Sunday, November 15, 2015
Water and Wine
Before elevating the cup a little and blessing God for the gift of wine, the Deacon, or in his absence the Priest, pours a few drops of water into the chalice or flagon of wine. As he does this, he says quietly:
“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
Because of the distance from the altar and the quiet, almost silent recitation of those words, most of us may hardly notice and certainly not understand either what was said or the significance of the action.
An ancient rule during Christ’s time required that some water must be mingled with the wine. In those times all wine was heavy and thick and no polite person ever served it uncut. Today’s wines already come watered down, so the reason we do this at Mass has been lost. But over the centuries the action took on new symbolic meanings.
The meanings include the wine and water being like Jesus and us, together and indivisible – the close bond between Christ and His Church. And the one that most of us probably heard in grade school: it can be seen as representative of the water and blood which flowed from Jesus’ side as he hung from the cross. One can see that while the mixing of the water and wine is a minor action, the symbolism can be very great.
When there are several cups, as happens here at all of our Masses, the water is normally poured into the flagon that comes up with the gifts and then the wine is poured into the separate cups. Some suggest that the water be placed only into the principle chalice that the priest uses – because that was the practice prior to the Second Vatican Council – but that was because at that time, only the clergy received the Precious Blood and there would have been only one chalice.
However the water gets into the wine, the action today is one of symbolic gesture – a gesture that reminds us that just like the water and wine, we are all commingled, combined into the mystical Body of Christ.