July 17, 2016
What happened to the veiled chalice that stood on the altar until we began Eucharist?
Answer: The chalice resides on the credence table, to the Gospel Side of the Presider (stage right from the perspective of the congregation).
St. Francis has followed a custom of stationing a veiled chalice on the altar table from the beginning of the service until the setting of the table at the offertory, and then replacing the setting, veil and all, after the communion was over. This is a custom which is not unknown in some dioceses around the country, though it is not necessarily common or normative for either the Episcopal or Roman Catholic Churches
All the manuals of Eucharistic ceremonial in the Episcopal Church that I have read—A Priest's Handbook (High Church), The Ceremonies of the Eucharist (Broad Church), and the Complete Training Course for Altar Guilds, anticipate that the chalice will be on the credence table during the Liturgy of the Word. Those guides describe both veiled and unveiled chalices on the credence table. No matter the choice, veiled or unveiled, before the process of blessing the bread and wine, the cups, plates, and linens remain off of the table. Why? Well, they are not holding any blessed elements, nor are the bread and wine in the process of being blessed.
When I came to St. Francis, I wanted to emphasize the two major aspects of the Episcopal Eucharistic service that are embedded in the BCP 79: 1) Liturgy of the Word, the first part of the service, where we read the Gospel, lessons, psalms, the creed, and prayers; and 2) Liturgy of Eucharist, the second part of the service where we focus on the sacred meal.
This choice not only emphasizes the theology of the current liturgy, it also highlights, in an uncluttered way, the centrality of our grounds framed within the sanctuary window and the simple cross with which we process into the chancel. Therefore, highlighting the central elements of the word and communion, maintaining a focus on the simple, and emphasizing the functions of the chalice, the altar now has the Gospel Book, containing the Word of God about his son Jesus, for the first half of the service, and the place settings in the second half of the service.
Again, this choice of the latter over the former is neither good nor bad, but seems consistent with our simple and elegant sanctuary and our Prayer Book's liturgical Eucharistic design.
The Rev. David Lucey