First, I’d like to thank the many people who engaged in such a healthy and respectful conversation about the issue of receiving the Precious Blood at Mass (in response to the actions taken by bishops in Phoenix and Madision to limit the reception of the Cup). I read too many blogs where Catholics speak disrespectfully to one another and I’m happen that doesn’t happen here. The heartfelt comments that came in represent both sides of the debate and I strongly believe that Catholic adults can and should be able to share differing opinions on such matters in a respectful and civil manner. So thank you for that!
I’d like to add another element to the conversation that I think is missing and that is the fact that all sacraments are both formative and expressive: they shape and form us and at the same time, they engage us in an expression of our faith. In other words, in the sacraments, God is expressing something to us and we are expressing something to God and to one another. The CCC tells us that “the sacraments strengthen faith and express it.” (1133)
Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus at Mass strengthens and forms us while at the same time, receiving the Body of Christ and drinking from the Cup express two very important things: when we “take and eat,” we are expressing our unity in the Body of Christ; when we “take a drink” we are expressing our commitment to Christ’s mission. To drink from a cup is an expression of commitment which is why Jesus prayed in the Garden, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt 26:40) Jesus also told his disciples, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mk 10:38)
All of the arguments in defense of limiting the Cup focus solely on the formative aspect, emphasizing (rightly) that we don’t receive “more” Jesus by drinking from the Cup. What is being ignored is the expressive aspect of the Communion Rite, in particular, the drinking from the one Cup, as a expression of our commitment to the mission of Christ for which we will soon be dismissed – sent forth – to participate in. The actual drinking from the one Cup (not individual dixie cups as is done in non-Catholic circles) is a powerful expression of our commitment to the mission of Christ.
Catholicism is a sacramental faith meaning that we express faith and encounter God through a language of mystery that goes beyond words and relies on sign, symbol, ritual, and gesture. Drinking from the Cup adds richness to our expression of faith. Let’s not minimize this powerful language of the heart.