Another “little thing”

Now that everyone is paying better attention to what’s happening at the altar during Mass, I direct your attention to the small and simple action when the deacon or the assistant concelebrant or the presider pours a little water into the wine before placing it with the bread to be consecrated. As often happens, the prayer (said silently) gives us an idea of the meaning of this small ritual element:

By the mystery of this water and wine
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

Commentators on this action over the centuries make clear that just as the water can’t be separated from the wine once they are mixed, so the divinity and humanity of Christ cannot be separated. He is ONE person, fully God, and fully human.

In fact, this short prayer is a gloss on an ancient household practice. In the classical Greco-Roman world, the wine was often somewhat strong, thick and unfiltered and water was added to it in preparation for a meal. In time this mixing came to be seen as a symbol of the Incarnation and our deification in sharing the cup at communion.

Thus in the sanctifying of the cup of the Lord, water alone cannot be offered, as wine alone cannot be. For if a person offers wine only, it starts to become the blood of Christ without us. (St. Cyprian, Epistle 63:2-3)

Perhaps the most important takeaway for us is that we too, like Jesus, are partakers of Divinity. Do our thoughts, words, and deeds reflect that belief?                      

 -Rev. Andrew D. Ciferni, O. Praem.