What to Do With Old Ceramic Vessels

And More on the Real Presence

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ROME, JULY 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: We recently purchased new chalices and a paten for our chapel to comply with the instruction that sacred vessels must be made of metal. My question is: What can we legitimately do with the old vessels, which are gold-plated ceramic? Is it appropriate to put them to ordinary use, for instance in festive meals? Or do we need to destroy them somehow? — M.H., Gaithersburg, Maryland

A: Regarding what to do with unusable chalices and other sacred vessels, canon law states the following in Canon 1171:

«Sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently and are not to be employed for profane or inappropriate use even if they are owned by private persons.»

Indeed the profanation of a sacred object is a punishable crime under Canon 1376.

It is possible that vessels no longer considered suitable for liturgical use due to a legal prescription have «ipso facto» lost their blessing and thus their sacred character.

In some cases a sacred object that has lost its sacred character may be reduced to convenient profane uses. But this would be inappropriate in the case of a chalice or ciboria, which are among the most sacred objects of all. Certainly it would be incorrect to use the chalices for festive meals or any other similar use.

Some ceramic vessels may be genuine works of art. In such cases, if they cannot be converted to another convenient liturgical use they could be conserved in an ecclesiastical museum alongside other valuable sacred objects no longer used in the liturgy.

If, on the other hand, they are devoid of artistic merit, then, having first consulted with the local bishop to assure their de-consecration, they may be destroyed and buried in the ground in the manner suggested by the bishop himself.
21 column) and the high level of interest leads me to address the topic once more.

Some readers requested the theological sources for the affirmation that the loss of integrity leads to the loss of the Real Presence.

My reply was principally based on an application of the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas’ «Summa Theologiae» III pars q 77. In the corpus of the fourth article of this question «Whether the sacramental species can be corrupted» the Angelic Doctor affirms:

«An accident can be corrupted in another way, through the corruption of its subject, and in this way also they can be corrupted after consecration; for although the subject does not remain, still the being which they had in the subject does remain, which being is proper, and suited to the subject. And therefore such being can be corrupted by a contrary agent, as the substance of the bread or wine was subject to corruption, and, moreover, was not corrupted except by a preceding alteration regarding the accidents.

«Nevertheless, a distinction must be made between each of the aforesaid corruptions; because, when the body and the blood of Christ succeed in this sacrament to the substance of the bread and wine, if there be such change on the part of the accidents as would not have sufficed for the corruption of the bread and wine, then the body and blood of Christ do not cease to be under this sacrament on account of such change, whether the change be on the part of the quality, as for instance, when the color or the savor of the bread or wine is slightly modified; or on the part of the quantity, as when the bread or the wine is divided into such parts as to keep in them the nature of bread or of wine. But if the change be so great that the substance of the bread or wine would have been corrupted, then Christ’s body and blood do not remain under this sacrament; and this either on the part of the qualities, as when the color, savor, and other qualities of the bread and wine are so altered as to be incompatible with the nature of bread or of wine; or else on the part of the quantity, as, for instance, if the bread be reduced to fine particles, or the wine divided into such tiny drops that the species of bread or wine no longer remain.»

In conformity with this doctrine, the liturgical tradition of the Latin rite treats with utmost respect the tiny particles of hosts remaining after Communion (it doesn’t, however, attribute gestures of adoration to the particles).

The liturgical tradition also takes great pains to ensure the proper purification of sacred vessels and altar linens as well as prescribing the careful purification of any place where the Precious Blood might have been accidentally spilled.

A Missouri reader characteristically asked to «be shown» how my statement — «For a valid consecration it is sufficient that the priest be aware of the presence of the ciboria and have the intention of consecrating them or has a general intention of consecrating all that has been placed upon the altar for that purpose» — be true in the light of the fact that at: «Papal Masses I see hundreds of priests standing many yards from the altar holding ciboria filled with unconsecrated hosts. It is taken for granted those hosts are consecrated by the Pope during the Mass, even though they are no where near the Pope or the altar.»

My statement responded to the precise question at hand, which referred to ciboria placed on the altar.

I did not address the general principle of the priest’s intention and it was not my purpose to set an absolute limit on the physical extension to the intention.

In the case of papal Masses, and similarly numerous celebrations, the celebrant has the specific intention of consecrating the hosts in the minister’s ciborium.

In general, the papal master of ceremonies organizes the deacons and priests holding the ciboria so that they are as close to the altar as possible and that nobody except concelebrants are between these ministers and the altar.

Most priests have a habitual intention of consecrating all that is upon the corporal, but they may explicitly extend this intention to all that is upon the altar.

Although it is technically possible for a priest to extend his intention in the manner of papal Masses, it is practically never necessary to do so in a parish situation where the logistic difficulties proper to St. Peter’s Basilica do not occur.

The proper solution in a very large parish Mass is to consecrate sufficient hosts in large ciboria upon the altar and transfer them to empty ciboria at the moment of Communion.

Several other readers also asked about the period of thanksgiving after Communion. One put it thus: If Christ disappears almost immediately «at such point, then to whom do I address my thanksgiving?»

Many, perhaps most, of us were formed in the tradition that the period of thanksgiving after Communion was somehow linked to the duration of the species within the body. This period was variably placed at 5 to 15 minutes, with some saying more and others less.

Although this abiding is a reality, over time I have become convinced that it is not the best focus to adopt in explaining the motives for giving thanks after Communion.

My reasons are that this explanation tends to obscure the act of receiving Communion as the high point and completion of participation at Mass, or of uniting ourselves spiritually to the Mass if we receive Communion outside of Mass.

Indeed, this tradition arose above all in an epoch in which the faithful who desired to receive Communion remained behind after the completion of the Mass, compounding this dissociation between the Sacrifice and Communion.

Why then
should we give thanks?

When we have participated at Mass we have been present in a sacramental but real way at a new Bethlehem and a new Calvary. We have walked with Christ the dusty road to Emmaus and felt our hearts burning as he opened our minds to the Scriptures and recognized him at the breaking of bread. We have been witnesses to his death and resurrection.

In virtue of the common priesthood received at baptism and confirmation we have received the capacity to offer our personal prayers and sacrifices with and through the priest so that we are certain that our personal offering, although it seems to us no more than a grain of sand or a drop of water, is placed alongside the infinite and eternal sacrifice of Christ and presented to the Father as a pleasing and agreeable sacrifice.

Through our reception of holy Communion, we are nourished spiritually for life’s journey; the new and eternal covenant between God and man is ratified once more.

We strengthen the family ties between God and ourselves, grow in friendship and imitation of Christ, become more fully children of the Blessed Virgin Mary and build up the bond of brotherhood that unites us to the communion of saints and with all those who are blessed to partake of the Lamb’s supper.

In the light of all this, and there is much more to be said, a lifetime would not suffice to give personal thanks to Christ for the grace of participating in a single Mass and a single Communion.

To dwell only on the duration of the Real Presence is to reduce the graces received to one aspect and leave aside a trove of blessings from a God who is not content to show his love for us but almost spoils us in his generosity.

* * *

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