Cups and Chalices

Back again -- new year, new start.

In our little community, we are trying to implement the new translation of the Mass. After a fashion. We debated the value of the changes (not much), how to handle them (slowly, slowly and without coercion) and even bought little cardboard crib sheets to help us remember the new words. But no one seems in any hurry to make the leap.

Last Sunday, we were still "and also with you'ing" and singing the old version of the Holy, Holy. The presider did read from the new Eucharistic prayer. The words seemed a bit more baroque than usual, but the EP is all repetitive God talk anyway. Most people don't laser into the words. But during the Consecration, the replacement of the word "cup" with "chalice" stood out to me.

It seems really far-fetched that Jesus would have used anything remotely resembling a chalice at the Last Supper. He broke bread, after all, not an artisinal loaf.
But the Vatican translators thought differently. I can imagine the conversations going like this:

Msgr. Blustero Converato: But, bubule, how could a mere cup hold the precious Blood of Our Lord? It's so, so, common!

Padre Mildamo Progressio: But Jesus was a poor man in a poor land, your Excellence. A cup was what he must have used!

MC: Surely Mary Magdalene and her sister cohorts could have pitched in for a nice, gold chalice for the Last Supper? Or they could have rented or borrowed one from Joseph of Arimethea!

PP: Does it matter what kind of earthly vessel was used to hold the Sacred Blood? Would not any vessel be ennobled by contact with its contents?

MC: Precisimento! And a cup so ennobled would be a chalice, would it not? In essence if not in fact? Why confuse the faithful with history when we can give them meaning!

PP: Oy, my malatesta!

So, the pinheads win with chalice, and we move a step closer to the silly idea of Jesus celebrating Mass with his disciples, robed in Latin vestments and flanked by taper-carrying sacristan angels. Give me the rough-and-tumble Last Supper any day. One celebrated in hiding and under pressure; one with a desperate, anguished Jesus passing to us his very self under the disguise of bread and wine - innocent symbols of life, conviviality and God's simple presence. One that would outlast death, that would survive any hostile search, that would carry the simple message, "I am, and I love" to hungering future generations.

Chalice, my foot.