Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Does Fr. Hardesty Do That?! Part II: Purifying the Vessels

Question: "Why does Fr. Hardesty take so long to do the dishes after Communion?"

Answer: Well if it was just a matter of doing dishes, they would probably stack up on the credence table (that table beside the servers) until Martha Spalding (my saintly Housekeeper/Cook) came over and washed them! But it’s about more than “doing the dishes,” it’s about purifying sacred vessels. The chalices and ciboria are sacred vessels in that they have been blessed and are intended only for a sacred use. Saying that they are “purified” is not meant to imply that they have been sullied but that they are prepared again for sacred use, for the next Mass. After Mass the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC’s) wash them gently with soap and water in the sacristy to ensure they are sanitary. The EMHC’s cannot purify them at the same time that they wash them because only a Priest, Deacon, or Instituted Acolyte (a seminarian) is allowed to purify the vessels.

Purification also has ritualistic and devotional connotations. So then it’s not about being slow and mechanical but being reverent and careful. St. Thomas Aquinas taught us that, after the consecration, without being scrupulous, what looks like a bread crumb to the naked eye is still the Body of Christ and what looks like a drop of wine is still the Blood of Christ. Therefore I try to be very reverent with how I collect, consume, and/or repose any remaining particles of Hosts or drops of Precious Blood that remain after the distribution of Communion, lest any are lost. I try to go as fast as I can and to be as careful as I can at the same time. Please pray for the Ordination of Rick Fagan to the Permanent Diaconate and pray for him to be assigned to Holy Trinity and Holy Rosary so that he can help expedite the process! It really only takes about 3 minutes to go from the last communicant to the Post-Communion prayer.

I purify the vessels at the altar because our credence table is a little too small to fit everything and because, in the Missal, there is a private prayer between the priest and God that is said during this: "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."

Finally, the time after Communion is a beautiful time to speak intimately with the Lord who loves us and is living in us through the Eucharist we have just received. It is a time for praying to the Lord as a friend, thanking him, telling him about our day, asking for his help, etc. If you are praying during this time, then I won’t even be noticed. Enjoy those precious moments of silence that are so hard to find once we step outside of the Church!

In Jesus and Mary,

Fr. Hardesty


Anonymous said...

I have a question: If an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is qualified to handle the Eucharist when they are giving out Communion, wouldn't they be qualified to handle the purification process?

Also, out of curiosity, as a grade school student at "the burg" taking religious instructions from the priest, I remember the priest saying that there was a special sink where the vessels were washed after being used for mass because if there happened to be any leftover particles not noticed then they would be disposed of in that way. Does any of that make any sense? I am referring to the 50's.

Fr. Matthew Hardesty said...

To be an EMHC, one has to go through a 4-hour training workshop on the theology and procedure for distributing Holy Communion and then be mandated by the Archbishop for... I think its a 3 year term. After that, the person has to renew the mandate with a two hour workshop. Purifying the vessels is not included in that training or mandate. They have not been given that function by the Archbishop. Rome did give permission for EMHC's to purify for a few years on an experimental period to see how it went. When that period was over, in 2003, the permission was not renewed. Reserving the purification to the priest, deacon, or instituted acolyte is probably due to it being one of their primary responsibilities, to care for and protect the Blessed Sacrament. That includes carefully gathering together remaining Hosts and Precious Blood, purifying the vessels properly, consuming the remaining Precious Blood, reposing the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, etc. EMHC's are more utilitarian in nature - the priest just needs help distributing Communion due to the size of the congregation and not having multiple priests in a parish, like back in the day.

Fr. Matthew Hardesty said...

And yes, you're exactly right. Every sacristy should have a special sink called a sacrarium. This sink has a pipe that goes directly into the earth instead of into the sewer. Vessels are washed over the sacrarium so that any particles or drops unnoticed will go into the earth rather than in the sewer. The water used to soak out the Precious Blood stains in the purificators is also poured down the sacrarium. You can usually tell a sink is a sacrarium because they used to have special lids under lock and key so that they'd only be used to wash sacred vessels. You can also tell by looking at the drain pipe. It should go straight down rather than have the "S-curve". The point of the S-vurve is to catch some water in the curve which blocks fumes from coming up from the sewer. A sacrarium wouldn't need that. Now... the sink at Holy Trinity has an S-curve drain... but they assure me it goes into the earth... hmmm... may have to send John Reynolds on a spelunking mission! haha!

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hardesty, Thank you for answering my questions. I could not remember what was different about the sink. It makes sense that it would drain down to the earth.