consecratory or sacrificial efficacy of the prayer, BTW.)

        If anything this is Easter, and given that most masses are in the morning, I’ve wondered if we shouldn’t be reciting the story of the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus on the shore of Galilee at breakfast!

      2. It’s not just the Last Supper, Calvary, Anastasis and Easter rolled into one, its also Pentecost and, most important, the foretaste of the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb upon the completion of the new creation….,

      3. Fr. Cody, The Last Supper anticipates the Good Friday Sacrifice of our Lord and becomes the norm by which the memorial of Good Friday will be celebrated by the new priests (12 apostles) in light of the Resurrection and giving of the Holy Spirit until the Lord’s Second Coming. Just as Jesus anticipates the “giving of His Body” to the world on Good Friday, he already does this for the apostles Holy Thursday. Every Mass, Jesus’ one Sacrifice which is now timeless is reenacted in an “unbloodly” way, that is Jesus, the Victim of the Sacrifice, acting also as High Priest offers Himself to the Father on our behalf out of love and the Father accepts Him and His sacrifice and all who are united to it. Jesus also continues to give us His “Body and Blood” for our salvation, not for Him to become a part of us, but for us to become a part of Him through the Church into which we are baptized. Easter, Ascension and Giving of the Spirit guide the Church in the celebration of the Paschal event, the Christ event.

  3. Jesus held his Last Supper in the spare upper room of a house, and its owner had servants (male, if that makes any difference). Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.

    Regardless of His own wealth, He knew people with money.

  4. I’d love to know why Jerome translated poterion the way that he did. Macrobius reports that a Greek kylix is a type of poculum (poculi genus) that the Romans call a chalice aftrer one letter is changed. Clearly poculum is the generic word. Why didn’t Jerome use the generic word? I’d love to watch Jerome and Aquinas get into it in heaven in a beatific smackdown.

    I vote for chalice (sorry Angelic Doctor).

  5. To me, as a first-language English speaker, the use of “chalice” instead of “cup” to translate “calix” in the Eucharistic prayer encapsulates all that is problematic with this new translation. To pray “in a similar way, when supper was ended, he took this precious chalice into his holy and venerable hands, and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing and gave the chalice to his disciples” to me sounds so phoney and pretentious because I KNOW Jesus did not use a chalice (i.e. an ecclesiastical goblet) at the Last Supper. For me “chalice” in this oh-so-important context undermines any credibility that the new translation has as an authentic and worthy successor to the 1973 version.

    1. Well, every pre-Vatican II people’s hand missal, including the Benedictine’s Collegville hymnal, “Our Parish Prays and Sings” translates into English, “Calix” as Chalice. You can only imagine how people felt in 1970 to start hearing, “cup” in the place of chalice that they had read in their personal pre-Vatican II missals. Non of these translations were official, just up to the various people who published them. Here’s the Benedictine’s version:
      “In a similar manner, after the meal was over, He took that most precious CHALICE into his holy and adorable hands…For this is the Chalice of my Blood… Maryknoll’s 1965 people’s missal (For the 1965 Roman Missal) for people has “…taking also the blessed CUP into his holy and venerable hands…For this is the CHALICE of my blood…” I don’t think people will be too offended with “CHALICE” or the fine, ornate chalices on the altar, I mean table.

      1. Yes, but Fr McDonald, do two mistranslations make a “rite”? But seriously, I am not questioning the use of ornate chalices at ornate Masses, just the false use of the word “chalice” to describe the simple drinking vessel Jesus used at the Last Supper. “Chalice” is very faux, and I was taught that liturgy should be as genunine as possible.

        If you watched John Paul II’s funeral, “cup” is the aural equivalent of the visual image of the simple wooden coffin used at his funeral. Both images remind us that, no matter how elaborate our liturgies, the Church remains grounded in and remembers its surprisingly humble (in the eyes of the world) beginnings and endings.

        “Chalice” breaks our mental visual connection to the historical event at the Last Supper so subtly but so powerfully.

      2. Every translation into English of the Catholic Mass prior to the translation we got in 1970 has chalice. So for as long as Catholics knew the words of institution from their pre-Vatican II personal missals in the vernacular, it was chalice. I still have my St. Joseph Missal that I was given at my First Holy Communion. Calix was translated chalice. I don’t think it hurt my piety or my parent’s piety or the multitudes who are now saints in heaven who thought calix was chalice. But when I got to the seminary in 1976, we actually used ceramic cups for the chalice, which looked not like goblets with a stem, but flower pots. This annoyed my piety to no end and continues to do so when I think about them–post traumatic stress syndrome. What we did in the 70’s with our English Missal and our Mass will not go down in history as the Utopian period of the Church! I hope the new translations which we will surely get will improve our mentality about things liturgical. It sure can’t hurt!

  6. I’m pretty sure that Jesus did NOT say ‘chalice’, nor ‘calix’, nor even ‘cup’. For starters, He wasn’t speaking English, nor Greek, and certainly not Latin! If we wish to be faithful to His words, we should be using whatever Aramaic word comes closest to describing what a not-wealthy man would have used as a drinking vessel at a celebratory meal. That not being likely, I find myself rather in agreement with St. Thomas. Use the ordinary word for an ordinary object. For us here in the US, that will be an ordinary _English_ word, thank you. ‘Cup’ will do nicely, ‘goblet’ is also a good candidate but not one in common use, and neither one sounds nearly as stuffy and pretentious as ‘chalice’.

    1. So….perhaps we should say…”he picked up the glass and said “thanks Dad, you’re really great”?

      The problem with such an approach is that it seems to defy the un-common nature of the liturgy, and the extra-ordinary nature of all things connected to it. The Mass is our formal worship….I don’t pray in Latin ….I could, but I don’t….because it feels unnatural for me to do so. And yet, I feel no awkwardness at all to have the Mass in Latin. They are different things.

  7. Certainly modern Jewish families, even of quite modest means, might have a rather ornate and elaborate table setting for the seder. We can’t know what sort cup Jesus used at the last supper. Maybe his uncle Zachariah gave him a real swell one. Maybe it was an heirloom. Nobody knows. Perhaps Jerome knew of tradition in the Holy Land that Jesus used something more elaborate than a “common” or “ordinary” cup. This is not primarily a cultural question but a linguistic one. The Greek poterion should obviously be translated as cup, the Latin calix arguably should be translated with a term less generic and more specific.

    Now, I can understand referring to the Greek original when the Latin is unclear and could be rendered in a number of ways, but I don’t think that this is the situation here.

  8. A cup in ordinary understanding is a pottery vessel with a little handle, and one sips tea or coffee from it. It comes with a saucer.

    I don’t think you can get cups from church-goods suppliers.

    Since one does not sip tea at Mass, one doesn’t use what is ordinarily called a cup. I doubt St Thomas would expect anglophones to say “cup” at Mass when what they really mean is “chalice”.

    “Cup” to me says “afternoon-tea with Aunty Mary”, which, while delightful, is hardly a sacramental participation in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

  9. Perhaps you haven’t seen mediaeval chalices (cups) with two handles, one each side. Loving-cups traditionally have the two handles, as well as a stem and base like a chalice. Question: is Jesus’s chalice a cup of love?

  10. I’ve been pondering this cup/chalice business this morning, and particularly its appearance in the biblical narratives of the Last Supper:

    1 Cor 11:25: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”

    Mark 14:24: “This is my blood of the covenant. . . .”

    Matt 24:28: “[T]his is my blood of the covenant. . . ”

    Luke 22:20: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

    Eucharistic Prayers conflate these narratives, and I’m favorable to that, because the recital of the institution narrative is part of the church’s prayer — not direct quotation from scripture. That’s not my point.

    In the accounts of Paul and Luke, “cup” functions metaphorically — part synecdoche for the whole, part symbol for the covenant itself. “Cup” functions similarly in Matt 20:22 (parallel Mark 10:38); and in Psalm 16:5. It may be from these biblical uses that the English word “cup” functions beyond scripture in a similar fashion, as a metaphor for both suffering and joy. Look up “cup” in a dictionary — try dictionary.com — there you’ll find “something to be partaken of or endured; one’s portion, as of joy or suffering” among cup’s definitions; you’ll also find both “the chalice used in the Eucharist” and “the wine of the Eucharist” under the definitions.

    By choosing chalice over cup, ICEL has excluded the rich meanings of cup, including the explicitly sacrificial metaphor that cup carries in the English language. And the bishops have explicitly approved with the choice; I can only hope that they did not intend the concurrent undermining of sacrificial valences in the prayer. The more I ponder this, the more I think it’s a terrible loss.

    It’s a loss, BTW, that I feel in my own tradition, where in the narrative Jesus takes a “cup” and says “this is my blood of the New Covenant,” etc., without putting the term in Jesus’ mouth.

    1. Well, Fr. Cody, I’ve been a Catholic for over 56 years and the distinction between cup and chalice as you describe it has never been a point of catechesis either towards me or from me. Most Catholics would view chalice and cup as synonymous but one being fancier than the other, but both cups. We even use the terms, stem of the chalice or “cup” of the chalice, so in the word chalice is implied cup. It will take catechesis to explain to Catholics what you have just done in your comment above and to explain to other Catholics that a chalice is a cup when they hear chalice in our new translation–catechesis is critical isn’t it? Now how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

  11. Just for clarity, it’s worth repeating that we have been previously told:

    (a) that ICEL’s choice of word was “cup”,
    (b) that this is what bishops’ conferences apparently approved,
    (c) that the word “chalice” is, however, being imposed by Vox Clara, a body with no track record of pastoral common sense thus far.

    All criticism should be directed at this small coterie of bishops and advisers who, as I have said before on this blog, are not accountable to anyone.

    1. Not that any bishop, at VC, ICEL or USCCB is accountable to anyone in the first place, let alone to the people in the pews. It’s in-fighting among unaccountable groups and people, none of whom really is interested in being accountable to people in the pews (unless they can cherry pick their own fans). I never make the mistake of viewing any bishop or group of bishops (or priests or even many lay ministers) – most especially ones I might agree with – as my advocate or ally. Because, when times get tough, they are most definitely not.

  12. I just got back from teaching our First Graders about Holy Thursday and what Jesus did during the meal. I asked them about when He took the wine, was it in a cup or a chalice? One first grader raised her hand and said it was a chalice! Then I asked, what is the difference between a cup and a chalice. Another first grader raised his hand and said, they’re both the same but a chalice is nicer. Out of the mouth of babes! So if first graders get it, shouldn’t older more seasoned Catholics get it? I sure as heck hope so!

    1. But Father your first graders are in error. Look at all the accounts of the Last Supper in the New Testament. Not one uses “chalice”, and with good reason.

      1. The Lord didn’t use an altar, he didn’t sing the institution narrative, he didn’t genuflect, he didn’t bow to say the words of institution, he didn’t wear a chasuble, stole or alb, and he didn’t have the rest of the Eucharistic prayer after the consecration. Oh, I forgot, our Catholic Mass is not a literalistic re-enactment of the Last Supper in words, actions or style. But I do remember in the seminary at a small group Mass, the priest passed us the “eucharist” as soon as he “consecrated” it because this is what Jesus did at the Last Supper! There was nothing left of it for the remainder of his made-up prayer. But he did use and say a cup, I think a drinking glass from his kitchen cabinet. ICEL’s 1970 translation in general and its literalistic translation of “cup” was a part of the “dumbing” down of liturgy and language, not “noble” simplicity. Read all the English prayers in a pre-Vatican II St. Joseph Missal for the laity and you’ll see why so many were appalled with the ’70’s trend toward desacralization.

    2. Fr McDonald, I wasn’t suggesting that the Mass be a “literalistic re-enactment”. I was responding to the answer your first grader gave, that Jesus used a chalice at the Last Supper. He didn’t, just as he didn’t use an altar or wear a chasuble. He didn’t use a chalice, so her answer was wrong.

      It strikes me as odd, that one of the reasons we are given for the new translation is that it recovers biblical texts embedded within the Latin. It it strange then that the translators chose to use “chalice” instead of “cup” in “… when supper was ended… he took THIS precious CHALICE in his …. hands”, because this is a distortion of the biblical texts in just the same way that “I am not worthy to receive you” is a distortion of “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”, etc.

      The inconsistency helps undermine the credibility of the new translation.

      1. My experience yesterday with the first grade fascinates me because these children only hear “cup” at Mass, not chalice, but they know what a chalice is. So in a sense, when they see the priest holding a chalice and elevating it, but hear him say “cup” then there must be a disconnect for them. I know they don’t know the finer nuances of Biblical translation and what “cup” means in Aramaic. But they do know what a “sippy cup” is and they do know what a coffee cup is and they do know how to cup their hands. Somehow they like chalice better than cup to describe what Jesus now uses at most Catholic Masses.

  13. desacralization. Using this word is precisely the problem: it could in fact have been a re-sacralization, re-embedding the rite more deeply in the lives of real people. I believe that in fact those who were appalled constituted a minority. Yes, many of us realized that this was only a transitional stage and that improvements would certainly be needed (and indeed they came to pass in 1998, only to be ditched by power-play), but we did not and do not hate the 1970/73 translations with the same violent passion as some, and we believe (as do all professional translators in the secular world) that dynamic equivalence is the only viable way to go.

    Today, for some, the kind of language now proposed is pompous or artificial or obscure or unreal or insincere, and a distraction from the sacred rather than an aid to perceiving it. My suspicion is that many people will indeed be appalled by it, though I hope that they can see past it to the reality that lies behind it.

    1. I go back to my earlier post, first graders like chalice better than cup. They know what a “sippy cup” is and they’ve moved beyond it. Our English language has too many meanings for the word “cup” and many of them not noble or worthy for the liturgy, connotations like Styrofoam, plastic, or paper. We don’t need those connotations in our English Mass even if “cup” at the time of Jesus was nobler. It no longer is in English. I’ll take a stuffy, pompous chalice or a cup any day! Like Tony the Tiger says, it’s grrrrrreat!!!

      1. Styrofoam, plastic and paper modify “cup,” they do not determine its meaning (i.e., a vessel for holding a specific measure, usually of a liquid) — but yes, those modifications and their psycho-symbolic valences can be conjured when someone says “cup.”

        But cup carries other valences, as I pointed out in my post above — and these include valences of survival (thus its use in translating Ps 16:5, “you are my… cup”), of joy, of suffering and sorrow. Cup carries specific sacrificial meanings in the English language that chalice does not, except perhaps by extension from the liturgy — and then artificially. (Who would ever think of speaking of their lot in life as their chalice?)

        I suspect that this is part of the gradual move toward withdrawing reception of the Precious Blood from the laity — but that’s just my suspicion. Whether or not that’s the case, the whole cup/chalice debate is bound to backfire:

        (1) While I agree with those who herein have said we can’t and shouldn’t have liturgical fundamentalism, neither can we have a liturgy that is unfaithful to the witness of Scripture. The ramifications of this extend beyond the Eucharistic prayer to various aspects of Ecclesiology and Christology which are generally too far removed from the biblical witness as is.

        (2) As I’ve pointed out, choosing chalice over cup actually undermines any sacrificial theology of the Eucharist on a fundamental linguistic level. How cup functions in its various symbolic and metaphorical valences (not all of which work for the liturgy, and not all of which may be immediately perceived by, say, a first-grader) precedes any further explanation of the Eucharist as sacrifice, in any of its dimensions.

      2. It is precisely in recapturing a unique Catholic way of viewing the world and the sacred that chalice would not be used in ordinary parlance but cup would. I woud never use chalice for my tableware, that would be pretentious to be sure! Chalice even in pre-Vatican II unofficial translations of the Mass comes from a high Christology and High Eucharistic theology that viewed what happens at Mass as other-worldly, kingdom come values. The dumbing down of our Mass by ICEL in 1970 comes from a very low Christology that was trendy in that period. This low Christology has not been kind to the Mass or our piety as represented by the various abusive examples we have of such. In other words, this is not about biblical literalism but the hermeneutic of continuity with our high Christology that is more respectful of the Sacred, transcendent and imminent but definitely not ordinary, but extraordinary. When I proclaim the Gospel at Mass referring to the Last Supper, I would expect more accuracy for the historical context of the passage, which I presume would be “cup” in English, but I’m not a linguist. Just what kind of cups were there in Jesus day for fancy meals, like a passover? Did they have ordinary “cups” that was referred to in a different way? In the Eucharistic prayer, I’m not proclaiming the Gospel, I’m praying the Church’s highest prayer to Almighty God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit and representing everyone who is with me, visible and invisible.

      3. We’ve had a few comments in this thread about pre-conciliar translations of the Roman Canon in hand missals. I think it’s worth pointing out that the Layman’s Missal, about which our friends over at the New Liturgical Movement were quite excited just over a year ago, uses the word “cup.”

        I always get nervous when we start talking about “the Sacred” (as opposed to what? — it’s a false dichotomy in Christian theology), transcendence, etc., etc. The church has far to long a track record of sanctifying its favorite heresy, Docetism. I’m not suggesting that you’re remark is Docetic, Father; but simply that such lines of though go there all too quickly. A robust theology of incarnation lives with the uneasy and unsettling tension of divine presence in the utterly mundane and quotidian: God has entered into the everyday and ordinary, sanctifying and elevating it. That’s one basis for sacramentality, which hand-in-hand with Docetism, becomes magic: manipulation of the sacred for our own ends.

      4. Well, when we are speaking about our everyday, ordinary lives, yes, God lives in the mundane, but our Mass is not to be mundane, but transcendent. You hit the nail on the head by saying that we have brought the ordinary and mundane to the Mass and believe me I’ve experienced it in the late 1970’s and 1980’s ad nuseam. I think out language at Mass has made our worship very mundane and ordinary. I think the reform of the reform is to lift our worship out of the mundane and experience the Crucified and Risen Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist which unites us to the Most Holy Trinity and thus to heavenly realities. If I live to be 90, the mundane during that period will have been just enough for me, but most people want more than the mundane in their worship and they sure as “hell” don’t want heaven to be like the more mundane experiences they have which are far from sublime. The Missal to which you refer I presume has to use the “official” translation of the Mass into English which right now is the ICEL one from 1970. This is a new missal for the 1962 Mass not an old one resurrected, so there will be some differences more in line with the 1970 ICEL English, yikes!

      5. The date in the Layman’s Missal that I have on my shelf is 1961.

        I’m of a mind that the liturgy should dwell between the transcendent and the immanent, between “heaven” and earth — breaking the one into the other, and uniting them both. Perhaps as an Episcopalian, I’m not as sensitive to the reform of the reform issues as many Roman Catholics are: our “reform the reform” folk are mostly more Protestant than I care to be, and our current status quo has made room for a variety of expressions (including both pre- and post – Pius XII versions of the Missale Romanum).

        My experience of Roman Catholic worship has been mostly positive (with a few glaring exceptions). But I don’t buy it when anyone suggests that “this” is more transcendent than “that” — after all, though I served for a time as an assistant at Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue in NYC (one of the most glorious Ralph Adams Cram churches in the US), I’m firmly convinced that the New Jerusalem will look like Saint John’s Abbey Church — my expectation having been shaped by the worship I experienced there as a student. There’s a degree of subjectivity here, an aesthetic valuation, and certain commitments to contemporaneity: I don’t believe we should build churches to look like they were built a century or four ago: there is genius enough in this age (Richard Meier, Craig Hartman, Renzo Piano and José Rafael Moneo all come to mind) — God given and God honoring — and don’t try to convince me otherwise. Likewise with language: I despise Rite I in the BCP, not because of thee and thou, but because it’s faux Tudor-Stuart English overlaid on a newly concocted rite. It’s not more beautiful than Rite II, nor more transcendent, nor more sacred: only perceived as such because transcendent and sacred are constructs that lots of people bandy about but few actually understand.

        And yes, I’ll use Rite I when pastorally appropriate. . . but I’d prefer to use the BCP 1549 — less theologically problematic and not a throwback to a past that never was. (Draw the analogies with the present MR translation as you see fit!)

      6. I am not qualified to speak on the Episcopal Liturgy. I know it can be heavily influenced by both Protestant and Catholic theologies. Obviously there is great diversity in the Episcopal Eucharist. Some celebrations are more “Catholic” than our Catholic Mass, but that’s because these are more “Tridentine” and thus very elaborate. Obviously we would expect the Church of England to have very good English.. But Latin Rite Catholics are precisely that, Latin Rite which is our official language then translated into English. . Episcopalians can’t really be described as Latin Rite nor bound to the Latin Rite heritage of language. I do find it mystifying that Episcopalians have no problem kneeling for Holy Communion and more prayers during the Liturgy than Latin Rite Catholics as well as using ad orientem in many of their churches. Since we have a very high Real Presence theology you would think that Catholics would be the ones who maintained kneeling and ad orientem. Maybe a desire for “fake” ecumenism made us more Protestant?

  14. My dad’s 1952 St. Andrew’s daily missal has “chalice”. Trying to save on legwork.

    One image that comes to mind again with the liturgical reform of the sixties and seventies is that of giving a thirsty person saltwater. At first the thirst is quenched, but in the long run, it does more harm than good. There was clearly a thirsting for a deeper engagement with the liturgy before Vatican II. I also don’t doubt that for many people, the thirst was quenched for the first couple of decades. But in the long term, will it continue to do so? One day, the laity was told that they were priests by virtue of their baptism, and the next thing they knew, nobody was acting like priests at mass–no chant, no genuflecting, no gilded vessels, no Sunday best. In short, desacralization, or if that word is objectionable, desecration. Yes, many of these are constructs, but that doesn’t mean that they are not beneficial in focusing our attention on and for contemplating the sacred reality.

    1. To be honest with you, I didn’t realize that ICEL’s English text didn’t translate the Latin original accurately. I had thought for the longest time that the Latin had been revised too after Vatican II. When I looked at the pre-Vatican II translation of the Roman Canon in my daily missal with what the Sacramentary had for the Roman Canon, I thought, well they must have dumbed down the Latin also. It wasn’t until I became aware that this was not the case for Latin that I became all the more appalled by ICEL’s 1970 translation. Fr. Z certainly has helped people to see how stupid these translations are with his own translation of the current Mass in Latin compared to the insipid ICEL translations, some of which are so corrupt that one now knows why the law of prayer effects the law of belief either positively or negatively. ICEL’s 1970 translation has certainly not be positive in terms of faith.

      1. One test I always have for a translation is whether there is a possibility of translating the text in the target language back into the source language and coming up with something close to the source text. With “chalice,” I have a fighting chance of rendering it back as calix; with “cup”, the odds are slim.

    1. And except for the fact that calix is translated as cup, goblet, pot, or drinking vessel in most Latin dictionaries; “chalice,” if it appears on the list at all, is near the end as a transliterated derivative.

      1. Latin is a dead language, but “ecclesial Latin” is not quite dead and experiencing a resurgence. So, Calix means in living Church Latin, chalice, because that is what the Popes, Bishops and priests for centuries actually use at Mass, a chalice. For centuries now, a Calix which we call a chalice is used not a simple cup even though Jesus might have and the early Christians who might have prayed in Latin might of thought Calix was a cup and maybe the priest actually used one up until about the 4th century. But I suspect the meaning changed once the priest used a true chalice at Mass. Just like the Flintstones theme song, “We’ll have a yabadabado time, we’ll have a gay old time.” In the early ’60’s when I watched this show in prime time “gay” had only one meaning–joy, fun. It has another meaning today. Maybe, we should just make Calix an English word for the revised Mass and settle all the problems.

      2. I am aware of a number of communities that use stemless drinking vessels for the Eucharist — one that even went so far as to replace their earthenware ones with metal ones after R.S. came out! I own a set of four such vessels myself (and a matching bread plate). Funny thing is, both I and the folks in those communities would never think of calling those drinking vessels anything other than “chalice.”

        “Chalice” names a liturgical object, and I have no objection to calling what is on the altar during mass by that name. But that thing on the altar is not in one-to-one congruence what is named in the institution narrative of the Eucharistic Prayer, and to pretend otherwise is simply dishonest with respect to the integrity of the anaphora.

      3. I think you employ a bit of hyperbole in stating that our new Mass translation and our old pre-Vatican II congregational missals with unofficial translations were/are dishonest. I’d like to know the root word in Latin of “dishonest” and if that is what Jesus used. Do you mean the word is dishonest, or the people who use the word incorrectly? Or do you mean the good folks (I know I shouldn’t use “good” only God is good!) at the new and improved ICEL are dishonest, or the Bishop conferences are dishonest? Or do you mean the pope is dishonest? We’re in a conundrum now! 🙂

      4. I think the situation of saying that Jesus took a chalice and said “This is the chalice of my blood. . . .” is dishonest, whosoever says it — and howsoever each language group translates it.

        Frankly, I’d be satisfied to see the word “cup” in the institution narrative, and chalice used elsewhere in the prayer, e.g., “We offer you this life-giving bread and saving chalice,” etc. — those instances refer to the liturgical cup on the altar, here and now. The institution narrative is different: it is the efficacious remembering before God what Jesus did and said.

        Regardless of how it’s translated when the new translation of the Missal comes out, I think it’s important that everyone be aware of the issues of language and word choice — in general, and especially in liturgical translation. I think we all, within and beyond the Roman Cahtolic Church, want to see the best translation possible; what that “best” is or could be will remain debated for some time.

        And yes, anything will be an improvement over the current translation.

        With that, I don’t think I have anything else to add to this conversation, which (mercifully) will soon drop into the archives.

  15. Leaving aside the academic argument for a second, I will turn to a real life “pastoral” example. If I were to take out that thing I use to put the wine in at Mass and showed it to parishioners–from little kids through the old ones, 99 percent would say it is a “chalice.” Also, when I give the kids a tour of the church and show them the vessels, they may not get the word “paten” or “ciborium” right away but they have never said “plate.”

  16. My last comment on this, I promise! This is from the official English Translation of the Eparch of Newton for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church for their Divine Liturgy and consecration of the CHALICE: (Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom:)

    The Deacon points at the Chalice with his orarion.
    Deacon: Bless the holy Chalice, Master
    Priest: And that which is in this ChaliceThe Deacon points at the Chalice with his orarion.
    Deacon: Bless the holy Chalice, Master
    Priest: And that which is in this Chalice The Deacon points at the Chalice with his orarion.
    Deacon: Bless the holy Chalice, Master
    Priest: And that which is in this Chalice

  17. Just a side-bar on this cup/chalice question: the French text does say ‘coupe’ mainly because ‘calice’ in the Quebec vernacular is a ‘gros mot/juron’ refering to a part of a woman’s body. Besides a drinking cup or calyx as used for Passover and the Seder is what the Lord probably used and not the be-jewelled ‘tulip-shaped’ article that developed after the invention of the elevation in the midst of the Eucharistic Prayer — which nowadays is most associated with ‘chalices’ and meant only for the celebrating priest — and certainly not for general communion under both kinds.

  18. Roman Canon in Italian uses Chalice:
    Dopo la cena, allo stesso modo, prese questo glorioso calice
    nelle sue mani sante e venerabili,
    ti rese grazie con la preghiera di benedizione,
    lo diede ai suoi discepoli, e disse:
    Prendete, e bevetene tutti:questo è il calice del mio Sangue per la nuova ed eterna alleanza, versato per voi e per tutti in remissione dei peccati.

    Italian word for glass is bicchiere
    Italian word for cup is tasso.
    Italian word for goblet is calice!

  19. “Calix” when used as a botanical term means a flower shaped like a cup…we drink from cups, from goblets, from glasses…how many of us drink from a chalice when we’re sharing a little wine around the fireplace??

  20. If you are celebrating the Seder, most likely the meal that Jesus was celebrating before his most untimely death, the directions call for several CUPS of wine…there is a blessing over the first CUP, etc….

  21. Jesus seemed to have a dislike for things of treasure and human value like a chalice for example, I think that during the last supper normal tableware would seem more likely. Anyway children have little idea what a chalice is. “give me a chalice of orange juice please mummy”.

  22. Isn’t it just like us humans…while we bicker over the cover of the Bible, the devil keeps us from studying what’s between the cover, while we bicker over the color of the carpet to put inside the church building, the devil distracts us from the true worship of God between the mere plaster walls, while we bicker about what kind of cup He drank out of, the devil keeps us from concentrating on the real emblems–the bread and fruit of the vine which is His blood and body offered to rescue us from hell. We humans make the devil’s job so easy.

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