Fancy Cups

Fellas, I want to talk to you a bit about taking care of sacred vessels. Ever watch the priest at the Mass, and notice how careful he is to keep the chalice covered, to wash and wipe every vessel used to hold the Body and Blood of Our Lord? This isn’t because he doesn’t otherwise have enough to do up there; we believe that these objects touch God Himself, so you better believe we want them to be as clean and nice as our weak hands and feeble senses can make them.


(Pictured: a Chalice and Paten of Bl. Pius IX; image source:

We also usually try to use the nicest objects we have available for such things, as a way of showing how highly we regard the function those objects provide– but it is the function that makes them holy, not the quality of their materials. There is a story told of Dorothy Day, that in the wild early years of the Catholic Worker, no chalice was available for Mass, and so the priest (being presumably caught up in the low-church fashion of the time, as many were) used a coffee mug from the kitchen to hold the sacrifice. When Dorothy Day heard this, she was appalled, and demanded to be shown which mug had been used. When it was produced, she took the mug and reverently buried it; for it was now no longer a mug but a precious chalice that had contained within itself the Holy Sacrifice of Christ- it was sanctified forever by its close contact with God, and could never again return to its previous function.

If you think that’s intense, consider what else touches the Eucharist: you. Much like the chalice and the paten (protip: that’s the little plate the Host sits on), you are a receptacle for the physical presence of Christ- the priest literally puts God into your mouth! This is almost unbelievable, and it would be absurd for a creature as frankly unimpressive as you or I to presume to do it if God did not explicitly command us to do so. But you have already been set apart, ritually prepared for this sacred duty: you have been washed clean in the waters of Baptism and (hopefully) anointed with the holy chrism of Confirmation. Just as the priest prepares the vessels to receive God, the Church has also prepared you- those sacraments are not nothing, and they have permanently set you aside from the great mass of humanity for a sacred purpose.

You should probably try not to screw that up then, huh? You do though, because you suck. It’s okay, I suck too- God knows this, and this is why He has given us the sacrament of Penance to absolve us of any sins that make us egregiously unfit to receive Him. But we must also try, and ask God to help us try, to suck less. Not every bad thing we do is so defacing to our soul as to make it wholly unfit to receive the Eucharist, but it is still a scuff, a little scratch, a slight smudge; a reminder we are not being as careful as we should be with the sacred vessel that is us.

We need to take care for ourselves, and treat ourselves with the dignity appropriate to a receptacle of the substance of God. Part of this means not using our minds or our bodies or our senses for anything that is unclean ([whispering] guys this means porn) and part of it means respecting ourselves. Every time we bathe or brush our teeth or eat or sleep or exercise we need to remember that we are caring for a sacred vessel used to contain the presence of God. Thinking of yourself as a “human dumpster” is not a good way to treat yourself- a sacred vessel should never be used as a dumpster! You are not a dumpster, you are a chalice. Remember this.