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Amber communion wine?

13 March 2015


Your answers

Where does the practice of using amber wine for communion come from, and why is it done? Do we not lose the symbolism of red wine?

Experience of the wide spectrum of eucharistic practice in the Anglican Church will confirm the impression that use of amber wine for communion is mainly associated with the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Like much else taken over from customary practices of the 19th-century Roman Catholic Church, amber or white wines were frequently adopted without hesitation as part of the "proper way of doing things" in Catholic-minded circles.

It is thought that amber wine was introduced in the Western Church during the post-Tridentine era. J. A. Jungmann gave his opinion that "when . . . the use of the purificator became general, that is since the sixteenth century, white wine has become commonly preferred because it leaves fewer traces in the linen" (The Mass of the Roman Rite, 1959). In the same way, Peter Elliott reckoned that amber or white wine had been favoured in the Western Rites because of this convenience of washing altar linens (Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, second edition, 2004).

Unlike the acute controversy over the use of leavened or unleavened bread, at the time of the Great Schism between East and West in the 11th century, the exact colour of altar wine has not been a contentious issue, and at no time has there been any canonical regulation to make wine of a particular colour universally obligatory. It has been acknowledged that obviously red wine is a better eucharistic symbol than amber or white; as such it has sometimes been referred to as "the blood of the grape", as well as "the fruit of the vine". This symbolic value, however, true as it is, weighs far less with those who maintain a strong realist view of the sacramental presence: the visual appearance of consecrated wine of whatever shade is independent of the res sacramenti - that of Christ's real presence in the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood in holy communion.

(Canon) Terry Palmer,  Magor, Monmouthshire 

Your questions

Roman Catholic bookshops sell children's mass books with pictures to help them learn to understand the liturgy. I have not seen anything like this for Anglicans for years. Is it one of the reasons that our children are now deemed incapable of taking part in anything that is not "messy"? Are we missing an opportunity?

G. M.

Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.


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