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Chalice of wine

A Good Quality Wine

Chalice of wineThe Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is quite clear that “the wine for the Eucharist should be a good quality wine.” (NZPB/HKMA page 515).

Our church will not be unique. Other Anglican churches will have a rubric or canon expressing this. It is mentioned in the Lambeth Quadrilateral: “The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.”

Some, in their exegesis of this rubric, distinguishing the different levels of requirements (may, should, shall, must, does), suggest the “should” applies to the whole rubric, ie. that it “should” be wine, leaving room for non-wine. I think this is a total misreading of the English. The “should” applies only to “good quality” – there is no suggestion that it not be wine.

Some non-Anglican communities use grape juice or Ribena. It is not part of this post to critique such non-Anglican practices. Other denominations have traditions of not using wine, or not having sacraments or eucharist at all. Again, that is their own concern. Just as this post is not a discussion about how to inculturate Christ’s Eucharist into a culture and context that does not use wine.

A primary discussion about the use of wine is the issue for alcoholics.

Important point: This is not in any way a new discussion. If Anglicans (in NZ) want to alter the this agreement, there is an appropriate process for changing this. Many who insist on our agreements in another sphere happily ignore this agreement. If you want to change this agreement, you know what to do.

What about those who are alcoholics or who do not want to drink alcohol? There are several options that I have seen:

  • Some decide to drink a sip of the wine in this particular case
  • Some take the chalice, hold it, in that moment give thanks for the period they have been sober, do not drink, and pass the chalice back
  • Some intinct
  • I have recently seen someone receive the bread, touch it against the chalice and eat the bread
  • It is possible to get alcohol-free wine, even good quality alcohol-free wine

Once consecrated, Anglicans, in our agreement, only have two options with what to do with the (bread and) wine:

Any remaining consecrated bread and wine, unless required for the communion of persons not present, is consumed at the end of the distribution, or immediately after The Dismissal of the Community. (NZPB/HKMA page 516)

Again, you may wish to do something else (other than consuming it or reserving it for the communion of persons not present), but, if so, you need to go through the proper process to change our agreement.

A third issue around the (bread and) wine, that I observe from time to time, concerns our agreement that

Care should be taken to ensure that sufficient bread and wine is placed on the holy table for the administration of communion to the people. (page 516)

Sometimes people want to follow the (often-laudable) practice of having a single bread, and a single cup on the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer. But then, at communion time, more wine (and bread) is brought from the credence to be distributed. Those who hold to a “consecration theology” then end up playing a shell game trying to receive from the chalice with consecrated wine in it. Sometimes those distributing have been poorly trained and formed; when they run out of wine they just go and fill up more from the unconsecrated wine at the credence. This has included clergy.

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19 thoughts on “A Good Quality Wine”

  1. Hi Bosco
    If we were all cradle or converted Anglicans, every one of us in the pews of Anglican churches, then I imagine we might not be having a discussion about wine, let alone about good quality wine.

    As I understand at least some developments towards the use of grape juice as an alternative, they arise in parishes which find many of their regular worshippers are neither cradle nor converted Anglicans. Now we obviously can and should have a discussion about the responsibility of Anglican clergy and churchwardens to maintain Anglican practice and custom but that discussion should also include (IMHO) discussion about how small we wish to make some of our congregations after insisting that rubrics to the letter of the law must be followed.

    Anglican parish life these days is a many splintered phenomenon as Christians gather in a church run by Anglicans but filled with the longings and expectations of many different denominational backgrounds.

  2. Is there any consensus on what variety this “good quality” wine is? In a land of decent grape, I have been trying to wean my congregation of the traditional Rich Ruby from Australia. At 13% it is no more fortified than a standard locally-grown Merlot or Shiraz, and is no cheaper either. Have had some complaints though…

    1. Good point, Chris. The issue you point to is that often the taste of wine connoisseurs is highly refined (read “acquired”). IMO we should not be using a wine that requires such an acquired taste. Communion is not a wine tasting exercise. It should be a wine acceptable to the taste of most/all. In passing – there is no requirement that it be red. Blessings.

  3. I see the most important point in your essay here, Bosco, as being concerned with the possibility of offering un-consecrated wine for the act of Holy Communion. This, surely, would be against the whole liturgical process.

    Any well-trained clergy-person would surely – if the consecrated elements are allused up and there are remaining members of congregation need to be commincated – proceed to a simple act of consecrating more. The simple words provided for the appropriate element would suffice.

    1. Dear Father Ron,

      Your post brought an unbidden and unwelcome memory from my RC days. I was LEM at a Saturday evening vigil mass, and we ran out of wafers. The celebrant, a part time supply priest, leaned over and whispered to me, “go to the sacristy and fill a ciborium and bring it to me.”, which I did, anticipating that he would go to the altar and pray the words of institution, at a minimum. (I don’t know the RC rubrics for this instance) Instead, he took the ciborium and continued to distribute!

      Now I’m pretty far out on the progressive wing of the church, but I was completely scandalized. When I asked him about it, he said he had made a “mental intention” which consecrated the elements. Argghhh! Sacraments are signs and symbols. I think we are supposed to CARE about that, and act accordingly!

      This was a pretty outrageous outlier of an experience, but to me it betrayed a fundamental lack of understanding, on his part, about the dynamics of sacramental action.

      Whether folks in the pew were aware of what had happened, or assumed I had merely made a trip to the tabernacle, the casual — no, indifferent — attitude to the liturgy was communicating at a subconscious level, to all.

  4. As regulars here know, we use our ordinary names on this site (it reminds us these are real conversations with real people). The following comment was submitted to me (I know by whom) with the request that I post it anonymously, and I am very happy to do so on this occasion as the reason is clear and it helps the dialogue:

    As a priest who is a recovering alcoholic, I have seen and advised many other people in recovery about their options regarding the cup. I agree that holding the cup but not partaking is a reasonable and appropriate option – concomitance provides.

    That said, my own practice is rooted in two presumptions. 1, the content of the cup is the blood of Christ, whatever it’s accidents may appear to be. 2, God will not ask me to take an action which would, of itself, cause me harm.

    Thus, I receive in both kinds without any consideration. I will do the ablutions absent a deacon. That said, if there is a great deal of wine left, I will ask someone to assist in consuming.

    I’m not sure I buy the argument about people coming from other traditions having an issue with the use of wine. I think few reasonable people would expect a (potential) new church to conform to the practices of their former church, though it may lead them to ask some reasonable questions. But to use grape juice or such because we think some will prefer it plays to the worst sort of consumerist mentality.

  5. My personal, and not theology trained mind says,

    Christ’s communion is for all. To me, having a good quality wine that excludes an alcoholic is just that, exclusion. In cases like that, I do not think grape juice is offensive to God. A choice of both perhaps? 2 chalices? Does God really care whether it is chateau le cardboard or Ribena?

    Yes, the best for our Lord and Saviour, but would Jesus want people excluded?

    I can remember growing up and there was a woman in church who, because she was divorced, was not allowed to take communion.

    I did not know her circumstances, but if her husband had abandoned her and her family, why was she being ‘punished’ and not allowed to take part in an important part of fellowship.

    I see the same for those in recovery. Giving the choice of a sip *might* start a relapse, depending on the status of sobriety.

    Jesus came for the broken, kicked up a stink when people hushed children and taunted tax collectors etc.

    I just don’t see him getting offended if a non alcoholic version is used if it means all can come and partake.

    1. Nikki, you raise an important question. In our Episcopal Church parish we have two parishioners who have severe reactions to gluten, and who always abstained from Communion. We made a decision to consecrate a small number of rice flour wafers, and these two parishioners are communicated with them. In RC thought these would be “invalid” for lack of form. We don’t agree, and believe that being able to “take and eat” is of primary importance. I would extend that to the use of museum or grape juice. We have a member of the parish who volunteers to assist a chaplain in the “gay ward” at the county jail. The jail chaplain is not allowed to communicate the prisoners with wine, so he consecrates grape juice instead, in the spirit of “drink this, all of you.”

  6. Bosco+

    Does your branch of the Anglican Communion recognize Mustim as being a appropriate or worthy alternative to wine?

    For those unaware, Mustim is fresh squeezed grape juice which, after a few hours (once natural fermentation has technically begun), is flash frozen. It is then thawed enough to bottle, and is sealed. It’s alcohol content is so low that it isn’t classified as a wine, but there is a negligble amount (less than a percent) present.

    I know Rome permits this in certain very specific circumstances, but would forbid de-alcoholized wine.


    1. Thanks, Fr Robert. To my knowledge what you refer to as “de-alcoholized wine” does in fact contain a small amount of alcohol. Please can you point to a Vatican ruling that using this would not be a valid Eucharist. I am not aware of mustum being mentioned in our canons, so I cannot respond to your question. Blessings.

      1. Father Robert Lyons

        As I understand it, Canon 924.3 would exclude it. It states that the wine must be natural. The process used to de-alcoholize wine would seem to invalidate it, as it involves heating the wine, trapping the vapor (and the alcohol with it) flushing it, and bottling what is left over. This isn’t a natural process. One manufacturer in the USA, Fre, uses a ‘spinning cone’ method to separate the wine and the alcohol, and I don’t know if I’d consider that natural either.

        When I was a Roman, I was specifically told that the choices were regular wine or mustum, and then only the priest got the mustum.

        Of course, I always get curious being in health care about how others handle these issues. My first preference is a good wine from a local winery. My second choice is Mustum if medically or pastorally indicated.

        Most natural fruit juices contain about .5% alcohol, so both mustum and wines like Fre would still have a touch of alcohol in then. I just prefer mustum because it’s a natural process.

        1. I guess this is a question for an RC canon lawyer, Fr Robert. Certainly above my pay grade. Your earlier description of the preparation of mustum sounds no more natural than your description of de-alcoholizing wine. Blessings.

  7. a little diversion… We are (in Canada & the US) in ‘Full Communion’ with the ELCIC and the ELCA. – Lutheran They usually only use grape juice. So we have the Cup (with wine) and small individual glasses with grape juice. I administer almost every week and have a pretty good knowledge of who want which one. (sorry/ poor grammar)
    But it does offer a choice based on the denomination’s Culture. We’re not doing it in a ‘shopping consumerist’ way, but recognizing each denomination. Although some life-long Anglicans receive the grape juice as well and their reasons for doing this are shared with the Priest only.

    1. With respect, Catherine, you are misunderstanding and misrepresenting the concept of “Full Communion”. Your Guidelines for Common Worship for Lutherans and Anglicans in Canada explicitly states:

      Regarding the elements themselves, “Lutherans traditionally use bread and wine in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.In certain circumstances grape juice is used.”7 It is not, however, the practice of the Anglican Church to use grape juice as an alternative to wine in the eucharistic celebration: “The Bread shall be the best and purest wheat bread, whether leavened or unleavened, and the Wine pure grape wine, wherewith a little water may be mingled.” [Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Church of Canada (Toronto, The Anglican Book Centre, 1959).]

      You are confusing “Full Communion” with union forming one new church or denomination. Anglicans in NZ are in full communion with the Church of England and with the Episcopal Church, but all practices in NZ are not therefore licit to be practiced in the CofE, nor all practices in TEC are thereby allowed in NZ, etc.


  8. The conversation here, Bosco, leads me to think that some Christians, perhaps, might rather Jesus had turned wine into water!

    I do understand that some people have a problem with consuming wine at the Eucharist. However, it is the traditional element authorised by the Head of the Church (Jesus), and should be offered, nevertheless.

    One can respectfully receive the Eucharist in One Kind only (the Host), without disrespecting the tradition. Jesus is still present in One Kind only – for those who have problems with alcohol.

  9. In the spirit of Ron’s last posting, I have recently advised a person with a gluten allergy that the simplest solution is for her also to receive in one kind (in this case the wine).

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