For those considering becoming a Chalice Bearer, we’ve prepared these general notes of what the job entails. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask a priest, a verger, or an experienced Lay Minister.
The Chalice: The traditional Eucharistic Chalice is a vessel of great beauty and value, both of which serve to remind us of the immeasurable spiritual value of the Blood of Christ which it contains. The traditional chalice is also a practical vessel, crafted for its particular function. The bowl is usually a hemisphere, or very nearly so, in order to contain as much as possible yet resist spillage. The base is large enough to balance the bowl with at least some wine in it. and a long stem enhances this balance. There is a knob on the stem, usually less than an inch below the bowl. The most common way to hold the chalice is to place the short portion of the stem above the knob in a “V” formed by the index finger and the middle finger. These two fingers grasp the knob downward while the thumb and other two fingers support the knob from beneath. The chalice can then be raised or lowered by a simple motion of the wrist.
Preparation: Arrive ten minutes early and check in with the verger and with the priest.
DURING THE SERVICE
Participation: Participate in the service as you would ordinarily; but at Communion time take a position near the credence table. (The table where the prepared elements and utensils are kept. You will be among the first to receive along with the musicians. The priest may hand you the chalice after administering you the wine. Take it and the purificator (the white napkin) and administer to anyone in the first group who has not yet received the wine. After the two chalice bearers and the musicians have received, the priest or the verger will hand the remaining chalice to the second Eucharistic minister.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE CHALICE
Speak the Words of Administration as you offer the chalice to the Communicant. For our service they are: “The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; keep you in everlasting life,” or “The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.” Either formula may be used for each Communicant or they may be rotated.
Pattern of Administration:
Typically, the priest first Communicates the young children gathered immediately around the altar. The children generally know to proceed to one of the chalice bearers, although there may be a bit of confusion at first. (There is no real “line.” So watch; pay attention; and make sure everyone has chance to receive.) Don’t be bashful about asking a child or her parents if the child wishes to receive. For the smaller ones, you may need to stoop or kneel.
Then, simply follow a few feet behind the priest as he moves about the room administering the Bread. Try to serve every other person, so the work is equally divided between the two chalice bearers. Again, do not be bashful about asking a congregant if he has already received.
Manner of Administration:
Adult communicants may take the chalice into their own hands, but it is more usual for them to guide it to their lips by tipping the chalice by the foot or step. Do not let them take the chalice out of your hand. As the communicant receives, the chalice-bearer should hold the purificator under the chin of the communicant to catch any drops. The same instructions apply to most standing children. Communicants who do not assist, may be assumed to have received when the Wine is seen touching their lips. If this cannot be seen, the chalice-bearer may have to ask.
After each person receives the Wine, wipe the lip of the chalice with the purificator and turn the chalice a few degrees. Hold the purificator between two fingers or between the thumb and a finger so as to wipe both the inside and outside of the lip. This will not sterilize the chalice, but it should remove unsightly stains or debris. You may refold and rotate the purificator to utilize all of its surfaces (but avoid staining the embroidered cross), then, if needed get a fresh purificator from the credence table. (Or ask the Verger or priest for guidance.)
Intinction refers to receiving the Wine “intincted” on the Bread:
1) If the communicant receives the Bread on the palm of the hand and leaves it there, you may assume he wishes you to intinct the Bread and place it in his mouth. (This is very unusual at Palmer; most prefer to dip the Host into the Wine themselves.) Take the Bread with the thumb and two fingers, dip into the wine, then place the Bread on the tongue of the communicant’s open mouth. Try to avoid touching the Wine or the mouth of the communicant with your fingers.
2) If the communicant holds the Bread in her fingers, it probably means she wishes to intinct it herself. Hold the chalice down with the purificator below the Bread and communicant’s chin to catch any drops. Try to avoid allowing the communicant’s fingers touching the Wine.
3) If there is an “accident,” do not panic. Ask the priest or the verger for instructions.
At the End of the Service:
After all have received, return to the altar table, place your folded purificator over the chalice and either place it back on the credence table or hand to the verger or to the priest. Each priest has his own preferences; and he will instruct you what to do. Then join the children in singing our celebration song, “Go Now in Peace.”
Following the dismissal, the priest may ask you to assist in reverently consuming left over wine and bread. If you prefer not to consume more, simply say, “No thank you.”
Further Reading: While this material has little to do with the duties of a Chalice Bearer, it does explain what it is we as members of the Body of Christ are doing when we gather each Sunday. This lesson was prepared by our own Fr. Sam Todd over ten years ago. It uses the traditional Rite II, which is not what we do in St. Bede’s; but it’s highly instructive, and recommended to all who are able to read; whether you’re a Eucharistic Minister or not.