The Common Cup & the Common Bug
Why, in this age of AIDS and hepatitis, of herpes I and herpes II, of Swine flu, Hong Kong flu, and types A and B flu, of flesh-eating bacteria and Ebola virus, of a host of new and recrudescent drug-resistant bugs — why have the People of God decided to receive Communion from a common cup? After all, receiving the Host alone is entirely sufficient. In terms of grace, drinking from the common cup adds nothing.
Once upon a Sunday morning I watched from a frontal pew. I know one is not supposed to be gawking during Communion: I should be recollected, and concentrating on the Event of the moment. But it’s hard to be recollected so soon after holding hands during the Our Father with N.! In any case, the common cup riveted my attention. I watched with the meticulous absorption of the scientist as the faithful queued up to the chalice held forth by the lady in the red polyester suit. They approached, chewing, drank from the cup, and returned, many still chewing, to their pews.
The scientific mind is ever alert for new data, and accuracy of observation is the basis of all sound inference. In just a few minutes time I observed a striking diversity of drinking styles. I saw the sipper and the tippler, the sucker and the slurper, the wrap-around-lipper and the mustachio-dipper. This last type, having siphoned up more than his share of liquid through his facial hair, proceeds to wipe off the surplus with the back of his hand as he moseys back to his pew.
Frankly, I was repulsed by what I saw in those few minutes. I mean no disrespect for the Blood of Christ — quite the contrary! My respect for the Blood helped engender my sense of repulsion. You may call me finicky, if you will. I respond with quiet dignity that that’s the way God made me. I never did want Aunt Jane kissing me on the lips, and I never would eat from brother’s spoon or sister’s plate. Actually, my disposition is quite functional, for a certain fineness of discrimination is essential to the researcher I am.
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