Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This question deals with pouring the wine into one chalice instead of many individual small cups for the congregants to consume. In my experience, I've observed that the wine is always poured into a single chalice, never into individual cups. Is it to conserve resources, or is there a theological reason behind this practice?

share|improve this question
When I was visiting a Ukrainian Orthodox Catholic Church they actually distributed the blood from a single chalice using a ladle. Certainly provides substantially less risk of spillage. – user10763 Apr 11 '14 at 4:28
So, they aren't putting their lips to the cup but sipping from a ladle? How is that different, in the end, from using another cup? – david brainerd Apr 11 '14 at 8:32
Just that you know, if there are more number of priests participating, then multiple chalices could be used. (see here and here) There is no theological prohibition in using multiple chalices. But you can't pour species of wine into a different chalice after consecration. – Jayarathina Madharasan Jun 24 '14 at 9:04

The practice is entirely biblical. At the Last Supper, Christ took a single cup at the end of the meal and handed it round the apostles:

Mt 26:27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal has this:

  • Through the fraction and through Communion, the faithful, though they are many, receive from the one bread the Lord’s Body and from the one chalice the Lord’s Blood in the same way the Apostles received them from Christ’s own hands.

A related question is why there tend to be individual wafers rather than a single large bread roll or loaf which is divided amongst the congregation. This is because of its change of substance: “This is my body,” which means that any crumbs must be dealt with. Tearing or cutting a loaf, while a valid symbol of the distribution, would create so many crumbs that it would be impossible to deal with. A wafer with sealed edges produces far fewer problems. Generally the wafers are consecrated in and distributed from a single vessel [ciborium].

It’s a related question because of the risk of spillage in distributing the sacrament in — and between — small individual cups. A large chalice has to be carefully handled, and the risk of spilling the sacrament is likely to be reduced. However this is incidental to the primary reason: Jesus used a single cup.

share|improve this answer
Perhaps I might ask a related question about why some Protestant denominations use little glasses for the wine... – Andrew Leach Apr 10 '14 at 14:46
Sure, go ahead and ask. It's an interesting question. – Double U Apr 10 '14 at 14:51
It may be also related to the Protestant conception of the Eucharist. – Double U Apr 10 '14 at 14:53
I should also point out that, although there is nothing in principle preventing dozens of small chalices from being consecrated, they would have to be (1) made of, or at least plated with, gold or silver or other precious material, which would be expensive, and (2) they would each have to be purified by the priest or deacon (or an instituted acolyte), which would be time-consuming. There is, moreover, no need for the faithful to receive from the cup (the entire Sacrament is present in the bread), and in practice not everyone does so—hence the excess Sanguis would have to be consumed. – AthanasiusOfAlex Aug 7 '15 at 15:09

There is no reason preventing more chalices form being consacrated, but usually catholics uses olny one cup mainly for pratical reasons: since there is no need for each faithful to receive the Blood, in most cases only the priest drinks it, so one cup is enough.

Even when there are more priests, each one takes only a little sip from the same cup (possibily cleaning it before passing it). That's because Jesus used only one cup during the last dinner - but no rule forces churches to a single cup. It's a tradition, and a practical reason.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.