Skip to comments.Liturgy: Are Glass Chalices OK for Mass?
Posted on 09/17/2003 6:34:12 AM PDT by NYer
ROME, SEPT. 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- With this column ZENIT is launching a feature on common questions about liturgical norms and the proper way to celebrate the Mass. The questions are answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum. The feature will appear every other week.
Readers may send their own questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field.
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Q: May a celebrant at Mass use a glass chalice when consecrating the wine?
A: From the historical point of view, glass chalices were known in antiquity up to about the time of St. Gregory the Great (died 604), although most Christians preferred gold and silver vessels, even in time of persecution.
The most relevant document regarding this theme are numbers 328-332 of the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) whose adapted English version recently received approval from the Holy See and is now in force in the dioceses of the United States.
No. 328 states clearly: "Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal." Liturgical law, however, allows the bishops' conference to propose other esteemed materials for use in sacred vessels.
The U.S. bishops have allowed for the use of other solid materials "that, according to the common estimation in each region, are precious, for example, ebony or other hard woods," but, "provided that such materials are suited to sacred use and do not easily break or deteriorate."
No. 330 has an added proviso that chalices and other vessels destined to serve as receptacles for the blood of Christ should have bowls of nonabsorbent material. These norms are topped off by No. 332, which gives some leeway to artistic taste with respect to the outward form of the sacred vessels, "provided each vessel is suited to the intended liturgical use and is clearly distinguishable from those intended for everyday use."
So, can a priest celebrate with a glass chalice? The above-mentioned norms don't allow for a crystal clear response as they do not specify very much at all. Glass is not widely regarded as a precious material; it generally seems more like a household product. Then again, a glass chalice might recall, for some parishioners, the pleasures of cognac.
Some cut crystals, however, especially if artistically and uniquely fashioned with liturgical motifs, might pass the quality test. It is certainly not porous and does not easily deteriorate. But most glass is easily breakable.
A rule of thumb in deciding if a material is suitably strong for use as a chalice could be called the "clumsy server test." What happens if a server hits the rim of the chalice with a cruet? If the result is splinters, then the material should go to the rejection pile.
On the basis of these considerations I would say that in most cases glass is unsuitable material for use as a chalice, but the latitude provided in liturgical law does not allow for an outright prohibition.
Suggestion: let's pool our resources, compile a list and submit them one at a time. Then we can monitor the answers to determine whether or not our questions are being addressed.
So, can a priest celebrate with a glass chalice?
In my parish, the pastor consecrates the wine using a gold chalice. There is also a glass pitcher and two glass goblets for distribution of the Precious Blood.
I struggle with wondering somehow, if things like this are silly and not worth the time spent wondering or reading or writing about them, especially since norms seem so broadly written that there is no clear cut definitive answer (or room for YOPI) - as is the case with Tabernacle location or altar crucifix placement. And what if my parish priest was given the pottery chalice by someone very dear to him? Who am I? Does God really care?
On the other hand... where do the little "sort of" disobedience things stop?
So this is where I put my fingers in my ears, chant "la-la-la-la I can't hear you" real loudly and jump up and down. ;-)
(2) Stone doesn't meet it either, but stone is better than glass because glass is liable to break if the cruets, etc. hit it.
(3) There is no reason why any parish in the US should be unable to afford at least a gold-lined chalice. They cost maybe $200.
You should stop wondering. Things like this are silly. Common sense should prevail, and usually does.
The priest doesn't get to select the instruments of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to his own personal feelings. He has a job to do and he has a GIRM to tell him how to do it properly.
God does care if people obey the Church he established on Peter or if they disobey it. He cares a lot.
This is true: but such a chalice is probably significantly heavier and it must be elevated at least twice. And heavy glass isn't any more precious for being heavy.
Spilling seems to be a more serious concern than does breakage.
Which is why, after the consecration, the chalice should be moved as little as possible and handled by as few people as possible. Of course, the modern fad for utraquism presents problems on that front.
The big deal is the desire to offer God the very finest material things we have.
Wood is a definite practical problem: the Sacrifice should never be offered in an absorbent container.
You know I agree with you 100% here on dogmatic (faith and morals) issues and even matters of discipline. Took me a number of years to understand, but I'm there, by the grace of God.
However, reading the GIRM on what constitutes proper make up of the chalice... it's all over the place. I know what I would use (precious metal) and why, but it seems that when all is said and done, precious metal is a strong suggestion in the GIRM and not liturgical law. Way too "all over the place" - just like Tabernacle placement.
Drives me nuts.
It's certainly maddening - but remember that the GIRM is designed to apply to a mission church in Africa's interior as well as a parish church in a wealthy American suburb.
As I hinted above, in America such things shouldn't even be an issue: every parish in America can afford a chalice lined with gold.
In an African mission, the rumor of a gold-lined chalice might encourage an act of greedy violence against a priest.
Common sense should be applied in using the GIRM - leeway afforded to the unfortunate and oppressed shouldn't be twisted into a political weapon by lazy liberal priests in America.
That being said, Murano glass is chiefly found in Italian-American homes and is generally used for decorative, knick-knack type purposes. The dignity of the Mass wouldn't be enhanced by the chalice looking just like Grandma's candy dish.
I'm glad you were kidding.