A Common Cup
Last week as we were considering the Words of Institution for Holy Communion I stressed the fact that Jesus extended His cup to His disciples. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” It is the cup that is the counterpart to the bread.
The cup, not the wine, per se, is emblematic of the New Testament of Jesus’ blood. And in addition to being a symbol, in the extending of the cup for all to drink, Jesus says this is His shed blood for the forgiveness of sins.
So why is the cup the counterpart to the bread? You might think the wine might be. Certainly, and without doubt, the cup was filled with wine. But my best guess as to why it is the cup, and not the wine, that is accentuated has to do with containment. Whereas a loaf of bread is self-contained and can represent one body, a liquid is not self-contained. Wine is diffusive and without containment it does not represent the blood of one body. The cup, on the other hand, can represent one body or vessel.
A loaf of bread can represent one body. And in order to eat the bread it necessarily must be broken into pieces so many people can eat of the one bread. A cup can represent one body, but in order to drink from it each one must drink from the cup.
A problem with prefilled, individual cups is that they do not symbolize oneness. Instead, they represent multiple containments. Perhaps we drink the same beverage, but we have not visualized how that same wine came from one container. The wine bottle itself is not as elegant as a valued chalice (type of cup), nor does the gathered congregation see the bottle containing wine.
Historically, it was not until the late nineteenth century when some churches departed from drinking from the Common Chalice during Communion. Next week I will discuss why this began to take place.
Since You Asked…
What is the purpose and meaning of our Votive Prayer Candles?
To “light a candle for someone” means that you will say a prayer for them. The candle symbolizes your prayers. When we light a candle it is a sign of attentiveness and that we are being purposeful in offering intercessory prayer. It is an important act in which we are involved! To be in prayer is to be spiritually awake and vigilant. And as the candle continues to burn it symbolizes our ongoing prayers. It is a sign to others that prayers are being offered. In such an atmosphere, indeed the darkness gives way to light.