More About Receiving From the Cup

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.

About Joe Paprocki 2747 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

12 Comments on More About Receiving From the Cup

  1. The Cup and the Host are meaningless or merely symbolic to way too may Catholics. Who is to blame for this lack of understanding at best, or lack of faith at worst? Why worry about what species of communion are available when so many don’t believe? As DRE’s and catechists lets stop rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and get to the root of the problem: we’ve sold symbolism over understanding. How many of our students believe in the Real Presence and can they explain why? What is a valid priesthood and why is it important? What is a sacrament and how does it work? What is grace? Why are we here? We’re worried about replacing the furniture while our foundation is crumbling.

    We as Catholics have a rich and vibrant history, we have nearly 30 churches and rites in the Catholic Church but we share one faith, let’s make sure our students understand the faith, to the very best of their ability, before we spend our energies on something like this.

    • Bill – I agree with you about believing or the lack of believing in what we receive in Holy Communion. However, let’s not put all the eggs on the DREs and catechists. In the Rite of Baptism, it is said that “parents, you are the first teachers of the faith to your child…” and so many of us has missed this boat! How many of us parents have actually sat down and taught the faith to our children much less what to believe and not believe? Also, much like children, many adults also lack the full understanding and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. If we did, then why aren’t we so transformed and converted in how we live our lives and how we give God’s love unconditionally to others?

      As the saying goes, “the apple does not fall far from the tree.” Faith formation has to start at the roots and its in the family. When the kids come to religious education and can’t even do the sign of the cross or recite the Lord’s Prayer, then where does the blame go?

      As Jesus says in Scripture, “the harvest is many but the laborers are few.” Let’s all help one another in building and uniting God’s Kingdom here and now.

      • Absolutely agree George! We as parents, and particularly as fathers are the head of the domestic church and as such a primary responsibility in the formation of our children. Far, far to many of us have abdicated this responsibility to school and catechists. and then blame them (us)

        • Ack! fat finger Bill pushed the “submit” button too soon!

          by (us) I mean catechists and other non family members involved in formation.

  2. I was very distressed to read your article about the 2 bishops who decided not to offer the Cup at mass in their respective dioceses. I hope the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will take this matter up at their next meeting and strongly disapppove their action. Wasn’t the refusal of the Cup to the faithful, one of the points in Martin Luther’s list of grievances against the church? More importantly, Jesus as the head of the church is the one who said “Take and eat…” and “Take and drink…” It seems that we are forgetting the invitation of the Master! I wholeheartedly agree with your 2nd explanation why it is necessary to receive not only the Body but also the Blood of Christ. On a more practical note, we have some parishioners who are gluten intolerant and do receive from the Cup only at mass! God bless you and May Our Lord continue to guide His Church.

  3. 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,
    Joe…this is something I have never heard expressed before…it is a beautiful expression. I always receive from the cup when it is available and perhaps many more would do so if this beautiful expression of their faith would be taught to them from the pulpit. Expressing commitment to Christ’s mission far outweighs any concern people may have about receiving possible germs from sharing the cup.

    Thanks for the teaching…I am always so grateful when I learn new truths about our Catholic faith


  4. My concerns about drinking from a common cup in addition to receiving the host in an individual form (fully present Eucharist!) are the health concerns–possible spread of disease to immunosuppressed patients, from infected patients- both groups potentially stigmatized if they DON’T participate when offered the cup! So,someone with chronic viral hepatitis may contaminate the cup- a chemo patient may then drink from the cup–both erroneously believing they won’t spread/catch anything and both not wanting to share their medical concerns with the rest of the church. I believe that JUST the host if completely sufficient. Adding human risk to this equation is unnecessary. In Church, I DO NOT take the cup just so I can relieve others of exposing themselves as infected or at risk.

  5. I would invite you to sit near the front of your church next Sunday and see how many parishioners actually receive from the Cup. I think that your argument today is very persuasive, but is it still persuasive if half the congregants walk past the cup without even stopping? What message does it send? That only half the congregation is committed to carrying out Christs’s mission? I’m just playing devil’s advocate here… Is this only my experience or do other parishes have similar trends? Both parishes we have attended regularly in town just don’t have good participation in receiving from the Precious Cup.

  6. As a former coordinator and trainer for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and now a Catechist for 6th graders, I can only say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!” for your added explanation of the two parts / sides of Holy Communion – formative and expressive.
    I am so disheartened when I hear Catholics say things such as, “What’s wrong with attending a Lutheran or other “brand/type” of religious service? There’s only one God!” I actually heard these words today among a group of us stuffing envelopes for the big parish pledge drive. A discussion about the Missal changes came about as well as comparison to the Lutheran practices. It is sad that so many of us miss what Holy Eucharist really means not only for us, but for His Church – and more importantly, our role in it!
    The phrase, “Blood is thicker than water” is very powerful and truly identifies and CONFIRMS that we are family, we are one – through Christ alone.
    In teaching my 6th graders, I repetitively teach them at each class that there are at least two sides to every action. A giver and a receiver at minimum. But I also emphasize that the receiver is always doing more by accepting the responsibility for what they are given. Even the simple hand-off of a pencil means that “yes” I the receiver want and need that pencil you just gave me, otherwise, why would I have taken it? If I didn’t need/want it I would have said, “No thank you!”
    So my question is, “What are we saying when we receive Holy Communion?? Yes, I need and want you Jesus in all ways? or No thank you??

  7. Joe,
    As I read the various comments about receiving Holy Communion under both species, I see that both sides have valid reasons. My understanding as to why the bishops are looking into discontinuing the cup has more to do with being in solidarity with the rest of the world. Many countries are too poor to buy wine and have it at each Mass. As a naturalized citizen, I grew up in a very ethnic community within the larger American community. I was taught to love the American way by my parents. However, many Americans fail to see the other side. We, as Americans, tend to get upset when asked to conform to ways that are natural to those in other countries. I love receiving from the cup. I never worry about catching any sickness. But if the Bishops feel that having the cup less often will unify us with those in other countries, then I am willing to make the sacrifice.
    Thank you,

  8. Joe, I thank you for shedding more wisdom and beauty about this “issue” that seems to trouble so many of us in every direction. In my opinion, reception of Holy Communion is a very humble and holy privilege given to us by Jesus Christ who first loved us before we can even love Him or one another. It is through Holy Communion that Jesus allows us in our brokenness and lack of humility and love for one another to unite ourselves to be one with Him and through one another. In Holy Communion, we bound ourselves together in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ through His sacrificed body and blood, shed for us all for the forgiveness of our sins.

    We also need to be very humbly mindful that our bishops are the shepherds of Jesus Christ in our midst who have received what the original 12 Apostles received from Jesus himself. The twelve were mere human mortals and imperfect in every way, and only through self-surrender did they become Jesus’ instruments of His mission. We need to support, love, respect and honor with much humility our bishops. They will never be perfect in all things but with our prayers and love for them, may they always do God’s will in all things and through their ministry.

    Thanks again for sharing your great wisdom!

  9. So much of what I feel has already been said Thank you so much Joe.

    May I point out the strangeness of suspending reception from the cup during cold and flu season. As a family member once told me, “Because it is what it is (Jesus’ body blood soul and divinity) it can not hurt us.”

    How ironic is it that in our diocese when the H1N1 was such big news and the dioces directed all parishes to suspend receiving the Precious Blood, a local papter interviewed the pastor of the Orthodox parish who said of course they would not give up including the wine from their eucharistic celebrations. To him it was unimaginable that bread and wine would be separated.

    It is not that I am insensative to the issue of “germs.” As I share with the families in our religious ed program. When I have a cold I refrain from receiving from the cup, not because I am afraid of germs or even spreading them but because I do not want someone who has heard me coughing and sniveling to hesitate from receiving because of me.

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