Can’t cook, won’t cook, or just prefer to watch others cooking?! There’s a feast of cooking programmes on the TV these days which may mean that many of us spend more time watching other people prepare food than standing at the stove ourselves! It’s a good way, though, to be inspired to try some new dishes, learn more about food – all from the comfort of our sofa!
In the Eucharistic meal, food is prepared – just like any other meal. Much of the preparation is done beforehand, of course: the bread baked, the wine fermented. But as the priest (or deacon) prepares the table and food for the Mass, there are some small acts that may go unnoticed, some prayers which go unheard.
One of these moments is when the priest prepares the chalice . A small amount of water is added to the wine, and the priest silently prays the words: “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.”
Tempering wine with water was common practice in the ancient world. Jews, Romans and others across the Mediterranean would have done it. In Proverbs 9:5 we read, “Drink the wine which I have mixed for you.” Jesus likely did this at the Last Supper too.
“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.”
The words which accompany the mixing of water come from an ancient prayer for Christmas, and expresses a truth of Christ and his Church. First, there is reference to what is theologically called the ‘Hypostatic Union’ -the Christian belief that Christ is both fully human and fully divine. It also refers to the union of Christ and his Church.
St Cyprian wrote in the third century: “In the water is understood the people, but the wine is showed the blood of Christ.
“But when the water is mingled in the cup with the wine, the people are made one with Christ, and the assembly of believers is associated and conjoined with him on which it believes.”
Such a small act, the mixing of wine with water. It almost goes unnoticed by many people as the food is prepared but it’s a simply beautiful expression of Christ’s divine humanity, and how close we are to him.