UPDATE: 1 March 08 – 0615 GMT
Great images from an older Pontifical over at The Lion and the Cardinal.
Over at NLM a seminarian asked a question about the consecration of a chalice with chrism using the old rites in the Pontificale Romanum.
The Pontificale Romanum is the book used for those rites that generally only bishops could perform, such as consecrations of certain objects, or churches, sacred persons, etc.
Here was the seminarian’s question:
Was there a consecration of the chalice with chrism (as opposed to a simple blessing, as in the Novus Ordo), and if so, would someone kindly email a scan of the appropriate rites?
I had a rapid glance at the appendix of a 1962 Missale Romanum, where I remembered there were some useful excerpts from the Pontificale Romanum, and found the requested text.
“But Father! But Father!” at least one of you is thinking. “Why do you ‘consecrate’ a chalice? Don’t priests consecrate bread and wine at Mass? Don’t you just bless chalices?”
(Keep in mind that the wretched post-Conciliar “Book of Blessings” (De benedictionibus) should be tossed in the nearest dust-bin: it destroys all distinctions about blessings, such as invocative and constitutive blessings. It is not to be redeemed in any way, even as sail-boat ballast.)
Back to work… Holy Church, dear inquirer, makes a distinction between blessings and consecrations.
We speak about the consecration of certain places, things and people. People to be consecrated, for example, include bishops and some women who are virgins. An abbot, however, is blessed. A corner-stone of a church is blessed, but the stone of an altar is consecrated. Priests can bless, but generally only bishops consecrate.
A distinction can be made about church buildings which are consecrated in a very special way called a “dedication”. Also, while confirmation and ordination are also consecrations, in a sense, they are really separate sacraments. There is a lot of debate about just what the consecration of a bishop really does, since they are already priests and priests, by their priesthood, can pretty much everything bishops can do. Once upon a time, priests were permitted to ordain! Some theologians think episcopal consecration really just extends the sacramental character already present, etc. But I digress.
By constitutive blessings (blessings which make something a blessed thing) and by consecrations objects and people are, as it were, removed from the secular, temporal realm and given over instead to God exclusively. It is as if they are extracted from the world under the domination of its diabolical “prince” and given exclusively to the King. Before, they were “profane”. After, they are “sacred”. Thus, a consecration is a once for all time act. Once something is consecrated, it is forever consecrated. Blessings can be repeated. Thus, harming or doing wrong to or with something or someone who is consecrated is thus its own kind of sin: sacrilege.
Say, for example, you unreasonably and without any provocation punch a bishop in the face (thus incurring an censure, probably). That act is not only a sin of doing violence to a person, but it also the sin of sacrilege. You must confess both sins, not just punching the person. Harming or doing harm with a consecrated thing or person or in a consecrated place is always sacrilege. Doing so with blessed things, etc., is not always sacrilege, though it more than likely would be.
In any event, back to the chalice consecration.
When considered from the older, pre-Conciliar rites, which we happily can use today, it is usually a bishop who consecrates chalices and patens. It was/is possible to delegate a priest to consecrate these things. The consecration makes these things suitable for the worship of God and being vessels for the Most Holy.
In the old days, chalices and patens (as well as ciboria for Hosts and monstrances or ostensoria for Exposition) had to be consecrated before they could be used at the altar. In the new way of doing things, vessels can be consecrated (though I think in the new rites they just bless them in a sort of vague and good natured way) or they become consecrated automatically the first time they are used. That is a real loss of a teaching moment, I think, but there it is.
In the rite, the paten is consecrated before the chalice, which is logical.
The people or the server is first exhorted to pray that God will favor the action. Then the bishop (in a rocchet, white stole and gold miter), or priest as the case may be, anoints the paten with sacred chrism from edge to edge in the form of a Cross, after which he spreads chrism over the whole top surface while reciting the prayer of consecration. This is repeated for the chalice, wherein the inside of the cup is anointed. Then the one consecrating says a prayer which refers to the symbolism of the vessels: the chalice is like the slab in the tomb where the Body of the Lord was lain after the deposition and the paten is like the stone rolled in front of the tomb. At the end the vessels are sprinkled with holy water.
Afterwards, a priest must clean the chrism as best be can from the vessels by wiping them with bread, and I suppose some lemon juice. Then the bread must be burned and the ashes put down the sacrarium, the special sink in the sacristy (look at all those roots of sacr-) which drain goes into the earth. Just about everything that touched the sacred species or was consecrated that had to be disposed of gets burned and eventually put down the sacrarium. For example, if the Precious Blood spills on some thing wooden and it soaks in, the shavings of the wood must be burned and the ashed washed down the sacrarium. Linens for Mass must be washed first by a priest and the water put down the sacrarium. At the Sabine Farm, where I live away from Rome, [Back in the day… I’m no longer there.] I first wash linens and then pour the water outdoors, since the Sabine Chapel has no sacrarium, or even a sacristy to speak of. If a spider should fiendishly jump into the chalice after the consecration, and the priest can’t bring himself to drink it down, it is to be fished out with a pin, burned and, yes, put down the sacrarium. I used to think that was pretty funny and darn near impossible, until it happened in my little church in Velletri one day. This stuff is all spelled out in the front part of the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum. The possibilities and solutions get amusing once you know the burining/washing/sacrarium principle. At a very clerical supper one night we mused about the possibility of a mouse dashing across the altar after the consecration and making off with a Host. Our solution was to bless a cat, put a white stole on it, send it after the rat, and when it came back, burn the cat and put the ashes, yes, down the sacrarium. That was actually Fr. JS’s solution: no cat lover, he. But I digress…
Folks, while the whole cat and stole thing is clearly a joke to illustrate a point about the importance of protecting sacred things, these occurances like spiders in chalices and mice getting Hosts actually happen if you wait long enough, and over the centuries solutions were found.
Back to work… once vessels are consecrated they stay consecrated until something major is done to alter them. For example, if the chalice and paten are worn and sent off to be regilded or repaired, they have to be consecrated again.
The consecration of these vessels also calls to mind the extremely ancient practice going back to the time of Pope Sixtus I (+c. 127) that only priests, whose hands were also anointed with chrism, could handle chalices and patens. Remember also the good custom of kissing the priests hand, which is anointed and is raised in blessing and in absolution and which hold the Eucharist.
Constitutive blessings and consecrations are very important. Blessing and consecrating solemnly could help people understand better the distinction of profane and sacred and how blessed and consecrated things can help us in our spiritual lives and our constant fight against the enemy of the soul.