Q: 1. Can the practice of having at Mass a distinct and special priest’s chalice and a paten with a special host for the priest celebrant be justified in light of the idea that the whole assembly celebrates the Eucharist. Often the priest breaks the larger “priest host” but consumes the entirety of it. There are different roles, but why would priest members of the Body of Christ have communion with such visible distinctions?
Sometimes this set up is even augmented with a set up before Mass with paten with host on top of a purificator, on top of a chalice—sometimes with a pall, and sometimes with a “chalice veil.” Again, all this seem exclusively for the priest—separating the priest from the whole.
2. Often at the “Fraction Rite” I see priests make the sign of the cross over the chalice with the small piece of host broken from the “priest’s host”. Also I keep seeing priests making a quick sign of the cross with the chalice, just before they drink from the cup. What is the origin, meaning, legitimacy of this practice?
A: 1. Regarding the chalice, paten, host, pall and veil, I treat this in my book Let Us Pray. GIRM 285 calls for a large chalice or several chalices when all are invited to partake of the Blood of Christ. Redemptionis Sacramentum 105 prefers a main chalice of larger dimension and smaller chalices.
GIRM 118 calls a chalice veil “praiseworthy,” but does not require it. The traditional stack of vessels was often topped with the tabernacle key! The stack is permitted, but it does not faithfully demonstrate the purpose of its contents.
GIRM 321 asks the priest to break the host and share it with people—not to eat it all.
2. There is no provision for a priest to use a broken host to make the sign of the cross over the chalice before he receives communion. The preconciliar rubrics had him make the sign of the cross with the host over the paten, and another one with the chalice before drinking from it. The postconciliar liturgy removed dozens of signs of the cross like these so that the ones that remain retain special significance. As you know from my book Ars Celebrandi, I hold that fidelity to the rubrics means doing what they say and not doing what they don’t say. The Mass will have more meaning that way.