Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Mixed Chalice

The water in the cruet at Mass is, as in the blessing of water in any liturgical service, blessed to signify the grace that God bestows through the chiefest of the Sacraments, Holy Baptism, but it is blessed in the context of the Mass specifically to signify the union of the human and divine natures in the One Person of God the Son: because the Mass mystically exhibits the wondrous mystery of the Lord's entire life, including His Incarnation, and because the wine and water actually become the Incarnate Lord under the form of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament, the priest blesses the water, cleansing and purifying it and making it ready for its union with the Blood of Christ. The best answer to the brilliant question you pose is found in the prayer the priest recites over the water as he blesses it: 'O God, who in great wonder and honour didst create human nature and in greater wonder and honour didst renew the same, grant by the mystery of this water and wine, we make partake of the Godhead of Him Who deigned to share our humanity, even thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.' In the Holy Eucharist we receive the total Person of Our Lord, God and Man, Body and Blood, under every particle of the Blessed Sacrament, and thus we signify in the blessing and commingling of the water and wine the Hypostatic Union, the perfect union of the divine nature of the Son of God with the human nature He assumed from the Blessed Virgin by the Holy Ghost. Fascinatingly, those ancient churches called Oriental Orthodox or Monophysite, which reject the doctrine of two natures in Our Lord, do not bless water and mix it with the wine in the preparation of the gifts at the celebration of the Mass. This is because they do not adhere to the dogmatic definition of the Council of Chalcedon, which upholds the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union. In Anglicanism, the 'mixed chalice' as it is commonly called was condemned by protestant opponents during the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century, for Anglo-Catholics restored this ancient practice of the undivided Church during the time of the Catholic Revival. The mixed chalice is one of the 'Six Points' of proper Eucharistic liturgical restoration and practice insisted upon by the English Church Union during the hottest controversial period of the Tractarian renewal. The other five are: incense, lighted candles, unleavened bread, Mass vestments and the Eastward position of the Altar - all six emphasise that the Mass is a true propitiatory Sacrifice in which the one Oblation of Christ once-offered is objectively made-present and pleaded to the Father in the consecrated Elements of the Eucharist.

And so there are profound Christological and sacramentological reasons for mixing the chalice of wine with blessed water at the offering of the Mass, more than perhaps most average Churchmen realise. The mixed chalice affirms the Real Sacrificial Presence of the God-Man in the Blessed Sacrament and establishes the truth of the Incarnation.


Unknown said...

Only the Armenians, I believe, have an unmixed chalice. Some of the Syrian Orthodox theologians, for example, have mystagogical explanations of the mixed chalice. :)

~ Fr. Peter Geromel, Rector
St. Francis Anglican Church
Spartanburg, SC

Unknown said...


The Armenians are, I believe, the only Oriental Orthodox that have an unmixed chalice. There are, for example, Syrian Orthodox theologians (either Severus of Antioch or St. Jacob of Serugh) who have mystagogical explanations of the meaning of the mixed chalice.