From a reader…
I read about a parish using invalid hosts made from several varieties of grain. I have been to a mass recently where a glass chalice was used (as a matter of fact, with a simple blessing, the new chalice was “inaugurated”).
I always thought and what I found in internet was that the chalice must be made from noble materials and of course may not absorb the wine. Glass does not react or absorb. But is it considered a noble material?
Thanks for the question.
Various opinion might be given about the “nobility” of glass. Certainly glass can be beautiful. Also, materials that are called “glass” can be really really tough, such that even if dropped they would not shatter, whereas a metal chalice might dent.
That’s all beside the point.
The document Redemptionis Sacramentum clearly states that glass is not to be used.
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. [Cf. Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, nn. 327-333.] 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, [Cf. ibidem, n. 332] 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. [Cf. ibidem, n. 332; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,, Instruction, Inaestimabile donum, n. 16: AAS 72 (1980) p. 338.]
A key word here is reprobated. This is a technical term meaning that it is abolished, or forbidden in such a complete way that no one can appeal to custom (‘but I’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.
But WAIT! There’s MORE!
It seem that the USCCB (the Conference, mentioned above) has allowed that other materials can be used, provided that they do not break easily and that the material is suitable for sacred use.
Firstly, it seems to me that the sacred “idiom” should be protected. What do I mean?
For example, in music, when you hear a pipe organ, you generally think of church. Gregorian chant does the same, whereas a brass band does not. Once upon a time the early trombone was used in sacred music. Only later was it employed in secular music. The same goes for architecture. Although this escapes a lot of people today, churches look one way, and municipal airports another. Things used for sacred worship have a certain appearance while things for daily use have another. That, I think, applies to chalices for Mass. We should avoid chalices that look like they are meant for drinking beer or sipping brandy.
So, once again, we are in a situation where in the post-Conciliar context we lack clarity about what can be done and what can’t.
Finally, however, it seems to me that, while a metal chalice will dent, it won’t shatter or crack into pieces. Unless the glass is actually as tough as that stuff 600 times stronger than stainless steel made from superheated powdered iron and sintered with a spark-plasma process and subjected to electric current under 1000 atmospheres of pressure, or maybe even the amazing “Prince Rupert’s Drops” or Scotty’s transparent aluminum, we shouldn’t even think for a nanosecond about using it.
Are those noble materials? They are impressive, for sure. They’re not noble.