Teaching Mass Q&A: Why did only Fr Hall drink the wine?

Canon Law states:  “Holy communion is to be given under the species of bread alone or, in accordance with the liturgical laws, under both species or, in case of necessity, even under the species of wine alone.” (Can. 925) 

Theologically, both the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood communicate the “whole Jesus” to the recipient.  For many years in England and Wales it has been permitted, (and indeed encouraged), for not only the celebrating priest(s) but also others who assist at the Mass, to receive Holy Communion under the forms of both bread and wine.

However the “liturgical laws” that the Canon refers to specify that communion under both kinds should only happen when a) there is no danger of irreverent treatment of the Precious Blood and b) where communion in both kinds would not unduly lengthen the celebration of the Mass.

Because in many larger school Masses these safeguards need to be ensured, our custom is to have communion under the species of bread alone.  However, on certain occasions (such as Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart), it is highly appropriate for all to be offered the opportunity to receive under both species.

The celebrating priest (and any concelebrants) must receive in both kinds to complete the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Teaching Mass Q&A: What about the wine?

Thanks to all those who handed in questions after the Teaching Mass.  I shall work through them slowly, and thought I’d do it in this forum, so that there could be comment – and even debate!

First up: “What sort of wine is used in the Mass?  Who makes it?”

What goes on in the Church is governed by Canon Law (Codex Iuris Canonici), and Canon 924 states:  ” §1 The most holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist must be celebrated in bread, and in wine to which a small quantity of water is to be added. …§3   The wine must be natural, made from grapes of the vine, and not corrupt.”

In other words, any kind of wine can legitimately be used, but it must be natural – so, for example, mulled wine, or wine artificially fortified (especially by non-grape alcohol) cannot be used.  Because it must not be “corrupt” (off!), sweeter wines tend to be used because they keep better.

It would be perfectly legitimate to open a bottle of Cotes du Rhone from Tesco, but churches often purchase wine from suppliers that give an assurance that the wine has been produced in accordance with Canon Law.

Fifth Sunday of the Year – “Put out into the deep”

Jesus has preached from Peter’s boat, and then gives the instruction – “Put out into the deep, and let down your nets.”  Even though Peter thinks that this will be a waste of time, he obeys, and is rewarded with a massive haul of fish.

Over the centuries, the Church has reflected in numerous ways on the symbolism of this passage.  We might see it as a challenge to move out of our comfort zones into new areas of expression or experience.  We might see it as an invitation, as Lent approaches, to “let down the nets” into deeper areas of our spiritual life.

However we see it, we recognise the same Lord speaking to us as spoke to Peter – both when he says, “Put out into deeper water,” and when he says, “From now on, you will be Fishers of Men.”

Letting your light shine – the Luminous Mysteries

The title of our School Mission, the prayers of the Epiphany season, and the concentration this week and last week in our Sunday gospels on the first two Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, has made me ask how we actually “shine” for God.

The metaphor of “shining” is one that is much used in both the Old and New Testaments.  They seemed to find this feature of the physical world a very useful one to convey spiritual meaning.  Perhaps we can too, by looking at three ways in which objects shine.

The first way is that they reflect light from another source.  This idea of “reflected glory” is a common one in theological and spiritual writing, and is a useful image of how we reflect the Uncreated Light of God.  But there are two potential problems.  Firstly, it might lead us to a very “external” approach to our faith – making ourselves shiny on the outside, without changing our inner nature.  Secondly, it only works when there is light shining on us!  In those times of darkness – the spiritual authors used the phrase “desolation” – how can we continue to shine?

So we turn to the next way of emitting light – excited atoms.  Glowing, in other words.  St Paul tells the Romans to “be aglow with the Spirit”.  When we see a light bulb glowing, it is drawing power from the mains to do so.  When we draw spiritual power from prayer, the Scriptures and the sacraments, we too can glow.  In fact, we may not be able to help it.  We might even be like those minerals which emit visible light when exposed to UV radiation – glowing in the darkness.

But there is a third way of shining.  This is like the coal that glows as it burns up – or, better still, like the sun, which shines as its gas is transformed from hydrogen to helium.  This is the shining of the Saints – being transformed “from glory to glory” (St Paul again).  But we too can be transformed in this way, and perhaps our prayer this week might be that, like the wine at Cana, we might be transformed for God – and that, in being transformed, we might shine for him too.

A prayer for the season of Epiphany

O God, who bestow light on all the nations,
grant your peoples the gladness of lasting peace
and pour into our hearts that brilliant light
by which you purified the minds of our fathers in faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Epiphany: Which star are YOU following?

Whatever the astronomical event that lies behind the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem, it is clear that St Matthew has in mind the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 60:  “Arise, Jerusalem, shine – for your light has come.”

This prophecy speaks about the light of the Lord breaking into the world, and people of all nations coming to bring gifts.

When the star had safely delivered the Magi to the stable, its work was over.  We can no longer train our telescopes on a point of light in the night sky and say, “There it is!”  But there are stars that will safely guide us to Christ, should we be wise enough to seek them.

The clue to these stars is seen in the word “Jerusalem” in Isaiah’s prophecy.  This symbol, politically potent then as now, has also real theological potency.  For Christians is can stand for three things.

It can stand for the Church, the “New Jerusalem”.   The light which can guide us to Christ shines in the Church’s teaching and liturgy, including (of course) the Scriptures.

But it can also stand for Our Lady.  She, along with the saints of whom she is Queen, can point the way to Christ.

But lastly it can stand for us, those who have been baptized.  We, too, are called to “Arise, Shine!”  It is a salutary thought, at the start of 2013, that for many of those we meet, we are the star sent by God to guide them to Jesus.

Advent 3 – “Rejoice! The Lord is close!”

On this Third Sunday of Advent, the liturgy invites us to the joy of the spirit. It does so with the famous antiphon as part of an exhortation of the Apostle Paul: “Gaudete in Domino”, “Rejoice in the Lord always… the Lord is at hand” (cf. Phil 4: 4, 5).

The first Reading of Mass is also an invitation to joy. The Prophet Zephaniah at the end of the seventh century B.C. spoke to the city of Jerusalem and its people with these words: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem…! [T]he Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory” (Zep 3: 14, 17).

God himself is portrayed with similar sentiments, as the prophet says: “The Lord… will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love… as on a day of festival” (Zep 3: 17-18). This promise was fully brought about in the mystery of Christmas, which we shall be celebrating in a week and which asks to be renewed in the “today” of our lives and of history.


The joy that the liturgy reawakens in the hearts of Christians is not reserved for us alone: it is a prophetic proclamation destined for all humanity and for the poorest of the poor in particular, in this case, those poorest in joy!


Let us think of our brothers and sisters who, especially in the Middle East, in several regions of Africa and other parts of the world, are experiencing the drama of war:  what joy can they live? What will their Christmas be like?

Let us think of all the sick and lonely people who, in addition to being tried in their body, are also sorely tried in their soul because they often feel abandoned:  how can we share joy with them without disrespecting their suffering?

But let us also think of those people, especially the young, who have lost their sense of true joy and seek it in vain where it is impossible to find it:  in the exasperated race to self-affirmation and success, in false amusements, in consumerism, in moments of drunkenness, in the artificial paradise of drugs and every form of alienation. We must obviously face the liturgy today and its “Rejoice” with these tragic realities.


As in the times of the Prophet Zephaniah, it is particularly to those being tested and to “life’s wounded and orphans of joy” that God’s Word is being addressed in a special way.

The invitation to rejoice is not an alienating message nor a sterile palliative, but on the contrary, it is a salvific prophecy, an appeal for rescue that starts with inner renewal.

To transform the world, God chose a humble young girl from a village in Galilee, Mary of Nazareth, and challenged her with this greeting: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you”. In these words lies the secret of an authentic Christmas. God repeats them to the Church, to each one of us:  Rejoice, the Lord is close! With Mary’s help, let us offer ourselves with humility and courage so that the world may accept Christ, who is the source of true joy.

From a homily preached by Pope Benedict XVI

Advent 2 – I Believe in Jesus Christ

St Luke wrote his Gospel for an educated Roman reader – presumably someone who was interested in this new religion that had made its way to Rome from the East.  Luke approaches his material as an historian, and this Sunday’s Gospel shows us that.  St Luke has dealt with the birth and infancy of Jesus (on which, see this), and now turns to the dawn of his public ministry.

He located the preaching of the “praecursor” – John the Baptist – very precisely in time and space.  He tells us who the emperor was (Tiberius); who the governor of Judea was (Pontius Pilate); who the (puppet) king of Judea was (Herod); and who were the High Priests (Annas and Caiaphas).  He tells us where John began his ministry – in the wilderness, and then through all the Jordan region.

It is as though St Luke wanted his reader – and us – to know that what follows is not some legend, some pious myth, that happened “once upon a time and far away”.  The coming of Jesus was an historical event.  Thanks to St Luke. and others who collected the verbal testimony and memories about Jesus, we know more about him than about any other contemporary historical figure.

But here’s the thing.  The fact that Jesus came to a particular time and place means that he can come now to any time and place.  Our Year 7 and Year 10 pupils have been singing the song, “Maranatha|  Come, Lord Jesus, come!”  We pray each day that our Lord would make his presence felt in our time and place.  Like John the Baptist, let our task be to prepare the way for his coming.

The importance of education

Among other things, I am skim-reading the “instrumentum laboris” (“working document”) of the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome.  They met, during the run-up to the year of faith, to discuss the New Evangelisation.

Fascinated to see whether the document would say anything about education, I did a search, and found this:

  • 148. Taking into consideration the great differences, due to geography, in societies and the history of Catholicism in each nation, all agree that the Church has expended great energy in the field of education, a work which continues today. Catholic schools and universities are present in practically every particular Church. In this regard, the responses provide detailed information on the work undertaken in education and the fruits which this work has produced in the past as well as what is taking place today. The past and present development of some nations is a direct result of the Church’s efforts in education.
  • 149. Today, the work of education is taking place in a cultural context where every kind of educational activity is becoming more difficult and critical to the point that the Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of an “educational emergency.”[80] With this expression, the Holy Father intends to allude to the special urgency to pass on to future generations the basic values of life and moral conduct. Consequently, many places are increasingly demanding a genuine form of education as well as truly qualified teachers. Such requests are commonly raised by parents who are concerned about the future of their children, by teachers who are sadly experiencing the deteriorating situation in schools and by society itself which sees the very foundations of harmonious living threatened.
  • 150. Similarly, the Church’s duty in educating people in the faith, discipleship and witnessing to the Gospel can be seen as a contributing factor in permitting society to emerge from the weight of this crisis in education. When speaking of education, the responses describe a Church who has much to contribute and who has a concept of education she has managed to spread throughout the world, namely, that the person and his formation are primary and that she desires to provide a genuine education that is open to the truth, including the encounter with God and a faith-experience.
  • 151. Furthermore, some responses praise the value and emphasis of the educational endeavours of the Church as a way of providing an anthropological and metaphysical basis to today’s challenges to education. The basis of the “educational emergency” at present may in fact be a result of the imposition of an anthropology marked by individualism and a dual relativism which reduces reality to something to be manipulated and limits Christian revelation to merely an historical process devoid of its supernatural content.
  • 152. Pope Benedict XVI describes these roots in the following manner: “One essential root I think consists in a false concept of man’s autonomy: man should develop on his own, without interference from others, who could assist his self-development but should not enter into this development. […] I see the other root of the educational emergency in scepticism and relativism or, in simpler, clearer words, the exclusion of the two sources that orient the human journey. The first source would be nature according to Revelation.[…] It is fundamental to recover a true concept of Nature as the Creation of God that speaks to us; the Creator, through the book of Creation speaks to us and shows us the true values. And thus finding Revelation: recognizing that the book of Creation, in which God gives us the fundamental orientation, is deciphered in Revelation.”[81]