The Savior’s chalice is forever precious and His hands are ever sacred

His Hermeneuticalness has an interesting post concerning the new corrected translation.   Let’s jump in media res:

In the combox of the post "Telling the truth – a new corrected translation", Lawrence the Roman writes concerning the new corrected ICEL translation of accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas:

Jesus Christ did not take “a precious chalice".
"He the cup" (I Cor 11: 25)
"He took a cup" (Matt 26:27)
"He cup a cup" (Mark 14:23
"He did the same with the cup after supper.." (Luke: 22:20)
"The inspired books teach the truth. Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confined to the Sacred Scriptures." (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 107)
Just as the Sacred Scripture is the “soul of theology” it should also be the “soul of the Liturgy”. Let’s not alter Holy Writ for pious claptrap!

The Sacred Scriptures are indeed the soul of the Liturgy in the sense that the texts of the Liturgy include quotations from the scriptures and, when they are not quotations, often allude to them.

Fr. Finigan goes on to make his arguments, and – as you might expect – does a splendid job.

I will add to Fr. Finigan’s masterful treatment of the writer’s error reminding everyone that translation of liturgical texts is not the same as translation of Scripture. 

Liturgy constitutes its own theological source.

Liturgical texts must be respected for what they say on their own merits.

The augmentation of the institution narrative at the time of consecration reveals the understanding of the Catholic faithful through the centuries in the transcendent dimension of the moment.  The writer’s criticism of this language suggests a desire to strip the transcendent out.  This is antithetical to authentic Catholic worship.

Pope Benedict in his 2009 sermon for Holy Thursday drills into this phrase (my emphases and comments):


After the bread, Jesus takes the chalice of wine. The Roman Canon describes the chalice which the Lord gives to his disciples as "praeclarus calix" (the glorious cup), ["glorious chalice".  This will be given a far better expression in the new English translation.  In the present very deficient lame-duck translation the word praeclarus was purposely excluded.] thereby alluding to Psalm 23 [22], the Psalm which speaks of God as the Good Shepherd, the strong Shepherd. There we read these words: "You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes … My cup is overflowing" – calix praeclarus. [glorious in its overflowing-ness] The Roman Canon interprets [This is an important point in this sermon.  The Holy Father sees the Canon has being its own theological locus.  This is why, for example, he explained years ago that liturgical translation was not bound by the philological considerations of strict translation of Scripture.  Translation of liturgical texts must respect the texts themselves because they are their own theological starting point.  …] this passage from the Psalm as a prophecy that is fulfilled in the Eucharist: yes, the Lord does indeed prepare a banquet for us in the midst of the threats of this world, and he gives us the glorious chalice – the chalice of great joy, of the true feast, for which we all long – the chalice filled with the wine of his love.


Fr. Finigan’s interlocutor calls the words of the Roman Canon – a text which has its roots in the very earliest centuries of the Church and which expressed them and still express today the belief of those who embrace the regula Fidei – "pious claptrap". 

The words of consecration in the Roman Canon are "claptrap".

I will gladly add my own pious claptrap.

I believe Our Savior’s "cup" on that altar is the chalice of my salvation. 

When I take it into my anointed hands, I will without cynicism utter or whisper that perfect word "precious".

Our Savior’s hands endured torments for us.

I will call them "venerable" and "sacred".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Nathan says:

    Fr. Z: Liturgy constitutes its own theological source.

    It’s tough to add anything to your post, Father, except to argue that that the Roman Canon, on its own merits, is sacrosanct.

    To paraphrase Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, Fr Finegan’s commenter Lawrence the Roman’s “pious claptrap” perhaps does not mean what he thinks it means. Of all of the constituent parts of the Roman Rite, the Canon has, I believe, been shown repeatedly to be the oldest and most unchanging part of the Mass. It is entirely reasonable to assert that, aside from St Gregory the Great’s editing of the Roman Canon (which, I’ve heard, almost got him tossed into the Tiber by the laity of Rome), the words (perhaps in Greek, perhaps in Latin)would be the same as those used by Sts Peter and Paul. The early Church’s strict maintainence of the Mysteries would, to me, never allow any change to the Canon they recieved from the Apostles.

    Would Lawrence the Roman consider what is likely the formula of consecration used by St Peter himself to be “pious claptrap?” My guess is that he hasn’t really thought his argument through.

    In Christ,

  2. Lawrence the Roman strikes a similar tone to any number of commentators who have an apparent aversion to the sacred, in this case, sacred language.

    The unfortunate truth is that there are Lawrences floating around all over the place, and some of them work in media and have access to an audience that they can subject to all manner of misinformation. Example: Take a look at the misinformed whining of a blogger at the U.S. Catholic Magazine Blog: Here’s a guy writing under a banner that some people trust (by the grace of God hopefully not many) who has a decent enough vocabulary to give the appearance of intelligence to those who don’t know any better.

    This period of preparation is going to come down to the individual parish level, I suspect. The USCCB has embarked on what looks like an admirable effort to inform diocesan staff, but apart from hands on liturgical instruction at the parish level, it will be to no avail. I am curious to see how dioceses go about formally preparing the faithful.

    I’ve spoken with a number of people in parishes other than my own here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and elsewhere and the overwhelming majority haven’t heard one peep from the pulpit about the forthcoming translation. Our diocesan newspaper has been beating the drum for a while, but since most people in Baltimore receive the paper automatically, MANY simply flip through it at best while others don’t even bother to do that.

    I appreciate the important counterbalance provided here and Fr. Finigan’s blog very much. I hope to (God willing) have a hand in doing the same in a 10 part weekly series that CNA will run beginning 9/27.

    My concern is that the next 13 months are going to pass by very quickly, and some places and people will be ill prepared. (It must be recognized, IMO, that there are very likely those in positions of authority in parishes and dioceses alike that would like nothing better than this so they can scream from the rooftops “I told you this was a bad idea!” Bishop Trautman who predicted a “pastoral disaster” immediately comes to mind.)

  3. Jordanes says:

    Kind of funny that Lawrence the Roman apparently didn’t realise that he was reading a translation of the Missal, not a translation of the New Testament. For surely he couldn’t believe that the Missal should be deliberately mistranslated just because the Missal says more than the New Testament says about the Chalice of Our Salvation. Could he?

  4. JonM says:

    I concur with Fr. Z.

    Regarding the as of yet initiated education that the Novus Ordo is changing (including responsorialsy), perhaps if Bishops spent more time on educating their flock than ‘dialogue with our Muslim brethren’ we would not face the predicted pastoral chaos.

  5. Dave N. says:

    Seems to me that using Ps. 23 only serves to undercut rather than support this argument– since there is neither a “banquet” nor a “chalice” there either. (One could find much better texts.)

    Because at this point in the prayer the Canon is describing the consecration as an historical event in an historical context (On the night…) rather than in terms of its theological reality, I think Lawrence has a point. I don’t think referring to the liturgy as “pious claptrap” is particularly useful, however.

  6. irishgirl says:

    Amen to our Holy Father Benedict XVI, to Father Z, and to Father Finigan!

  7. Elle says:

    “I believe Our Savior’s “cup” on that altar is the chalice of my salvation.”

    “When I take it into my anointed hands, I will without cynicism utter or whisper that perfect word “precious.”

    “Our Savior’s hands endured torments for us.”

    “I will call them “venerable” and “sacred”.

    My heart was moved and tears welled up in my eyes…reading these beautiful true words.
    Thanks you, Father Z

  8. quovadis7 says:

    Great post Father!

    But, we can be objective too wrt how the liturgical texts HAVE been taken directly from Scripture:

    Latin Vulgate:

    “calix” (chalice) occurs in 4 places in the New Testament:

    Matt 26:39 & Matt. 26:42
    Luke 22:20 and
    1 Cor. 11:25

    In the Douay-Rheims English translation, there are 19 Scriptural texts where “chalice” is used.

    So, objectively speaking, there is absolutely no leg on which Fr. Finigan’s interlocutor can stand – unless he deems the above translations themselves to be “pious claptrap.”

    Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

    Steve B
    Plano, TX

  9. Traductora says:

    An interesting aspect of the text is that the Western canon used “this” while its Eastern equivalents used “the.” It is thought that the Grail, the original chalice, was brought to Rome, and that the original text was from the words used by St Peter or whoever he had delegated and that “this precious chalice” referred to the original cup, that is, the Grail, which is now in Valencia, Spain.

  10. Andrew says:


    You wrote: “calix” (chalice) occurs in 4 places in the New Testament:

    My response: you miscalculated because you didn’t take into account Latin declensions: calix, calicis, calicem, etc. Try again with that taken into consideration!

  11. Supertradmum says:

    What beautiful thoughts and liturgical resonances are in the word “calix”. Those who want to say “cup” merely point to a pedestrian, ordinary object, like a toddler’s plastic spiffy cup. To say “chalice” or even “calix” heightens our awareness of the momentous thing which is happening at the altar-the Consecration.

    Thank you, Father Z, for your thoughts.

  12. Supertradmum says:

    oops, not spiffy, but sippy :)

  13. Jordanes says:

    Dave N. said: Because at this point in the prayer the Canon is describing the consecration as an historical event in an historical context (On the night…) rather than in terms of its theological reality

    Mmmm, no, it’s not at all describing the consecration as a historical event. It is not a historical narrative, but a liturgical and sacramental remembrance and re-presentation.

  14. RichardR says:

    It is likely that the “cup” was a “kiddish cup”, commonly used at the Passover Seder by the Jewish people. How ornate it was would, of course, depend on the financial status of the owner. Obviously, it became precious when Jesus used it to give us His blood.

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of some on this thread, I find the use of the work “cup” elegant in its simplicity.

  15. Fr. Basil says:

    The Words of Institution in the classical liturgies (East and West) have always had a liturgical form, rather than directly quoting Scripture.

    As for calling it a “calix praeclara,” the same term is used in Psalm 22/23 for the cup that “runneth over” (in the KJV).

    The LXX says in the same Psalm “Your chalice which inebriates me: how glorious it is!”

  16. The point here is that the Gospels are, as Justin Martyr put it, “the memoirs of the Apostles”, which is good and holy and the Word of God — but the prayers of the Mass (in any Rite, in any Form) actually * are * the pleas, offerings, and commands of Christ Himself. The Gospels tell about what Jesus did; the Eucharistic Canon is JESUS DOING IT.

    Logically, if you had to pick between the past tense and the present tense (which thank God you don’t have to), you’d give more priority to the immediate eternal ongoing action. But of course there can be no contradiction between the Four Gospels and what constitutes a fifth — or rather, the one Gospel and Mystery and Thanksgiving that all the Gospels point to.

    This is a matter of life, death, and eternal life. Only someone with the power to bind on earth and in heaven is entitled to mess around with it. We need to recognize that, in the prayers of the Mass in any Rite, we are dealing not with something small and unimportant and well understood by humans, but with something bigger and older than the whole world, something that should make us tremble. This is the pearl of great price for which we should give everything, not something we have the right to edit to our liking. “I understand how to quote the Bible better than everybody else in the rest of time” is amazing guff.

    Re: kiddush cup – The Hebrew word is “cowc”, which is as close or etymologically closer to “calix” than “cup”. Since “cup” could be anything, but “chalice” specifically refers to a drinking vessel for wine which is made of noble materials and most often used in a prayer and offering context, it’s obviously the better translation.

  17. “I believe Our Savior’s “cup” on that altar is the chalice of my salvation.
    When I take it into my anointed hands, I will without cynicism utter or whisper that perfect word “precious”.
    Our Savior’s hands endured torments for us.
    I will call them “venerable” and “sacred”.”

    I got chills. Thank you for doing what you do, Father. You’re fighting the good fight. Thank you for the beautiful reflection (both the Pope’s and your own). It’s always moving to see priests speak so passionately about Christ and His Church, not just as mysteries, but as a clear reality. You, as a priest are at Christ’s own, and, during the Mass, IN PERSONA CHRISTI. It’s wonderful, beautiful, and truly moving to witness how much priests truly LOVE Christ and His Church.

  18. joan ellen says:

    “The writer’s criticism of this language suggests a desire to strip the transcendent out.”

    I’m waiting for more transcendent at the OF of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Please Lord.

  19. Magpie says:

    Great stuff. These latest posts address some key issues which we informed lay people can use in letter writing to local and national newspapers!

  20. Roland de Chanson says:

    Churchill said “Old words are best. Old words when short are best of all.” Bethinking ourselves that he put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into his writings, (or should I say for the Latinate elite, sanguineous, sudatory and lacrimatory effusions into his literary endeavors?) his wisdom ought to be heeded.

    Noting first that “accipiens” does not mean “he took”, I would render the passage: taking the goodly goblet into his holy and worship-worthy hands. At least it’s Anglo-Saxon and not Latin. Methinks the Latinate elite want Latinate English and not Latin. Is the word “chalice” found anywhere but in the liturgy? “Barkeep, another chalice of Bud Light draught here.” “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici”. A “calix” is a wine glass in contemporary parlance. Your tastes in stemware may differ.

    Crush the infamy of the novus ordo. Restore the True Mass. In Latin. Let the ignoranti read the right-hand pages of their missals in English.

  21. If liberals don’t like the corrected translation, they are free to refuse it and use only Latin.

  22. sejoga says:

    You know, I dislike that these types often talk about the need for “historical criticism” when looking at biblical texts — as in, leaving out questions of theology and tradition and looking at the cultural, historical, and textual issues of scripture in order to come to an understanding of it — but they fail to apply their own standards when looking at issues like this. They just say “the English word used to translate ‘poterion’ is ‘cup’,” and fail to look at the historical and textual implications of the passage.

    First of all, there’s clearly some class bias going on here. The observation is often made that Jesus was a carpenter and , and therefore would have drunk “from the cup of a carpenter”. But even poor laborers do, in fact, have nice things, or things that are nicer than other things. Even if the cup was “just” a cup by some standards, by the standards of other cups in the home, it’s possible, even likely, that the nicest cup would have been used for the celebration of the holiest feast of the Jewish religion. I have styrofoam cups in my home at the moment, but come Christmas I probably won’t force my family to use those when we sit down with our “cups” of hot chocolate or egg nog or punch at our Christmas dinner. In fact, we often use nicer goblets for holiday dinners, and even though they’re far from elaborate, they’re suitable to the occasion and they heighten the sense of a certain meal being more important than others. Why should we assume that a man who was “just a carpenter” would be any less likely to do the same?

    More importantly, though, is the fact that it’s clear from the text that the disciples’ meal was prepared ahead of time, at someone else’s expense and in his home, so it likely wasn’t “the cup of a carpenter” at all. I doubt very much that Jesus carried around dishes and utensils and glassware, preferring to rely on the generosity of others. Which is exactly what scripture tells us he did. St. Luke tells us that they dined “in a large dining room”. Presumably any disciple of Christ who had the resources to lodge and feed 13 men with only a few hours notice was a man with a good deal of wealth. Much is made of Jesus’s concern for the poor and downtrodden, but his message was a message of salvation for all, and even rich men, and educated men, and men with authority, would have been welcome as followers of Christ. Should we believe that a disciple of Christ, one whom we must presume to have been moderately well-off, one who was likely a devout Jew, would deny Jesus and his inner circle the use of the finest table settings he could provide? And must we assume that he did not have fine things? There is nothing to suggest that, except the use of the plain word “poterion”, to suggest that the Last Supper was poorly furnished, and the circumstances point to the fact that the Last Supper may have been prepared and furnished by a pious man with fine resources. It’s not as if it would have been wrong, or sinful, or inappropriate for Christ and the Twelve to have dined well, and on a holy occasion. (And it’s worth pointing out that in other places in the gospel narratives the Pharisees dismiss Jesus as a drunkard and a glutton… not words much used of those who exhibit extreme restraint in dining practices.)

    I think it’s also of note that Matthew places the narrative of the Last Supper immediately following a discussion of the woman with the ointment and Judas’s acceptance of thirty pieces of silver. There’s already a contrast between worldliness that’s wholesome and appropriate to the Christian way of life, and worldliness that is not. When a common woman “wastes” fine ointment on Jesus, Jesus rebukes his disciples for assuming that what she did was wrong or wasteful. He makes it clear that a pious motivation for expressing one’s love for him in extravagance is not only not wrong, but is actually inherently good. It’s Judas — who takes money (with which he probably intended to do good) for the supposedly righteous cause of handing over the blasphemous Jesus to the Jews — that is made out to be in the wrong. Even though it’s not directly relevant to the Last Supper narrative, I think it serves as a potent reminder to us that people with good intentions who wish to de-emphasize Christ’s majesty in order to show solidarity with the poor (such as preferring the banal “he took the cup” over “he took the chalice into his sacred and venerable hands”) are acting more like Judas, in a way, than like the pious woman disciple.

    A final note I’d like to make is that the use of the word “poterion” itself may have theological implications. People say, “Well, clearly if they meant he used a fine drinking vessel, they would have said so,” but it must be noted that “poterion” had a metaphorical connotation in addition to its literal meaning. “Poterion” meant, not just “cup”, but also “one’s lot, one’s fate”. Jesus himself uses this meaning in the Garden later that evening. By saying “this is the cup of my blood,” he’s not just speaking about the literal cup in his hands, but the fact that this mystery of his body and blood are inextricably tied to his redeeming death and his message of salvation, the fate that awaited him.

    When you actually look at the historical, cultural, and textual implications of the text, this debate over “chalice” and “cup” in the translation becomes moot:
    1. The argument that it was “just a carpenter’s cup” smacks of classism, and is also factually unsupported, since Jesus likely didn’t own the cup.
    2. The argument that Jesus wouldn’t have drunk from a fine drinking vessel, though it may be true, isn’t the only possible explanation, and the disciple who provided the meal may likely have also provided fine table settings.
    3. The argument that “cup” is somehow nearer to the Christian experience, by being less “extravagant” and more “down-to-earth”, is contraindicated by the passage in Matthew preceding the Last Supper narrative.
    4. The Greek word for “cup” contained connotations that are absent in the English (or even the Latin) translation, connotations that are brought to the forefront in the more precise liturgical phrasing.

    Those are my thoughts on the subject, at any rate, and I may be misinterpreting things a bit, but I think it’s a better argument than, “But, but — the Greek word means ‘cup’!!”

  23. sejoga says:

    Oh, and just for some religious context, here are some “cups” used in contemporary Jewish seders.

  24. Roland de Chanson says:

    Pater Zeta: If liberals don’t like the corrected translation, they are free to refuse it and use only Latin.

    The Church Militant should rise up and refuse it and use only Latin! Old words are best!

  25. Gail F says:

    I don’t even understand what this means:

    ‘Seems to me that using Ps. 23 only serves to undercut rather than support this argument—since there is neither a “banquet” nor a “chalice” there either. (One could find much better texts.)’

    Ummmmmm… they are the same words, why would that undercut the argument? And there IS a banquet in the psalm, and there is apparently a “calix: (however you want to define it — but at a real banquet, the things one drinks out of are chalice-like, whatever you call them.

    ‘Because at this point in the prayer the Canon is describing the consecration as an historical event in an historical context (On the night…) rather than in terms of its theological reality, I think Lawrence has a point. I don’t think referring to the liturgy as “pious claptrap” is particularly useful, however.’

    Yeah, and at a seder Jews all use the same dishes that slaves in ancient Egypt would have used, rather than the special fancy dishes they use for Friday night dinners, or even special dishes just brought out for Passover. Right?

  26. tioedong says:

    Seems beside the point: cup can mean many types of cups, but a chalice is a specific type of cup. Today, we use “wine glass” but in those days, glass was more expensive than other materials. So was it made of wood, or gold? Indiana Jones fans would love to know…

    What is the word in Greek? In Aramaic? What did ordinary folks drink out of back then?

    FYI: My tagalog bible uses Kalis…but my protestant Tagalog/English version uses the word “Saro” that isn’t in the dictionary…go figure.

  27. aemmel says:

    Under my breath or in my mind, before I sat “Amen”, I usually say, “Panis Vitae,” or “Bread of Life,” before receiving the Body of Our Lord. Before the Precious Blood, it is ‘Chalix Salvationis,” or “Cup of Salvation.”

    Those are my own pious claptraps.

  28. kittenchan says:

    “Those are my own pious claptraps.”

    I have pious claptrap too: At the elevation of the Precious Blood, I murmur, “O my Savior, look with mercy upon those for whom Your Blood is ransom.” I started saying it after I went to a few EF Masses and subsequently could not remember exactly what was written then, and modified accordingly. I also kneel to receive Communion and wear a veil (yes, I regularly go to the OF Mass).

    I wonder what other people’s pious claptrap is.

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