Weekly Reflection 8/29/2021


Twenty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time

Purifying the Sacred Vessels


How controversial can doing the dishes be?  Well… In the sacrifice of the Eucharist it is important to remember one thing; Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity. The ‘real presence’ of Christ is there in those sacred vessels we just used for the celebration of the mass.  Our actions in the presence of our Lord should demonstrate the reverence He deserves.  In this context there is the practical matter of what happens after communion.  For the sake of argument, I’m going to use two verbs, purify and clean.  In this context, they are not synonymous.  Sacred vessels are those vessels which at some point in time held the body or blood our Savior. For the most part we are talking about the Chalice (or chalices), the paten, and ciborium. Yes, there are technically others like a pyx and the monstrance but that is for a different discussion.  Unlike cleaning the dishes where the goal is removal of unwanted things from whatever we are washing, purification has a different purpose. Purification ensures that any remaining remnant of the precious body and blood of Jesus that may be present on or in any of the sacred vessels is reverently and appropriately consumed. Once that is accomplished the sacristan can and should take the sacred vessels and clean them.

There is however some confusion on who can purify.  It is true that the U.S. did receive permission (an indult) in 2002 to use “even extraordinary ministers” to purify sacred vessels.  It was granted for three years. The indult expired in March 2005. Recall Pope Saint John Paul II died on 2 April 2005 so the request for extension was not addressed until 2006.  In 2006 the response from Rome was, no, the indult would not be renewed.  So where does that leave us? As reiterated in the letter from Cardinal Arinze, Paragraph 279 of The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) directs, “The sacred vessels are purified by the Priest, the Deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass…” So, for many who remember purifying sacred vessels as extraordinary ministers, yes, we could, for a brief time.  But again, remember the difference between purifying and cleaning.  Another fact unknown to many, in the Roman Missal proper, paragraph 137, “When the distribution of Communion is over, the Priest or a Deacon or an acolyte purifies the paten over the chalice and also the chalice itself. While he carries out the purification, the Priest [Deacon or Acolyte] says quietly:

What has passed our lips as food, O Lord,

may we possess in purity of heart,

that what has been given to us in time

may be our healing for eternity.”

              Probably more than you wanted to know. But, every prayer, every movement, in the mass has a purpose, including something that seems as simple as ‘doing the dishes’.


-Deacon Chuck Hoppe