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Parishes begin to offer Communion chalice to parishioners again

P Deliss | GODONG

John Burger - published on 02/19/22 - updated on 02/19/22

One of the "victims" of pandemic restrictions was receiving the Eucharist under both species. Things might be changing.

Some Catholic parishes in the United States have begun a practice that was halted early in the COVID-19 pandemic: distributing Communion under both species. 

Parishioners in several churches in the Archdiocese of Denver are now able to receive not only the Communion Host but also drink from a common chalice, an archdiocesan spokesman confirmed to Aleteia.

“In the Archdiocese of Denver, all archdiocese-wide pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted, and so every pastor is directed, as always, to make local level decisions which are prudent in caring for his parish community,” said Mark Haas, director of media and public relations for the archdiocese. “More simply put, each pastor is free to once again distribute Communion in both Species, but he doesn’t have to. I know some parishes have resumed, while others have not.”

When the pandemic began making headlines in early 2020, churches set rules for behavior that was meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus. There was precedent for this, in isolated times and places, when the seasonal flu was more virulent than usual.

Thus, parishioners were asked to refrain from actions that put them in touch with or in close proximity with one another, such as shaking hands or standing close by other worshipers, or would assist the spread of the virus through the air, such as singing, or through saliva. The last category led to a requirement that holy Communion be received on the hand – and the prohibition that communicants share a common cup. 

Haas said in an email that over the last several months he has heard from a “handful of people either wanting the return of the distribution of the Blood of Christ in their parish, or concerned if it has returned.”

Meanwhile, a pastor in the Midwest, who oversees a large Catholic campus ministry, has tried to begin a conversation possibilities to get people thinking about life in a post-pandemic Church.

“After 2 years of Holy Communion with just one species, what are the compelling reasons for bringing back Holy Communion under both species?” Dominican Fr. Patrick Hyde, the pastor and director of Campus Ministry at St. Paul Catholic Center at Indiana University, asked on Twitter this past week. 

The response he got ran the gamut from continued caution to expressions of deep longing for the Eucharist under the appearance of both bread and wine.

News reports are beginning to suggest that the pandemic might soon turn into an endemic, in which COVID-19 and all its variants are more manageable. The number of new cases has “plummeted,” the New York Times reported, and many states have relaxed mask mandates. California has shifted to an “endemic” approach, “with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement Thursday of a plan that emphasizes prevention and quick reaction to outbreaks over mandated masking and business shutdowns,” said National Public Radio.

With an apparent trajectory toward normalcy, Fr. Pine suggests that the Church begin to discuss whether the manner in which Holy Communion under both species was distributed in the past is the best way to do that.

“Will it be like we did it before? Will we limit it to certain solemnities and feast days? Will we make it available most Sundays but on a much more limited basis?” he explained. “I think it is important for pastors and their parishes to assess critically before making the Precious Blood available again because the realities have changed.”

Pine said that although it’s not necessary, a communicant can have a richer experience when receiving under both species. 

“When we look at symbolism, there can be a fuller, richer symbol or sign of that thing,” Pine said in an interview. “Baptism can be done with water in a gutter. It still does the same thing as baptism in a beautiful baptismal font and a beautiful white gown and all that. Nothing is lost in terms of grace imparted from the sacrament. But the other goods of the sacrament are often the signs. It’s kind of like ‘Why would a chalice be something that’s beautiful?’ Because it  signifies that it’s a vessel of the Blood of Christ.” 

The priest pointed to key Scriptural references to the Eucharist, such as the Last Supper, when Jesus commanded his Apostles to “take and drink,” not just “take and eat,” and St. Paul writing, “We share of the one bread and the one chalice.”

“So there’s clearly a desire on the part of our blessed Lord for the Church to share those with us,” he said. “But there is, in a sense, something that is lost from a signification inside when the chalice is never available. You still receive the fullness of the grace that you would receive from the Eucharist, because Jesus is – body, blood, soul and divinity – fully present in both the body and in the blood.”

Pine added that having this conversation is also timely, in that the Catholic bishops of the United States are set to initiate a three-year “Eucharistic revival,” in response to reports of flagging faith in Church teaching on the sacrament. 

“The more we can talk about how we present ourselves and how we prepare ourselves and how we receive and why we do all these things, the more we can have deep meaningful conversations around the Eucharist, the better we will be as a Church,” Fr. Pine said, “because our Church is a Church of and from and for the Eucharist.”

Tags:
COVID-19Eucharist
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