When I was ordained in the early 1970s, reception of the chalice by the congregation at Mass was limited. The priest received the Precious Blood on his own. One consequence was that he didn't merely take a sip, but he drained the chalice, consuming the last drop; a powerful image.
I write this in the aftermath of 'Adoremus', last month's Eucharistic Congress. A group of 33 of us from the Isle of Man took part. The majority stayed at Liverpool Hope University and we were able to take advantage of the many events round the clock. It was a privilege to experience the ways in which some of our city parishes are living out the broken bread of the Eucharist in the welcome they give to the vulnerable, be they asylum seekers or those with learning disabilities.
This 'messy Church', well depicted in the TV drama 'Broken', was an appropriate complement to the organisation and decorum of formal events in both the Echo Arena and the Metropolitan Cathedral. And then there was the procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of the city – made even more moving by the active participation of the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, and Rev Jacky Embrey, moderator of the URC Mersey Synod. Archbishop Malcolm made a point of both sitting alongside them at the Solemn Mass and walking beside them in the procession.
When we think of the Blessed Sacrament we think of the consecrated host. It is the host in the monstrance that we venerate. I sometimes wonder why we don't venerate the Precious Blood in the chalice in the same way. The Bread of Life is broken for us but the Blood of Christ is also shed daily in armed conflict and terrorist attacks. The Blood of Christ is poured out in accident and emergency units and in operating theatres. The Blood of Christ is given freely by blood donors.
In the Gospel for Sunday 21 October Jesus asks, 'Can you drink the cup that I must drink?' It's a good question.