Sometimes my parish offers communicants the cup as well as the host. Does the consecration remove the possibility of being infected with another’s germs?
June 28, 2020, 12:00 PM
No. Although the bread and wine offered at Mass is changed in substance from bread and wine into Jesus, the appearance (and chemical properties) of bread and wine remain. These observable aspects of the bread and wine are referred to in philosophical language as accidents. (“Accident,” in this context, does not mean “an unintentional mistake.”) Whereas substance refers to the “what-ness” of a thing, accidents are not the thing itself, but various quantitative and qualitative aspects of the thing. For example, a particular dog is white, has four legs, coarse hair, and very large teeth. “Dog” is the substance – “what” it is; “white, quadruped, coarse-haired, and large-toothed” are the accidents. If that dog got hit by a car and was left hairless, toothless, and with only two legs, it does not become some other kind of “freak” animal. It remains a dog. The substance stays the same, even if the accidents change. At Mass, a miracle happens that is seen nowhere else on earth: the substance changes while the accidents remain the same.
Because the accidents of wine remain, it can still conduct and transmit germs from one person to the next the same way that unconsecrated wine can – though the alcohol in the wine (which is an accident that remains) and the silver of the cup do help to stop the transmission of germs somewhat.
BONUS QUESTION: On most Sundays at my parish only consecrated hosts are distributed as communion. Shouldn’t we receive both the body and the blood of Christ at every Mass?
While we can refer separately to Jesus’ “sacred body” and “precious blood,” after the consecration Jesus is truly present – body, blood, soul, and divinity – both in the host and in the cup. If you only receive the host, you have received Jesus. If you only receive the cup, you have received Jesus. Because of this, it is not necessary to receive both the host and the cup. However, sometimes both forms are distributed at communion because this more fully symbolizes what Jesus accomplished on the Cross when His body and blood were separated for us. This separation is a sign of His death. It also recalls His victory over death by His rising and ascending into heaven, reminding us that the One whom we receive is alive and glorified.