On Preparation of the Chalice before Mass


The preparation of the chalice before mass is a distinctive feature of the Dominican Rite, which it shares with Eastern Catholic liturgies and a number of mediaeval rites, including the usage of Sarum.  Features like this one have fed the controversy about the origin of the rite.  (See Eight Theories about the origin of the Dominican Liturgy).

Fr Bonniwell, in his 'A History of the Dominican Liturgy', published in 1944, was keen to refute the claim that this preparation of the chalice at the start of mass proved that the rite had a Parisian origin:

"In the Mass, the first variation is that the Dominicans wear the amice over the head while they approach the altar, whereas the secular priest wears a biretta. But this use of the amice was the Roman custom from about the ninth century, whereas the substitution of a biretta (at least for ordinary priests) dates only from the sixteenth century. At the very outset of the Mass, then, we have an example of what often appears in the detailed comparative study of the two rites. A comparison between the Dominican rite and the present Roman Rite frequently reveals the Friars Preachers adhering to an old Roman custom which the Church of Rome has abandoned.

"In the ancient Latin Church, the chalice was prepared with the wine and water at the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful. When catechumens ceased to be dismissed and the Missa Catechumenorum became merged with the Missa Fidelium, at least as far as the people were concerned, a number of churches outside of Rome logically transferred the preparation of the chalice to the beginning of the whole Mass, as is done in the Eastern liturgies. This practice spread far and wide, so that by the twelfth century it was greatly used throughout Europe by both seculars and regulars. Among the Religious Orders which followed the custom may be mentioned the monks of Cluny, the Carthusians, the Cistercians, the Carmelites, the Premonstratensians, the Augustinian Canons of Marbach, the German Benedictines, the Benedictines of Bec, Hirschau, Westminster, Ainey, etc. But numerous as were the religious who "made" the chalice at the beginning or in the early part of the Mass, the number of secular priests who followed the practice was even greater. The rubrics prescribed it in the Celtic rite, in the Sarum rite, in many places in Germany, France, and Spain. Even in Italy, it was done in Sicily and in the archdiocese of Milan. To speak, then, of so universal a practice as "distinctive of the Church of Paris" is utterly inaccurate.

"No less erroneous is the often-repeated statement that in the preparation of the chalice the Dominicans followed the custom of Paris. The rite of that Church prescribed the following:

"The priest first puts on the rochet, saying: Actiones nostras, etc. Next, he washes his hands, saying: Amplius lava me, etc. Then, having uncovered and prepared the altar, he places the host on the paten and puts wine and water in the chalice, saying: De latere Domini, etc. Then he takes the amice, etc." 

"No such rubric is found in any Dominican text. On the other hand, Humbert directs that the making of the chalice was not to take place until the priest reached the altar, fully vested and ready to begin the Mass. Instead, therefore, of being misled by a group of French writers who naturally emphasize the importance of their national capital, we would do well to remember that both in the Diocese of Palencia (where Dominic took his university course and where he was ordained), as well as in the Diocese of Osma (where he lived as a Canon Regular), the wine and water were taken at the beginning of Mass. These facts alone would have been sufficient reason for the Order to adopt the practice out of reverence towards its Founder.

From  'A History of the Dominican Liturgy' by Fr. Bonniwell.

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