Since I’ve been discussing the Preparation of the Gifts at Mass in the most recent morceaux, it’s a good time right now to say a few words about one of these, the wine. These are not major issues, but things which more-or-less frequently come up in conversation.
First, you’ve probably noticed that a small bit of water is mixed with the wine as the gifts are prepared. This is an ancient custom at Mass, and is simply meant to symbolize the “mixing” which occurred in the person of Christ Jesus: both a human and divine nature, God and human, are joined. The prayer which the priest or deacon recites silently at this moment says it all: “May we come to share the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”
Also, you’ve probably noticed at Mass that, if more than one chalice (special cup) is needed for holy communion (which is almost always the case, since the directives of the Roman Missal indicate that it is best to receive the Eucharist under the form of both bread and wine), the wine is poured into separate chalices before it is consecrated into the Blood of Christ. The Church’s liturgical rules – born of a concern for reverence and to avoid risk of spillage – do not permit the Precious Blood to be poured from vessel to vessel.
Finally, it’s good also to note that we can all benefit from more precise language here. After the consecration, the contents of a chalice are no longer wine, but rather the Precious Blood of Christ that only appears to be wine. Occasionally one hears someone describe holy communion from the chalice as “receiving the wine,” which of course it is not. Moreover, such language can sometimes be said casually or even irreverently, which would be wrong and could be quite sinful. Conscientious Catholics will always be careful in what they say!