Monday, October 23, 2006

Little Cups

Two churches I have now pastored, and two churches who have significant numbers of people who are majorly skiddish about using a common cup to celebrate communion. This past month at charge conference our DS led communion. Because I wasn't sure what kind of turnout we would have, I simply elected to use my chalice to serve communion. We ended up having about 30 people--and that was great. As I served people the cup into which they would dip their bread, I noticed faces of apprehension and even disgust. Oh, how entrenched are we in our customs, especially around communion. It seems that the cultures I have served are perhaps concerned about the cleanliness of taking communion by intinction. Instead we use little cups.

What do little cups say about us as a culture of Christians? First of all, This Holy Mystery proclaims little cups to be the bane of eucharistic theology. Their use destroys the symbolism of the liturgy. "After the supper was over, Christ took the cup--no Christ took little plastic cups and gave one to each of his disciples, saying "Drink ye from each of thy little cups, throw them in the trash on the way out the door, and do this as often as you drink it--or once a month, whatever." I suppose it seems that I'm being a bit persnickity, but to me it is more powerful to offer a single cup. "One cup of blessing which we bless," the list goes on and on of all the references, hymns, prayers, etc. that aren't given visual representation becasue we want our own little cup.

Is the little cup indicitive of our radical individualism? When did they come into use, and why? Are they commonly used in other parts of the world?
"Are you willing to drink of my cup and share in my baptism?" says Jesus. "No thanks, I'll have my own little cup thank you," says the church.

1 comment:

  1. Right on! And for those of us in traditions where we actually think Jesus meant it when he said, "This is my body/blood," what does it say that we throw bits of Jesus away as those little cups hit the trash...

    One of the things that happened at the congregation I serve is that there were some people drinking from our pouring chalice. One couple really disliked that idea, so they bought a drinking chalice for the congregation. There has been slow growth in the number of people who drink.

    I figure it this way... the people have been doing little cups for decades here... they aren't going to change overnight. Keep preaching the gospel, keep talking about communion and the unity of one cup... let the Holy Spirit do its work in their hearts.

    In the Parish