Cup or Chalice?

The Large Implications of a Small Change

Six months after the imposition of the new English edition of the Roman Missal, the volume of dissatisfaction has moderated. People seem resigned to the wooden and literal translations (“people of good will,” “enter under my roof”), archaic vocabulary (“dewfall,” “consubstantial,” “oblation”), and inflated language of prayer (“holy and unblemished,” “graciously grant,” “paying their homage”). Such language, so different from the plainspoken words of Jesus in prayer and parable, is in contrast to the directive of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II: “In this restoration [of the liturgy], both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.” We have also become accustomed to hearing presiders stumble over the convoluted syntax of the prayers and watching them hurriedly turning pages as they wend their way through the labyrinthine new missals. Yet, there is one new expression that involves a significant translation error with serious implications for a proper understanding of the Last Supper as a Passover meal, along with implications for continued Jewish-Christian understanding. In the final analysis, it enshrines poor pastoral theology in the Sunday liturgy.

 

“Traduttore, Traditore”

All translators are familiar with the caution that translations often distort or even betray the nuances of the original language. This is dramatically true in the substitution of the term “chalice” for “cup” in the words of institution in the Eucharistic prayer from the 1970 missal approved by Pope Paul VI:

When supper was ended he took the cup [chalice].
Again he gave you thanks and praise,
Gave the cup
[chalice] to his disciples, and said:

Take this, all of you and drink from it;
This is the cup [chalice] of my blood,
The blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all
So that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.

In the Greek original of all the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, after the blessing of the bread, Jesus takes a cup (potērion) and says that this is the blood of the new covenant (Mark and Matthew), or “this cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke) and “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor 11:25). Though Hellenistic Greek had a word—kylix (the basis of the Latin calix)—that suggests a larger ceremonial vessel often used in religious rites, the New Testament authors chose potērion, the normal term for an ordinary drinking cup in daily life.

When St. Jerome translated the New Testament from Greek to Latin he chose the Latin term calix (from which “chalice” derives) to translate potērion, but he did not intend it to mean a liturgical vessel. In both the secular Latin of the time and in Jerome’s translation of the Scriptures, the term calix meant primarily an ordinary drinking cup. In Matt 10:42 Jesus says, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” While the original Greek has potērion for “cup” of cold water, the Latin translation reads “calicem aquae frigidae.” Given the context it would be absurd to translate this “a chalice of cold water.” Similarly, to translate “my cup overflows” in Psalm 23:5 (Vulgate 22:5) as “my chalice overflows” would be ludicrous.

Although there were early translations of the Bible into English beginning with Venerable Bede, John Wycliffe (1328–84) is credited with the first complete translation of the Latin Vulgate, and here the translation of Jesus’ action over the wine (Matt 27:26) reads “And he took the cuppe,” while the earliest English translation of Mark 14:23 from the Greek, by William Tyndale (1494–1536), reads, “And he toke the cup gave thankes and gave it to them.” Simply put, in neither Jerome’s translation of the Greek into Latin nor early translations of the Latin into English nor the early Greek translations into English was “chalice” treated as a proper translation of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. “Chalice” was first substituted for “cup” in the Catholic Douay-Rheims translation from the Latin (1582–1609), where it functioned as a post-Tridentine marker of Catholicism against Protestantism—a role it may again assume.

 

The Last Supper as a Passover Meal

The words of Jesus shape the context of our Eucharistic liturgy today. Jesus sends his disciples to find a place where “I may eat the Passover with my disciples” (Mark 14:12–14). The narrative of Jesus at table with the disciples is portrayed by the evangelists as a Passover meal that highlights clear elements of the traditional Jewish Passover celebration (see 1 Cor 5:7, “Christ our Paschal lamb has been sacrificed”). Though no mention is made of the central act of eating the sacrificial lamb, the blessing, breaking, and eating of the bread and the blessing and drinking of the wine have clear parallels in the Jewish feast. Again of particular concern is the rendering of potērion as “chalice.” The key point is that the liturgy describes Jesus after the supper taking a cup, giving it to the disciples, and saying,

“Take this, all of you and drink from it;
This is the cup [chalice] of my blood.”

Though scholars differ about certain details, we know the Jewish celebration of Passover involved prayers and blessings over four cups of wine, two drunk before or during the main course and two after the meal. The third cup, “the cup of blessing” after the meal, is the cup in our Eucharistic prayers today, “when supper was ended.” St. Paul notes explicitly that it was “after the meal” (1 Cor 11:24) and earlier writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16).

The cup that Jesus drank after the meal therefore evokes memories of the Jewish Passover ritual. To call this cup a “chalice” disguises the relation of the Christian Eucharist to an anamnesis (enacted memorial) of the Paschal Meal celebrated by the Jewish Jesus as he approached his suffering and death. The events surrounding the Passion of Jesus have caused great difficulties and sorrow in Jewish-Christian relations. The suppression of the memory of the Jewishness of Jesus in the Christian Eucharist is another example of “de-Judaizing” Jesus, and will erect another barrier to appreciation of our Jewish heritage, to mutual understanding, and to a proper liturgical catechesis.

 

Challenges to Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care

Among the achievements of the Second Vatican Council, especially in the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation (Dei verbum), was a renewed focus on Scripture as, in St. Jerome’s words, “the soul of theology.” In the life of the church, people were encouraged to “gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it is through the liturgy, rich in the divine Word or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids” (emphasis mine). In the apostolic constitution Missale Romanum (1969), Pope Paul VI noted that the “formulas of consecration have been restored to a purer form reflective of the biblical sources” (Annibale Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948–1975). In the decades since the council, through exposure to the liturgy in the vernacular and through opportunities at all levels for deepening knowledge of Scripture, Catholics have become a Bible-reading, Bible-praying church. The traditional representation of the book as the symbol of Protestantism and of the chalice as a symbol of Catholicism had virtually disappeared. Is it now making a comeback?

The introduction of the English word “chalice” at the most solemn moment of the liturgy not only obscures the original biblical and historical context of the event but also evokes an image of Jesus that distances him from the disciples of his own day and of ours. In contemporary English a “chalice” is a liturgical vessel, and people are likely to think of gold or jewel-encrusted chalices found in museums or seen in artistic portrayals. At the Last Supper, Jesus was a Jewish layman using the drinking cups of the world around him, which were to bear the deepest mystery of his life. “Chalice” obscures this transformation of the ordinary by the power of God and distances the celebration from the lives of the participants. Indeed in the new translation of the Roman Missal, the priest says “This is the chalice of my blood,” but one of the optional responses for the people is, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.” Chalices are for priests; cups for laypeople. This suggests a return to the understanding of a priest as a sacral person separated from the community rather than offering the Eucharist as a member of “the Body of Christ.” Finally, I often celebrate liturgy among parents who, like many others, are instructing young children in the meaning of the Mass. They have told me that some of the arcane language in the new translations has made their efforts to explain what Jesus was doing at the Last Supper more difficult. The reference to a “chalice” has proven especially confusing.

Throughout history changes in the liturgy arose from the faith and practice of the people (“from below”) and from decisions of church leaders (“from above”). I can only hope that “cup” will again rise up to replace “chalice.”


Read more: Letters, August 17, 2012

Related: It Doesn't Sing, by Rita Ferrone
Lost in Translation, by John Wilkins

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Excellent, articulate piece, John.  The "chalice" thing is the WORST on my list of the worst aspects of the new translation (yes, I have a list).  To paraphrase Rita Ferrone's cogent observation (don't have the article in front of me to give precise quote):  the word "chalice" transposes Jesus into "a priest saying Mass."  You say something similar here, and the implications are destructive, indeed.  I actually whisper "cup" when the priest is saying "chalice."  I do a lot of fancy things now in order to be able to endure the translation with some semblance of peace and prayer.  Thanks for focusing on this:  it is hugely significant. 

I hope this translation is revisited sooner than later. The syntax is stilted. It reminds me of the "ponies" we used to use in school. As a priest I have a hard time praying while I'm trying follow the language. One might also notice everytime the phrase "God, who" is used the verb following is plural rather than singular. Someone told me this was an 18th century usage, but this is the 21st century and I don't write or speak this way and neither does anyone else. Bishop Watson of Erie called the translation unintelligible. Unfortunately he's correct. The translation used right after the council in the 60's was much better than this. If the church feels this "exalted language" will inspire people, I think they're wrong. Puting lipstick on a pig doesn't change the fact it's a pig.

Perhaps as the priest turned to the people Post-Vatican II, the people may turn away from this translation?

Honestly, there is the poetic, the prayerful, and the tremendous mystery. The fumblings through the Eucharistic Prayers are none of these, which is so unfortunate because it has taken me this long to enter into these prayerful mysteries only now to have them become stuttering nonsense for the latest pep rally and cheer crowd.

"Chalice" may not be the right word, but "cup" isn't either. '"Cup," to our ears, does not suggest wine: it suggests coffee or tea and vessel wth a handle. "Glass," which we would usually use for a vessel for wine, won't do either, since we are probably neither using something that is glass nor recalling an event that used a glass vessel. "Chalice" does sound too grand, but in that it may actually fit the Passover setting better. I don't know if first century Jews used special vessels for the cups of wine as Passover, but Jews of succeding centuries certainly have.

We simply do not have an English word that is a perfect substitute for the Greek word. The new translator's choice may not have been the best, but it avoids problems that "cup" presents.

To reply to another post: I myself hope that more priests turn back toward the altar. To have them facing the congregation too often makes them personally the center of attention. Whether or not that was why celebrating westward became popular, it has been a great advance for a clericalism that turns the priest into a star and the people into a mere audience.

Great thanks for a well-written article. The point here is not to make Jesus do what we do, rather it is a wonderful catechetical opportunity to talk about why Jesus used a cup and we use a chalice. The contemporary connotation of a more ornate silver or gold vessel is not in keeping with a first century Passover celebration. And our own discomfort with the revised translation is mirrored perfectly in the print ad for the beer Stella Artois whose campaign featuring a tall cold glass reads simply "It's not a glass, it's a chalice."

How sorely today's church needs the invaluable melding of scholarly rigor and pastoral care  uniquely embodied in John R. Donahue's writings, teaching, and ministry.  With so many others, I'm utterly baffled by such obtuse Vatican moves as the removal of liturgy from the gospel Fr. Donahue describes.  We live in ecclesial dark times rivalling the worst in church history, I fear.  May courageous scholars, compassionate pastors, and compelling Catholic journalism light a way out!

Am I mistaken in thinking that the choice to transliterate word for word from Latin to English rather than to translate meaning is merely a device to take the first steps back to Latin? If people feel that the only choice is between the elegance of the original Latin and a cheap vernacular imitation, who wouldn't choose the latter? If a meaningful, sensible and eloquent English translation of the Roman Missal is not an option, then what else is there?

Superb article. From your keyboard to the ears of Benedict and the Vox Clara committee. 

I'm still mouthing the old words as I endure the changes. Of course the opposition is muted as time goes on, but that does not mean acceptance, much less endorsement. There are only so many issues on which to expend one's energies. When you have absolutely no power or influence to exert in the matter, mute endurance takes over.

Interestingly, as I skip over "men" in "For us men and for our salvation", what really sticks in my throat is the substitution of "soul" and "spirit" for "I" or "you." The bifurcation of soul/spirit from body seems inappropriate for a religion steeped in incarnation.

"Christianity is a religion of the body. The greatest mystery of resurrection from the dead occurs in the body. The sacrament of Holy Communion means taking into our bodies God's body...The advent of God in the world comes through a woman's body...(We become) a community around a shared center, calling ourselves the body politic, the body of the laity, the mystical body of Christ...Body means definite form, the actual shape faith takes in the world." (Finding Space: Winnicott, God and Psychic Reality by Ann Ulanov)

So, I find "And with your spirit," and "my soul shall be healed" split a wholeness that should be united.

I was fortunate to be taught Latin by an erudite Jesuit in the 1950s. One of the first principles he drilled into us was "Translation is not transliteration."

Of course in those days Mass was still said in Latin - but certainly not the Latin of Cicero or Pliny.

Just what did phrases like the following mean?

"Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero." and "Genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt."

The readings from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures were written in a form of Latin that was a transliteration of the original Hebrew/Greek, of which most parish priests in my experience knew next to nothing. Rarely did they preach on the writings of St Paul. (He was described as the Protestants' favourite saint because he was converted personally by Jesus after those cowardly disciples had fled from Jesus in his hour of need.)

I don't question the sincerity or even the scholarship of those tasked with producing The New English Translation of the Order of the Mass from The Roman Missal. The Roman Missal itself is the problem and will remain so until its medieval Latinity is purged. It will be a courageous Pope who administers the purgative. If he does appear he will be a humble and wise man unfettered by the rigid metaphysics of St Thomas Aquinas who on his death-bed is alleged to have said: All I have written is dross.

 

Looking in the complete Oxford English Dictionary, it can be seen that 'chalice' has been a customary and continuous English translation since about 825 AD. Wycliffe may have been the innovator in selecting 'cup' (though he was not consistent, and elsewhere continued to use the word 'chalice'). The Douay translation was not even close to being the first to use 'chalice' -- it merely continued the custom that had already been in place for over 700 years.

It is deeply encouraging to see this sort of article by a person of such eminence and good sense as Jake Donahue.  As one Catholic whose dissatisfaction with the new 'translation' has not moderated but grown stronger by the day, I can only hope that others of similar eminence will find their courage and also publicly oppose the dross we currently call our liturgy. 

If others lack for starting points, may I suggest:  The distracting, redundant blooming of "graciously grant, we pray"; or "like the dewfall"; or the many collects, prayers over the gifts, and postcommunions which are absolutely unintelligible, and/or filled with bad theology?  Likewise some of the prefaces, also filled with bad theology.  Not to mention "under my roof" and "my soul shall be healed" instead of "I shall be healed". Or the displacement of "And also with you", which makes sense in modern English, by "And with your spirit", which does not.  (Maybe we could force the issue by saying, "And with your ghost", using the same old translation we used for Spiritus Sanctus?)  Worst of all, in my book, is the perfidy surrounding the unilateral abrogation of the ecumenical Common Texts for the Gloria and Creed; the deed itself is a disgrace, so I simply refuse to participate in those revised texts.

Someone mentioned to me that some in the UK are calling this the "Paedophile Translation".  I'm not certain that is fair, but it has a certain attraction as a polemic device.  In any case, a "translation"  which attacks the most sacred core of the prayer life of clergy and people alike seems to me demonic. 

I'm not learned enough in Latin and Greek, nor Linguistics, to make any scholarly comment on Fr. John's analysis of what may have been lost with the switch back from "cup" to "chalice;" however, as a father and sometimes educator, I do not think the observation that this change will make it more difficult for parents, and presumably teachers, to teach children the significance and Mystery of the Eucharist has much weight. A quick net search of the word "chalice" revealed the following (top group):

 chal·ice/ˈCHaləs/

Noun: A large cup or goblet, typically used for drinking wine

The wine cup used in the Christian Eucharist.

Synonyms:

cup - calyx - goblet - bowl

More info »Wikipedia - Dictionary.com - Answers.com - Merriam-Webster

 

In modern usage, when referring to the vessel holding the Communion wine, either term is acceptable, and perhaps "chalice is the more specific and accurate. Personally, I am more interested in what the vessel contains, than in the specific name used for the vessel. Perhaps in some future Century, if English is still a living language, "cup" will once more replace "chalice." I'm not sure it matters much to the faithful now,  or that it will then.

 

The change to "chalice" feels like a distancing from the original supper. Did a poor carpenter, wanted by the law, and his unemployed blue-collar disciples really use a "chalice" to drink their wine? One of the joys of this whole scene for me was always that Jesus and the 12 were, at least physically, regular working people who ate with their hands and drank out of cups (not red Solo, but you get my point). The people at the Last Supper, as I was taught it, would never have even seen a chalice, no less carried one around with them. I was precisely this "regular guy" image that drew so many poor and working-class people to the Church. Jesus is, in one sense of course, better than us, but in a more immediate sense, he and his 12 were just like us. This gave regular people a shot at real belief and salvation. Imagine a modern day St Peter finishing hauling his nets, walking into a tavern with other fishermen and ordering a "chalice" of Budweiser.

Thanks for publishing Fr. Donahue's piece.  I wondered whether my own aversion to the new translation would fade with time and use. It  hasn't. And I am glad to find that I am not the only one to murmur under my breath a few "corrections " here and there. I think it is important not to give up on this issue.

Bright spot of my week: a mild joke from the pulpit commending an eloquent but simple passage from the Gospel of John and asking-- aside-- whether anyone present would care to venture a definition of "consubstantial." Universal chuckle was followed by some appreciative comments after mass. Maybe there is some hope....  

Fr. Donahue's essay "Cup or Chalice?" is clearly reasoned and lucidly written. The use of "chalice" is evidence that the translators have tin ears when it comes to words and their connotations. How many chalices were there in Jerusalem during the rule of Pontius Pilate?  Maybe in the Temple, but hardly in a rented dining room.  "Chalice" has been defended on the grounds that Shakespeare uses it.  He does indeed: in his 36 Plays he uses it twice, once in "Macbeth" and once in "Hamlet."  In both instances it is a "poisoned chalice," like the poisoned chalices of Renaissance Princes in Italy that Shakespeare read about in his sources. The Borgias and such like. In the liturgical setting "chalice" is over-blown, meretricious (be sure to look that one up). It "makes the service greater than the god." "Cup" is sharp, real, personal, intimate--like the last supper.  I share Fr. Donahue's hope that "cup" will rise again, but given the current climate in the hierarchy that's not the way the smart money bets. Not in my lifetime anyway: I turn 80 this summer.  

It is not true that  "the normal term for an ordinary drinking cup in daily life." As can be seen from Liddell and Scott, the term often refers to cups made of metal, Herodotus 2:37 which refers to the Egyptians drinking out of cups made of bronze, or Herodotus 3:148 which refers to someone who possessed cups made of Silver and Gold. It is also used for cups used in ceremonies in temples. 

Sorry I seem to be missing a word, the post should have read, It is not true that 'poterion' was "the normal term for an ordinary drinking cup in daily life." As can be seen from Liddell and Scott, the term often refers to cups made of metal, Herodotus 2:37 which refers to the Egyptians drinking out of cups made of bronze, or Herodotus 3:148 which refers to someone who possessed cups made of Silver and Gold. It is also used for cups used in ceremonies in temples. 

Unfortunately, the exegesis offered here is rather misleading.  "Potērion" does not mean "ordinary drinking cup in daily life."  It is a more general term for any drinking vessel, not just ordinary ones. One of the comments above gives one example, but there are many examples through Greek literature showing Potērion being used for cups that are definitely not daily and not ordinary.

"Kylix" is the basis for the Latin "Cylix" from which come chalice, but it is more complex than that.  The "kylix" was a low vessel with two handles and a shor stem on a base.  The "liturgy" it was associated with were the drinking parties dedicated to Bacchus.  As such, most were decorated with (often lascivious) scenes of Bacchus that would be slowly revealed as the wine was drunk.  It should be quite understandable that the NT authors would not choose this word.  It is disingenuous of Mr. Donahue to characterize the Greek word as applying to all liturgical vessels. With three centuries and a culture difference between Jerome and the NT writers, it should be unremarkable that some of the cultural baggage of the Greek word had not made it over.  "Cylix" may have a root in "Kylix," but they are not the same word.  Jerome did not make his choice willy-nilly.  We have to remember that he was deeply immersed in the Palestinian world, and he was cantankerous about his translation.  He chose that word for a reason.  If there is a translation "problem" it is not with the new Missal translation, it is with the Vulgate.  But St. Jerome is a much tougher target than the committee that did the new translation of the Missal.Finally, we have to address the issue of the Last Supper itself.  We often hear, "Oh Jesus was a simple and poor preacher, the vessels would have been simple and poor."  But let's consider a couple of things here.  Jesus may have been poor, but that doesn't mean that everything about him was poor.  When Jesus was crucified, he was wearing a seamless garment, and a seamless garment was expensive.  When the disciples followed to the "place that had been prepared," they were led to an upper room.  A second story was an expensive space in that time and place.  The place that had been prepared had been a place for a wealthy Jew to celebrate Passover.  The vessels of the Last Supper were not the vessels of a poor carpenter, they were the vessels of the wealthy.  And we also have to remember what the Passover seder was and is.  It is a ritual feast.  It is liturgical.  The best vessels are used, not the everyday vessels.  This ties into all of sacrificial history throughout the Bible, where it is the best that is offered to God, the best that is dedicated to God, not just our common and everyday.It only would have taken a little bit of digging to find all of this.

Hello, wineinwater.  I appreciate your speculation but that is, truly, all it is:  speculation.  One thing we can know for sure:  "cup" covers any type of vessel, while "chalice" is restricted to a particular type of cup.  The fact that the Last Supper was a ritual meal and that its setting had been prepared for Jesus does not necessarily mean that the setting was wealthy, nor does it imply necessarily that the drinking vessel was, in fact, anything remotely resembling what we know today as a "chalice."  Those who favor the entirely unbiblical idea that the Last Supper was the "first Mass" and also, of course, the "ordination" of The Twelve (and we are still left with that pesky problem of where Jesus sent the women disciples while he said the magic words...) probably love the use of "chalice" in the present (awful) translation. But nothing supports its use whatsoever, on either a biblical or historical  basis.  

Janet, it is much more than speculation, it is a reasoned assimilation of known facts.  

We know from architectural history that an upper room in that time and place was a space that only the more wealthy could afford.  It is a reasonable conclusion that the person who could afford to own such a space would also be able to afford vessels for the Passover that were finer than those of a common laborer.

We know from literary history that "poterion" is a general term for cup, and not a term that specifically applies to only ordinary, daily drinking vessels as the author contends.  It is therefore a reasonable conclusion that the NT authors' use of "poterion" does not preclude a finer, more ritualistic vessel.  And, the fact that the normative translation of the NT from Greek to Latin uses a word that refers to a liturgical and ritual vessel shows that the Church, at least since that time, believed that that was what the NT was referring to.  It's one thing to make the argument that the Church has been wrong about her Biblical translation for over 1600 years.  It's quite another to criticise the translators for choosing the English word that reflects what the Church has believed for over 1600 years.  If the author wants to argue that the Church has been wrong to use "chalice" since Jerome, he is welcome, but it is disengenuous to make the argument that we are wrong only when we use the English word for chalice.

 

"The best vessels are used, not the everyday vessels.  This ties into all of sacrificial history throughout the Bible, where it is the best that is offered to God, the best that is dedicated to God, not just our common and everyday.

It only would have taken a little bit of digging to find all of this."

I guess I was just digging what parents and priests taught me, and the little bit I've read.  This is the first I'd heard that the last supper was a high class event. 

   But they  (the 12 and Jesus and the women there) were wanted criminals with no jobs far from home. They were people who gave away worldly possessions and slept in barns.

  Who gave them chalices and fancy clothes and a nice diningroom? Seems like quite a risk. Was one of them connected ?

     

 

 

 

michael casey,

I don't know if it was a high class event, but scripture and history suggests that the setting was of a finer quality.

As to Jesus and His disciples, before the arrest, they weren't wanted criminals.  They moved fairly freely even if they encountered a certain amount of unwelcome in places.  Scripture tells us how often people sought Him out, it seems odd to think that anyone providing for them would somehow be odd when people are actively seeking Him out.  Scripture nowhere says that they were wanted criminals at the time of the Last Supper.  And they did not have jobs, but scripture also tells us that there were women with them who provided for Jesus and His disciples.

What I am sure of is that CUP covers what we need the liturgy to say, whereas "chalice" has distinctively narrow connotations and is heavily loaded with "Church vessel" intimations.  And how does "chalice" evoke other biblical allusions that are very likely connected with the Lord's sacrifice:  e.g., "the cup of staggering...", "can you drink the cup I must drink...", "the cup of salvation", etc?  If "cup" is a perfectly servicebale word for these, why not for the Eucharist?  Also, I have seen/heard no official explanation that "chalice" is used here because it is historically more accurate than "cup."  The only official explanation is that "chalice" is supposed to evoke a sense of how precious the Lord's blood is---"fancy" cup, in other words, with all the other fancies that have come to populate the liturgy and which seem to be making a comeback, with all the lace and cassocks and copes I am seeing these days.  Doesn't do much for me, anyway.  I find it stuffy and overstated, like the new translation itself.    And I still think Rita Ferrone's point is true:  using "chalice" transposes Jesus into "a priest saying Mass."

 

wineinthewater:  Jesus and his disciples were, in fact, wanted as criminals by the time of the Lord's final Passover.  Um, that was exactly the point, wasn't it?  The gospels are pretty clear on this...that doesn't mean that they didn't have fancy stuff at the supper, but you are wrong to say that they were not wanted and even "hunted."  To say otherwise is simply false.  The gospels tell us otherwise, and overwhelmingly so.  This is entirely irrelevant to whether or not they used a "chalice."

All the arguments about the new translation are a waste of time, because this is not a question of language or theology or piety. The new translation is Vatican sponsored and you, my brothers and sisters (and your spirit), better get used to it because it’s here to stay. It’s one more small step for the hierarchy’s attempt to claw back the absolute authority they lost after Vatican II and the sex abuse scandal. The story is an old one. It begins at the Last Supper when “a dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” It’s all about power.

Peter, you are right, of course.  Trying to chat aboutbt is the only way I know to lighten the desolation.  It is otherwise futile---agreed.  Thanks for the sober reminder.  I have to keep asking myself why I stay.  

Janet, stay for the same reason I stay: why should I leave the Church because the bishops are making a hash of things?

"As to Jesus and His disciples, before the arrest, they weren't wanted criminals.  They moved fairly freely even if they encountered a certain amount of unwelcome in places."

My knowledge of scripture is limited, but wasn't Jesus arrested right after the last supper? Did the Romans usally arrest people who weren't wanted?  I mean, they didn't give him a speeding ticket, he was crucified, a punishment reserved for slaves and the most abject criminals.  And the other disciples pretty quickly dispersed and hid, presumably because they were wanted too.

Even if they had rich friends (or women taking care of them), the 12 must have been scared and hiding. Unemployed, hiding from the law, vowed to poverty. Doesn't sound like a "chalice" crowd to me. But, as someone pointed out, the historical situation may have nothing to do with the Vatican's tortured new translation. 

  

  

Jesus was absolutely WANTED by the religious authorities...from almost the get-go in John, he is marked for death by them.  He sometimes hides, he often swears the disciples to secrecy, etc.  It is plastered all over the Gospels.  He did have rich and influential friends, but we know that thay didn't/couldn't help him in the end.  One of them may have provided the room and furnishings for his last Passover, but we need not therefore jump to the conclusion that it was all gussied up as for a High Mass :)

 

Peter:  thanks for the encouragement to stay.  but it is almost subsistence/starvation for me.  and to think i used to support these guys. ugh!  i will forever be ashamed of that.

By the way, you can get your own Stella Artois chalice from the Budweiser store online...very fancy. 

I think the reason for the change from cup to chalice may be a lot simpler. Following the reforms of the liturgy there was a movement away from gold and silver chalices to cups made from simpler materials. This was especially true with regard to the vessels employed in the distribution of Holy Communion under the form of wine. The Vatican has always been leery of communion under both forms for fear of irreverence and desecration. Many believe they would put an end to it tomorrow if they could. So, the new translation afforded an opportunity to make a statement about the "sacred vessels" employed in the celebration of Holy Mass. Thus the word chalice. For many centuries the church has been using chalices made of precious materials reflecting the importance of that which they contain following the consecration. If you haven't noticed, the folks in charge have been urging a liturgical trajectory "back to the future". This is just one additional part of that. They want us to put away the pottery and even the waterford crystal cups in favor of the gold and bejewelled ones that have been languishing in sacristies everywhere. Remember the golden rule: Those who have the gold, rule.

Janet,

Perhaps just semantics.  The chief priests wanted Jesus dead.  But he was not a wanted criminal .. perhaps a wanted "balsphemer."  Rome didn't want Him, He had to be forced on them by the chief priests.  He was not in hiding, but quite public, which was the original point.

Mark 14:1-2 Now after two days was [the feast of] the passover and the unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him with subtlety, and kill him:  for they said, Not during the feast, lest haply there shall be a tumult of the people. 

Michael Casey,

Jesus wasn't arrested by the Romans.  He was seized by a mob lead by the chief preists and scribes and dragged to a kangaroo court.  In fact, they were looking for a way to get rid of Jesus *without* the people finding out.  

Incidentally, I rather dislike ostentatious chalices.  Ostentation is an unimaginitive alternative for our finest.  If we are to offer our best to God, our best is quite a bit better than just throwing money and precious materials at our worship.  And I find the faux earthenware "cups" to be just as ostentatious, just in a different way, in an assumed ideological superiority way.  But that is just my opinion.

wineinthewater:  blasphemy was, indeed, a crime to the Jewish authorities, punishable by death (a sentence they could not carry out in Rome-occupied Judea, however).  They were able to twist this into a "political" crime (and in first century Israel, religion and politics were always intertwined---see NT Wright on this) easily enough to convince the venal and self-interested Pilate to have Jesus executed as a political rebel.  And in John, Roman soldiers are certainly part of the arrest party...you will need to look more closely at the Gospels----especially John----to see how many times Jesus has to hide himself from attempted arrest or stoning on the spot.  Parts of his ministry were certainly very much public and in the open, but the Gospels are clear that as opposition mounted, he chose deliberately to avoid certain places and situations.  It happens fairly early in John, in fact.

Anyway, as to the original point of this discussion:  I don't care a whit if we use a chalice or a pottery cup at liturgy for the actual vessel, but I do think that the use of  "chalice" in the words of Consecration is a jarring, misleading misstep---an impoverishment in every sense of that word.  

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About the Author

John R. Donahue, SJ, is the Raymond E. Brown Professor (Emeritus) of New Testament Studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland, and Research Professor in Theology at Loyola College, Maryland.

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