Adding water to multiple chalices

The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments has recently answered a dubium regarding the use of several chalices, and the rubric requiring the mixing of wine with water. The Congregation notes that it is sufficient for water to be added only to the chalice used by the main celebrant. The addition of water to the other chalices, however, would not in any way be considered an abuse. The US Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship offered the following observation on this clarification:

Canon 924 §1 states, “The most holy Eucharistic sacrifice must be offered with bread and with wine in which a little water must be mixed.” Still, it has long been held, and affirmed by the Council of Trent, that the ritual mixing of wine and water is symbolic of the blood and water flowing from Christ’s side as he hung upon the cross. The words spoken as the gesture is carried out, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity,” also indicate that the mixing represents the unification of Christ’s divinity with our humanity.

Procedure for purifying vessels

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) gives several helpful indications regarding the options for the purification of the sacred vessels at Mass. Paragraph 163 of the GIRM describes the purifications at a Mass without a Deacon in this way:

Upon returning to the altar, the Priest collects the fragments, should any remain, and he stands at the altar or at the credence table and purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, and after this purifies the chalice, saying quietly the formula… What has passed our lips, and dries the chalice with a purificator. Nevertheless, it is also permitted to leave vessels needing to be purified, especially if there are several, on a corporal, suitably covered, either on the altar or on the credence table, and to purify them immediately after Mass, after the Dismissal of the people.

The US Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship has recently pointed out that a similar procedure should be followed when a deacon is present at Mass. In this case, however, a deacon should not purify the vessels at the altar, but at the credence table:

When the distribution of Communion is over, the Deacon returns to the altar with the Priest, collects the fragments, should any remain, and then carries the chalice and other sacred vessels to the credence table, where he purifies them and arranges them as usual (GIRM, 183).

The Secretariat explained that a deacon always performs the purifications at the credence table “perhaps to avoid the appearance of the deacon doing a ministry alone at the altar that is other than preparatory or in assistance to the priest.” In this way, the Church seeks to avoid any confusion between the offices of deacon and priest with regard to their manner of service at the altar.