John Lilburne's journal about advantages in receiving communion by intinction in the Catholic Church's Roman Rite.


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Advantages in distributing communion under both kinds by intinction, rather than drinking directly from the chalice.
1745 K Mon 22 April 2002

By "intinction" I mean the process described in 2002 GIRM 287. The minister of communion dips the consecrated host into the wine, holds it up saying "The body and blood of Christ". The person receiving communion holds a communion plate beneath their chin and when they say "Amen" the consecrated host is placed on the person's tongue.

I do not mean, by "intinction", what I will call "illegal dipping": receiving the host in the hand, going to the minister with the chalice, and dipping the consecrated host into the chalice and receiving communion. A similar approach is allowed for concelebrant priests, holding a purificator under their chin. But not even a deacon is permitted to do this (2002 GIRM 249, 1975 GIRM 206).

One advantage of receiving communion by intinction is that it stops illegal dipping.

Less wine and less variation

When received by intinction there is little wine used and there will not be much variation in how much is used. When received from the chalice people will drink considerably different quantities. This leds to difficulties of too much or too little consecrated wine. With too little, only the first few people are able to receive communion under both kinds. With too much, the priest and others are required to consume what remains. Communion by intinction avoids these problems because there is less wine used and it is easier to predict how much will be needed.

Less Laundering

From the chalice requires extra laundering. A purificator is used to wipe the chalice after each person drinks from it, staining it. In 1970 GIRM 244d the instruction was that the minister: "wipes the outside of the chalice with a purificator." But the 2002 GIRM 286 has removed the reference to the outside of the chalice. It now has: "autem labrum calicis purifacatorio abstergit" removing the words "partem externam" (meaning the "external part") which were in the 1970 GIRM 244d. The "Norms for the Celebration and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America" n. 45 has "... the minister carefully wipes both sides of the rim of the chalice with a purificator. This action is a matter of both reverence and hygiene. ...".

Spreading disease less likely

From the chalice increases the risk of spreading disease. If wine remains, then the priest normally drinks from the chalices last, putting him most at risk. Having intinction means that sick people may receive communion under both kinds without risking the health of others. It could be argued that using the chalice effectively excludes sick people and those more concerned about catching diseases.

Fewer ministers

From the chalice requires more ministers. The "Norms for the Celebration and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America" n. 30 has "For Communion from the chalice, it is desirable that there be generally two ministers of the Precious Blood for each minister of the Body of Christ, lest the liturgical celebration be unduly prolonged." But with intinction only one minister with the chalice will be required for each minister with the consecrated hosts. Another minister could pass the communion plate, or it could be passed by this minister holding the chalice. Perhaps this is why n. 24 of this document has:

In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason either for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species or for using intinction instead of distributing the Precious Blood from the chalice.

On 26 June 1970 Pope Paul VI approved, confirmed and ordered to be made public an Instruction, Sacramentali Communione, written by the Congregation for Divine Worship. It included:

Among the ways of communicating prescribed by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, receiving from the chalice itself ranks first. Even so, it is to be chosen only when everything can be carried out in fitting order and with no danger of irreverence toward the blood of Christ. When they are available, other priests or deacons or even acolytes should be chosen to present the chalice. The method of communicating in which the communicants pass the chalice to one another or go directly to the chalice to take Christ's blood must be regarded as unacceptable.

Whenever none of the ministers already mentioned is available, if the communicants are few and are to receive communion under both kinds by drinking directly from the chalice, the priest himself distributes communion, first under the form of bread, then under the form of wine.

Otherwise the preference should be for the rite of communion under both kinds by intinction: it is more likely to obviate the practical difficulties and to ensure the reverence due the sacrament more effectively. Intinction makes access to communion under both kinds easier and safer for the faithful of all ages and conditions; at the same time it preserves the truth present in the more complete sign." (Documents on the Liturgy, n. 2115).

It can still be said that from the chalice "ranks first". It is described in 2002 GIRM 286, intinction in 287. However I have tried to highlight the practical advantages of intinction and the greater reverence likely to be associated with it.

Update 16 July 2004

I now believe it is incorrect to receive Communion on the tongue without the Communion-plate. So I have removed the following, which was above:

"Clear and reverent "no wine" signal

"For people who want to receive communion in the form of bread only, as 2002 GIRM 284(c) insists they can, they can indicate this by not holding the communion plate under their chin. The 2002 GIRM does not require a communion plate when receiving just the consecrated host. When consecrated wine is offered directly from the chalice, the normal way to signal that one does not want to receive it is to walk past the minister, showing no sign of reverence to the consecrated wine."

The 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum has:

"[93.] The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling."

So I now believe the Communion-plate is to be held below the chin in all cases of receiving Communion (both intinction and for the consecrated host alone).

Some other indication would need to be given by those who do not want to receive the consecrated wine, but do want to receive the consecrated host on the tongue.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 22 April 2002. Updated 27 April 2002, 16 July 2004.

Other Sites:

Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America, - full text