Mingling water and wine at Mass

By Fr. Kyle Sladek | For The Compass | March 15, 2022

Question

“Why is water poured into the wine?”

Answer

While it might appear like Father is trying to cut his drink to make it less potent, there is actually a theological reason for this. When the priest or deacon adds water to the wine in the chalice during the Offertory, he says quietly, “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 mingling of wine and water is meant to remind us of the hypostatic union of two natures — divine and human — in one Person, Jesus. “Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis,” meaning, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” wrote St. John in his Gospel, describing the Incarnation. 

Our Lord became man so that we might be divinized — literally, so that we might become like God. “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God,” wrote St. Athanasius (in the year 373) in “On the Incarnation.” By this, Athanasius means that we are meant to be “partakers of the divine nature” of God (2 Peter 1:4). Quite a lofty vocation we have!

Interestingly, the Offertory is not the only time at Mass that you may see wine and water mingled. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states, “The purification of the chalice is done with water alone or with wine and water” (n. 279).

Purifying the chalice with both wine and water is required in the Traditional Latin Mass, but is optional in the Roman Missal of 1969. In the Traditional Latin Mass, wine and water are poured over the priest’s thumbs and forefingers (his “canonical digits”) into the chalice. He then dries his fingers while praying a prayer silently, consumes the wine and water, and purifies the chalice.

Fr. Sladek is administrator of St. Mark Parish, Redgranite, and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Poy Sippi.

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