According to the dictionary, a chalice is a large cup from which a person will usually drink wine. In the Catholic Mass, a chalice or cup is the container for the consecrated wine. In “Symbols: Signposts of Devotion” by Ratha Doyle McGee, the author explains that the chalice has become “one of the finest of Christian symbols.” The chalice seen in worships reminds the believer of the Last Supper when Jesus “…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.” Matthew 26:27-28 (English Standard Version).
A week earlier, when James and John asked Jesus “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” In response, the LORD said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Mark 10:37-38 (English Standard Version). The term cup or chalice stood for the full experience He would go through.
In the Psalms David used the term to encompass the entire experience of God’s redemption “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,” Psalms 116:13 (ESV).
There have been differences in how the cup of wine or juice is given out in services. Some religious communities have allowed believers to take a sip from the cup which was wiped clean for the next communicant. Others allowed for persons to take the communion bread and dip it into the wine or grape juice.
With the onset of Covid-19 concerns and precautions, receiving wine has changed with some religious communities not offering juice or wine while others are providing a communion wafer and small juice enclosed in individual packages.
When I next heard the words “…this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” after seeing “The Passion” movie by Mel Gibson, I instantly saw the uncomfortable and deeply upsetting meaning of the cup of wine Jesus offered His apostles that night.
In that context, the cup or chalice offers the believer a profound symbol of Jesus’ complete acceptance of His bloody death “for the forgiveness of sins.”