QUAERITUR: Of the color of wine, the amount, and the addition of water

From a reader:

  1. First off is the wine to be consecrated have to be red and how much wine poured into the chalice is enough to make it a valid mass?
  2. One of my priests told us if they don’t pour enough wine in the chalice it is not valid?
  3. One time we saw a priest put no water in the wine? Did we still receive Jesus?

I like emails with single questions, so I will be brief.

1) No, and there is no minimum amount. However, too little and you run the risk of dilution when even the small amount of water is added.  See THIS.
2) That isn’t a question, but I think you mean something about the amount of wine being an element that determines validity. No. That is NOT the case. See #1.
3) If everything else was performed sufficiently by a validly ordained priest, then probably YES, you did.  Not adding water is a serious liturgical abuse, but it doesn’t invalidate.

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17 Responses to QUAERITUR: Of the color of wine, the amount, and the addition of water

  1. jhayes says:

    At the WYD Mass on the beach, I noticed that he deacon used a scruple spoon when adding water to the chalice.

  2. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I’ve seen the priests at a particular parish put out several (glass) chalices and pour in wine, then add water to only one. I’ve often wondered if that was a problem. (I know the chalices are.)

  3. Mark Nel says:

    I have the same question as Massachusetts Catholic. I have seen a priest consecrating wine in two chalices. Water was however only added to one. My logic tells me he should have added to water both. Would love to know the answer to this. Cannot find anything specific in this regard.

  4. APX says:

    Mark,

    When there is a chalice and communion common cups used, water is only added to the chalice.

    One of our priests also uses a scruple spoon.

  5. acardnal says:

    The wine does not have to be red.

  6. Tantum Ergo says:

    Per question # 1 “First off is the wine to be consecrated have to be red”
    l) Altar wine may be either red or white, though the former is less desirable because of the danger of staining the altar linens (EPH. LIT.: LV, P. 74 AD 11). With white wines, however, care should be taken at the Offertory, lest the wine and water cruets be mistaken one for the other.

    Per question # 2: “One of my priests told us if they don’t pour enough wine in the chalice it is not valid?”
    He may well mean that if there is not enough wine in relation to the amount of water. This can be a serious problem, for if the wine becomes too diluted with water,(say, nearing 50%) it can become invalid matter.

  7. majuscule says:

    Our parish church switched to white wine in order to avoid stains. It seems to be a yellowish wine so would not be mistaken for water.

    At our mission church someone tried to use the white wine and…it was only used once. The consensus was that we wanted the Precious Blood to look like blood.

  8. everett says:

    While white wine is of course perfectly fine, and the concern about staining makes sense, I’ve always appreciated the sign of red wine. When I was in the seminary we always used red wine, and whatever the good sisters did who cleaned the linens, it was very effective.

  9. Roguejim says:

    A local Jesuit military chaplain used to dip his index finger into the cruet of water, and then tap his finger against the rim of the chalice so that a single drop of water would fall in. I took him to be a martini man…

  10. VexillaRegis says:

    Regarding the staining risk, it’s not just the altar linen that can be stained. I’ve seen silk chasubles with irremovable red wine stains. I also remember visiting a priest friend in his church, when a clumsy EMHC dropped the chalice on the slightly porous white marble floor and it splashed widely around, even onto the priest.. Red wine would had been absorbed and very hard to get out of the stone.

  11. Fr AJ says:

    I always put water into all the chalices. Personally, I think Canon Law is clear on this matter.

    Interestingly, it appears in the early days they weren’t concerned with dilution. They would add a few drops of Precious Blood to a chalice of wine if they needed more for distribution to communicants.

    I can attest that red wine will stain vestments.

  12. Parochus says:

    Regarding the question of whether water must be added to all the chalices, last year the USCCB Secretariat of Divine Worship received the following response from the then-Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (see bottom of page 19):

    http://usccb.org/about/divine-worship/newsletter/upload/newsletter-2012-05-and-06.pdf

  13. acardnal says:

    I agree with Fr. AJ. Canon Law seems pretty clear.

    Canon 924 §1 states, “The most holy Eucharistic sacrifice must be
    offered with bread and with wine in which a little water must be mixed.”

  14. Tantum Ergo says:

    Also of concern is the KIND of wine used for Mass:
    Specifications for Altar Wine
    Rules from the Vatican
    a) Altar wine must be natural wine from the fruit of the vine and not corrupt.
    b) In order that wine may be valid and licit matter for consecration, it must be wine, which has been pressed from fully ripened grapes, which has fermented, which has been purified of sediment or dregs, which has a vinous alcoholic content of around 12% which has not been adulterated by the addition of any non-vinous substance, which is neither growing nor grown bad by acescence or putrefaction, and which, is in a liquid state.
    added to the grape-husks from which the wine was then made; after-wines are wines made from a second pressing of the grape-husks. If the water added was more than outweighed by the amount of juice remaining in the husks after the first pressing, an after-wine would be doubtfully valid matter for consecration and cannot therefore be used.
    e) The following substances are valid matter for consecration, but gravely illicit except in a case of real necessity: unfermented grape-must; wine turning to vinegar or beginning to go bad; wine not purified of sediment or dregs; wine in a frozen state; wine which has been given a bouquet by the addition of a small quantity of aromatic essence; wine to which no water or to which water distilled from roses or other plants was added at the Offertory (M.R.: DE DEF., iv, 2; x, 11; THEOL MOR.: II, N. 111).
    l) Altar wine may be either red or white, though the former is less desirable because of the danger of staining the altar linens (EPH. LIT.: LV, P. 74 AD 11). With white wines, however, care should be taken at the Offertory, lest the wine and water cruets be mistaken one for the other.
    m) Altar wine should not be left for any length of time in open vessels, since thus the wine can more easily turn to vinegar and since some of it may be stolen and replaced with water (CONG. SACR: INSTR. OF MARCH 26, 1929 AD I).
    n) To make certain that bought altar wines are valid and licit matter in every respect, they shall be procured from those whose knowledge of the above requirements and whose skill and honesty are above all question and suspicion; religious, who specialize in the production of altar wines, should therefore be preferred to seculars. Those entrusted with the custody of the altar wine should also be of known reliability (CONG. SACR: INSTR. OF MARCH 26, 1929

  15. Deacon6 says:

    Archbishop Di Noia, head of the congregation for divine worship, has stated it is sufficient to add water to the main chalice only.

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