Why cannot the wine remaining in the chalice after the holy communion service be poured down the drain instead of having to pass through the human body before it is flushed down the drain?
This question raises points of view that depend on how the consecration of bread and wine is believed to affect the reality of the Lord’s sacramental presence.
A basic understanding of consecration is that it sets apart those elements from common and profane use and therefore commands reverent care of the sacrament of holy communion like that expressed by Tertullian in the third century: “we feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground” (De corona 3). The way in which residual wine in the chalice is dealt with is a clear index of eucharistic doctrine: pouring the contents down a drain is not only crude and undignified, but with a doctrine of the real presence conveyed by the sacrament, it is tantamount to sacrilegious desecration.
Any appeal to the course of nature is unconvincing. All God’s good gifts of food and drink are indeed subject to the same physical process, but that is no reason for treating the consecrated sacrament as refuse or waste material. On the contrary, it deserves even greater respect, and human consumption is the most appropriate and reverent means of its immediate disposal.
Whatever the custom in other Churches, the 1662 BCP rubric clearly states that “if any remain of that which was consecrated . . . the Priest and such other communicants as he shall call unto him shall . . . reverently eat and drink the same.”
Similarly, in Common Worship it is directed that “what remains of the consecrated bread and wine . . . is consumed.” In this, as in other ways, everything shall be done “decently and in order”.
(Canon) Terry Palmer
When we pray the Eucharistic Prayer, these (or similar) words are said: “In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave you thanks; he gave it to them saying: Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
I appreciate that there are various interpretations of the exact meaning of some of these words, but there is no room for any debate about the meaning of the words “drink this.” Our Lord provides the answer to the question.
(The Revd) Peter Simpson
The wine has been prayerfully set apart to convey the life of Christ to communicants. To pour some down the drain suggests contempt. If your friend serves you a meal as a sign of love and you throw it down the toilet because that is where it would end up eventually, she may not be best-pleased. It may sometimes be hard to consume what remains respectfully, but if there is a lot remaining, others can be invited to take some.
(Canon) John Goodchild
When I rang and asked the Vicar who would be preaching at evensong, she replied: “Why do you want to know?” Mentioning no names, I said that, though I found three of the regular preachers clear as a bell, the delivery of the fourth was totally unintelligible to me. “Oh, I can’t tell you that,” was her response. “It would be disloyal to X” (naming the preacher). Was her response reasonable?
Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.