QUAERITUR: Wine in the chalice but no water – invalid?

A United States Marine writes with a query:

Father – at a recent Mass I noticed that the priest forgot to mix a small amount of water with the wine just before consecration, as is usual.  Did this invalidate the consecration?  Was it a serious failure?  Thank you!

First, let us hope that this happened because Father was distracted.  That can happen.  I hope this isn’t his usual way.

The answer is,

No, this does not make the consecration invalid,


Yes, this is a serious failure.

The consecration is effected so long as what was used was wine of grapes, the priest is validly ordained, and he says the proper words of consecration with the right intention. The water is accidental, part of the rite, but of the substance of the matter of the sacrament.

It is a serious failure for several reasons. 

First, people have a right to the rites of the Church.
Second, the mixing of wine and water has a beautiful meaning.
Third, the priest is showing himself (if this is his usually way) not to respect the Church’s liturgy or his people.

The priest at the offertory of the Mass when he puts the tiny bit of water (symbolic of our humanity) into the wine (God’s divinity) in the chalice: "Per huius aquae et vini mysterium efficiamur divinitatis consortes… Through the mystery of this water and wine may we be made partakers of His divinity, who condescended to become a partaker of our humanity."

It may be that the core of this prayer is found in 2 Peter 1:3-4: "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature (efficiamini divinae consortes)."

Consider that the water, the symbol of our humanity, in a sense disappears into the wine, the symbol of Christ’s divinity.  Christ takes us up in His incarnation and transforms our humanity, though without destroying it.  Also, Christ takes each of our offerings and transforms them.  Putting the drops of water into the wine to be transformed is another beautiful symbolic representation of how we offer our sacrifices, each in our own way, to the Father through Christ.

At the time of the offertory this is a good moment to unite all you bring to Mass to the actions of the priest as he places put that small amount of water into the chalice. 


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. jamie hunt says:

    The “m” in Marine should be capitalized. Semper fi!

  2. Andrew says:

    At the church I attended during college and where I was received in to the Church, the mingling of the water and the wine NEVER happened, nor did the priest wash his hands before beginning the consecration. It took me a while to realize that this was not at all what was supposed to happen, and when it hit me, I was understandably less than pleased.

  3. Cornelius says:

    In this instance, I believe it was just forgetfulness, and not done intentionally.

  4. Thorfinn says:

    I have observed at a number of parishes that water is only added to the large chalice, and not to the several others (which will be administered to the people). Does this suffice to meet the requirements?

  5. TerryC says:

    Is the mixing of the water into the wine in any way related to the blood and water which poured out of Our Lords side after his death at the crucifixion?

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