QUAERITUR: can glass chalices be used?

Another question:

Father,

    What do you say about the use of glass chalices in Mass? Is this practice allowed by the Church, and if not, why?

I say that they are entirely forbidden, they may not be used, and anyone who uses them is sticking his thumb in the Church`s eye.

This is what you call a liturgical abuse

All sacred vessels should be made of worthy and durable materials, which are precious and not porous, for obvious reasons.  Thus, pottery and glass are not good materials for chalices.

The Congregation for Divine Worship a few years ago put out a document called Redemptionis Sacramentum concerning various liturgical abuses.  It mentions this very thing.

3. Sacred Vessels

[117.] Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books. The Bishops’ Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honour will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate.

 

A key word here is reprobated.  This is a techincal term meaning that it is abolished, or forbidden in such a complete way that no one can appeal to custom (‘but we`ve been doing this for years now!") nor can anyone try to establish a custom by violating the law over a long period of time.

In other words…. NO GLASS CHALICES.

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33 Responses to QUAERITUR: can glass chalices be used?

  1. Howard says:

    How about the Holy Chalice of Valencia, which is made of agate? There is reason to suspect that this agate chalice may be the original Holy Grail, but agate is breakable, and in fact the chalice has been dropped and broken (it was repaired by a jeweler). Would it be permissible to use an agate replica as a chalice? If so, and if I win the powerball, I’ll send you a copy of the Grail. :-)

  2. James says:

    Our pastor is well aware that glass chalices aren’t allowed, but he uses one anyway (a rather ugly one too, which he once described as being “very expensive”), as well as something resembling a large chip bowl for the hosts. What is a layman to do in a case like this? I’m on the parish staff, and if I report it to the bishop, I know there will be nasty repercussions. And I’m not sure our bishop would even care.

    And to add to the disappointment, we have several beautiful antique chalices collecting dust in the sacristy.

  3. Xpihs says:

    So what should one do with all of the reprobate glass? Surely they shouldn’t be given over to profane use, nor summarily discarded into the trash. Anyone have any ideas? In keeping with this, our parish has some old vessels that are not really appropriate for the Eucharist, what do we do with these?

  4. TerryC says:

    Am I wrong to think that vessels previously used for containing the precious blood should be destroyed so as to prevent them from being given over to profane use? In the case of glass that would mean smash them. In the case of base metal that would mean melt them down. Isn’t that the same thing that is done to worthy vessels when they become unusable?

  5. Dan says:

    Apparently, this document has never been read in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. I have seen numerous occasions in the past year where glass was used, even in the hospital chapel where I work and at Masses celebrated by the ordinary.

  6. A Random Friar says:

    Glass chalices *do* have one good liturgical use. See: Jewish weddings.

  7. Jim says:

    Glasses and pottery cups are commonly used by the liberal priests who control this neck of the woods (Diocese of Santa Rosa, CA). I have seen them in other places, too. I ask you, Father, what is the point of all these vatican regulations if there is no enforcement??? There is no point complaining to the bishop; one receives the “troublemaker” label and is marginalized. Liturgical abuses are rampant here and I do not expect that to change during my lifetime. Other abuses include skipping the creed entirely, eliminating the Gloria except on major feasts, using a responsorial psalm other than the one prescribed for the day, tinkering with the words of the Mass, and so on.

    Some of us have found solace in the local Eastern (Ukranian) Rite parish where such abuses never occur. The Roman Rite is sinking fast in Northern California. Catechesis is non-existent. Parishes have been depopulated by 30+ years of contraception. Parish closings will come next. It is easy for those of you who live among like-thinking Catholics to think things are improving. Not so. Those in control are simply waiting for Benedict XVI’s demise. It will get worse and the Church will shrink; for Rome is powerless to deal with massive rejection of the Holy Father’s program.

  8. TNCath says:

    Yes, I have seen a couple of BISHOPS in the last 10 years use glass chalices as well, one of which also advised his priests to use “pastoral discretion” in regards to rubrics on the purification of sacred vessels. Arrgggh!

  9. Graham Lake says:

    I think someone should perhaps tell Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, USA!

  10. Charivari Rob says:

    Dan – “Apparently, this document has never been read in the Archdiocese…”

    It does appear that there are some places where folks read up to the part about ‘precious’ and conclude that means Waterford Crystal is fine, and skip reading the rest.

    Yes, the fragility of crystal and ‘earthen vessels’ presents too much of a risk. It leaves me wistful, though. I had a near-Emmaus moment one Sunday thanks to a crystal chalice.

    As the priest elevated the chalice, a firey light became visible, burning in the center of the fluid contained therein! For about a femtosecond the entire Mystery seemed clear to me! Then the veil dropped back down. A couple of seconds later I realized that if I took the line of sight from my pew to the altar and continued it at a slight divergence on the other side of the altar it intersected with the sanctuary candle and a floodlight on a pillar. The chalice and its contents had merely refracted the light beyond.

    Ah, well, blessed are those who have not seen and still believe…

    p.s. changing my posting name – it just sunk in that not only is there another Rob here who has been posting longer, I think he’s in the same metropolitan area.

  11. Maynardus says:

    re: “I think someone should perhaps tell Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, USA!”

    Cardinal Balony Mahony has decided that Redemptionis Sacramentum does not apply to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles:

    “I have determined that there is no need to make any significant changes in our liturgical practice at this time.”

    “Most of the abuses mentioned in Redemptionis Sacramentum do not pertain to the celebration of the Eucharist in our Archdiocese because of our many efforts to provide intensive and extensive training in proper liturgical norms and practice.”

    So there, take THAT!

  12. Maureen says:

    “The chalice and its contents had merely refracted the light beyond.”

    And all the world’s great paintings are nothing but stained cloth?

    Knowing the mechanism of a moment of beauty and grace does not make it less a moment of insight or foretaste of the truth of things. I guarantee you that Jesus “just” said the Gospel with hHis ordinary human tongue! :) Of course, it is important to recognize the difference between having a supernatural vision and having God poke you with entirely natural means; but those means are no less dignified and important for being natural. The mud and spit Jesus used to heal the man’s eys were holy mud and spit, darn it!

    Back to the topic….

    Yeah, our archbishop had glass industry people in his family, so he’s very into the whole “crystal is precious” thing. Sigh. Oh, well, he’s retiring soonish, so the new guy can re-catechize, I guess.

    Re: breakable agate

    Well, agate’s a precious stone and reasonably hard to break. When carved really thin, I guess it might become breakable; but how many thousand years has that thing lasted? I mean, nobody says it’s not Roman-made, that I’ve heard. So if it’s breakable, it takes a looooong time to break.

  13. Jeff says:

    I hold with glass chalices.

    BUT…

    I think a case could be made that they key word is not “reprobated” but rather “therefore”.

    Glass and other breakable materials are reprobated BECAUSE they are associated with the common and the unworthy. Breakable is too like dispensable.

    Agate would obviously be precious, though breakable.

    And though “glass” and “crystal” are obviously the same substance materially, there is certainly such a thing as precious crystal.

    I don’t like that, but I think we must allow it.

    And that allows for the insertion of the thin edge of the wedge…specially precious glass in some circumstances might be allowable.

    The wedge goes in, I’m afraid. It’s at least a plausible argument. And it then becomes difficult to stop those who claim that clealy non-precious or nonnoble materials are suitable for liturgical worship.

  14. Jeff says:

    That should have read, “I don’t hold with glass chalices”.

  15. wsxyz says:

    Jeff, the instruction is actually “crystal clear”.

    Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass (1) common vessels, or (2) others lacking in quality, or (3) devoid of all artistic merit or (4) which are mere containers, as also (5) other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily.

    No allowance is “therefore” made for:

    1. common vessels
    2. vessels lacking in quality (even if not “common”)
    3. vessels devoid of all artistic merit (even if not “common”)
    4. vessels which are mere containers (even if not “common”)
    5. vessels made of materials that break easily (even if not “common”)

    Which rules out glass completely.

  16. Thank you Father for this post, and for providing us with the document from the Congregation for Divine Worship. I’m a student at Villanova University, and our student Masses are rife with liturgical deviance, including the use of glass chalices. I have just passed this on to a friend of mine on liturgical council, and hopefully it will bear fruit.

    I have another related question. I just read this in the same document:

    [59.] The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

    One of the practices common among many priests, and particularly priests of a religious order, is to add their own litany of saints in during the Eucharistic prayer. Another common problem is that, in the name of “gender inclusive language” the faithful – including many priests – change the masculine pronoun He or Him to “God.” It seems to me that both of these are covered under number 59 above, and would also be reprobated practices. My question is, how do I, as a member of the lay faithful, even begin to address something like this? Either one of these problems is very difficult, and the latter probably moreso than the former. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you, Father. And thank you for your wonderful ministry, particularly your ministry of the Holy Eucharist.

    Grace and Peace,
    Michael Hallman

  17. Andy K. says:

    And what happens if the Archbishop has instructed that, if glass is what you have, then you may continue to use it, until they are no longer in the condition to be used? This is what has happened in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis (the Archbishop put out a letter to parishes, saying that they can continue usage of glass, until the glass, more or less, wears out). Of course, glass does not wear out, for the most part.

    Thoughts?

  18. Andrew says:

    It is interesting that the term “reprobated” is used so as to eliminate any appeal to custom. There really shouldn’t be any appeal to a custom of using base materials for the Sacred Vessels, for, as far back as the Middle Ages, and likely before that, both custom and law prescribed the use of only the finest materials. For instance, legislation from several English dioceses:

    “[O]mnia vasa domus Dei ex auro purissimo fabricari…” (All vessels in the house of God are to be fashioned from the purest gold…)

    “Habeatque unum calicem argenteum purum vel deauratum et vas argenteum vel stangneum ad modum cyphi…” (And it [the parish church] is to have a pure silver or gold chalice and a silver or pewter vessel in the manner of a bowl[? - presumably the paten]…)

    (Source: Powicke & Cheney eds. Councils and Synods. vol. 2, pt. 1. (Oxford, 1964) p. 599)

  19. Jordanes says:

    Andy K. asked: And what happens if the Archbishop has instructed that, if glass is what you have, then you may continue to use it, until they are no longer in the condition to be used?

    You ignore what the Archbishop says, which has no legal validity, and do what the Church tells you. And if anybody gives you any grief about it, you appeal to Rome and patiently await the verdict that will certainly be in your favor.

  20. Ricardo Aleixo says:

    If you are in my position as a Parish Sacristan) you break it and say it was an accident, I am sure God will forgive you!

    I had a priest once who wished to use some ugly pottery chalice, I explained to him that it wasn’t even plated in gold and unstable for the celebration of Mass.

    Mind you, I worked in a 100+ year old Parish that has pleantly of antique chalices and church plate in the vault but he still requested the use of this pottery chalice he had brought with him. I mentioned to Father that I hoped I didn’t break it during offertory, he never asked again about glass chalices or pottery vessels! He knew I would break it for sure if he pushed me to prepare it for Mass.

    Father new very well that glass chalices and pottery weren’t worthy or tolerated in being used at Mass, but still wished to use it despite what the Holy See or the rubrics of the Missale Romanum may say.

  21. pjsandstrom says:

    If you visit the treasury of the Archdiocese of Sens in France, and other Cathedral Treasuries around Europe you will see crystal patens and chalices dating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th century in the ‘tulip shape’ which was the classic shape at that time — and which is still used — at least in church goods catelogues. The point being that the use of lead crystal glass is not a modern innovation, but at least a long-term ‘t’ tradition in the Church. The use of agate cups, crystal cups from Greco-Roman sources is also to be found, for example, in the treasury of Saint Mark’s in Venice.

  22. pjsandstrom says:

    If you visit the treasury of the Archdiocese of Sens in France, and other Cathedral Treasuries around Europe you will see crystal patens and chalices dating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th century in the ‘tulip shape’ which was the classic shape at that time — and which is still used — at least in church goods catalogues. The point being that the use of lead crystal glass is not a modern innovation, but at least a long-term ‘t’ tradition in the Church. The use of agate cups, and crystal cups from Greco-Roman and Byzantine sources is also to be found, for example, in the treasury of Saint Mark’s in Venice. They are part of the booty from the 4th Crusade oft times.

  23. Schrenk says:

    Comment by A Random Friar: “Glass chalices do have one good liturgical use. See: Jewish weddings.”

    Mazel tov!

  24. only one good thing to do with glass chalices: send them to me, and I will burn them to make a giant stained glassed window :)

    Requests are being taking for which Saint I should depict.

    I’ve seen at several parishes the pouring of the Precious Blood after the Consecration…lack of Faith in the Real Presence (and to make matters worse EOMHC’s doing it)

    Not even arguing it from a point of Liturgical Law, just from the sense of tackiness. If we pull out glass for our fancy dinners. God is deserving of MUCH greater than glass. To put Jesus in glass is to demean Him.

  25. dcs says:

    If you visit the treasury of the Archdiocese of Sens in France, and other Cathedral Treasuries around Europe you will see crystal patens and chalices dating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th century in the ‘tulip shape’ which was the classic shape at that time—and which is still used—at least in church goods catelogues. The point being that the use of lead crystal glass is not a modern innovation, but at least a long-term ‘t’ tradition in the Church.

    I am not a liturgical scholar but ISTM that it was much more rare for the faithful to receive Holy Communion at Mass. So I imagine that the chalices, patens, and ciboria of that era were designed without taking the communion of the faithful into account.

  26. supertradmom says:

    Sadly, glass chalices are still used in this diocese in Iowa and across the Mississippi in Illinois. I have mentioned it to liturgists, who have merely shrugged their shoulders and said, “The priests do what they want to do here.”

  27. Ygnacia says:

    A few years back a local priest had a glass chalices break in his hands during Mass, with the Precious Blood spilling all over him, etc. He and others know what the Church has said on the matter of using glass, but they continue to ignore Rome on this and many others things.

  28. T-bone says:

    Peace to all:

    We have the same situation here in our parish in Chicago. Rather than bringing up this rule to our liturgy committee, pointless as that would be, I have proposed on more than one occassion how the glass goblets create an excessively casual atmosphere around the Eurcharist which is detrimental to the experience of the gathered community.

    When we have guests over to our home, we use the good china and the good silverware. So when we are gathered together as “church” around the table of the Lord to share our “meal” Shouldn’t we also want to use the “nice” vessels in order to show the respect that we have for each other as members of the Body of Christ?

    So far there has been no movement to change. And probably worst of all, I was complimented for making such a sound argument.

  29. Jordanes says:

    DCS said: I am not a liturgical scholar but ISTM that it was much more rare for the faithful to receive Holy Communion at Mass. So I imagine that the chalices, patens, and ciboria of that era were designed without taking the communion of the faithful into account.

    Yes indeed, and not only that, but the Chalice was reserved to the priest, so the chalices definitely were not made with Communion of the faithful in mind.

  30. Maureen says:

    What’s annoying is that, up until about ten years ago, you didn’t see glass chalices around here. Now they’re everywhere. The wooden ones with gold-plated insides I remember occasionally encountering during my childhood, but now you see ones that are all wood. Sigh.

    Anyway, be careful about proposing “accidental” breakage as a cure. What if you break something, and people immediately offer to replace it with more glass?

  31. Ohio Annie says:

    I within the last year emailed a large Catholic supply house to remind them that they should not be including glass chalices and ciboria and patens in their paper Catholic catalogue, that they should only be in the Protestant version of their catalogue. Since then the glass items have not appeared in their paper catalogue. Maybe people are being influenced by what is available at church supply houses.

  32. Thank you Father for answering my question. I am a second year seminarian and I was not able to answer this question myself with documentation. I apprieciate what you do, and keep it up! God Bless!

  33. Jakob says:

    I worry about the theology coming from a number of “conservative faithful.” The more orthodox some of you think you are getting, the closer to calvinism you are actually getting.

    Nothing is more Catholic than the Sacraments, right?

    The Sacraments are in essence, God making the material/ordinary into something divine. The material of the Sacrament is not suppose to be something special before the rite… water, wine, oil, bread, etc. By deifying the objects before the Sacrament, we are belittling the Sacrament.

    We don’t need a magic cup or special bread, we have the Holy Spirit (proceeding from the Father and the Son) that makes the Sacraments true. Yes we need to be respectful but let us not get caught up on the instruments. God does it, we participate.

    Ps. Crystal isn’t porous and it doesn’t matter if the chalice is breakable or not, if you drop it, it will spill.