Liturgical Handbook of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
How are multiple chalices prepared during the Divine Liturgy, for the communion of the faithful in larger settings?
Category: Concelebrations of Multiple Priests

In larger parishes with multiple Priests, it is at times desirable to distribute Holy Communion from two, or even three or four chalices. Whether it is to be two or more, the practical steps to preparing the chalices are the same, and are described below. 

An important note: Different practices relating to multiple chalices exist within the heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church. While discussion on such various practices is valid and useful, what is described below is the sole practice blessed to be employed in our Diocese.

  • At a Divine Liturgy where multiple chalices are to be used, the second (and third, etc.) chalices are set upon the Table of Oblation before the Liturgy in anticipation, together with their spoons. These are placed off to the side or at the back of the table.
  • During the Proskomedia, only one chalice is filled with wine, etc. The other chalices are not incorporated into the Proskomedia in any way; under no circumstances is wine added to them. 
  • Extra wine should be added to the main chalice during the proskomedia, since after it is consecrated as the Blood of Christ it will be distributed into the other chalices also; thus sufficient wine should be placed in the chalice to become, in due course, ample Blood for all the chalices. (See the separate entry on how much wine should be placed in the chalice during the Proskomedia, which has additional notes on the amount to be prepared for multiple chalices.)
  • At the Great Entrance, only the main chalice (containing the wine and water) is carried in procession and laid upon the Holy Table. The other (empty) chalices are left on the Table of Oblation.
  • The Divine Liturgy thus carries forward as always, with only one chalice upon the Holy Table, through the consecration of the Holy Gifts. 
  • At a convenient place following the consecration of the Gifts (usually during the litany before ‘Our Father’), the second Priest (or second Deacon) brings the second chalice to the holy table, together with the special ladle reserved for distributing the Blood between chalices. Holding the empty chalice in his left hand and the ladle in his right, he positions the lip of the empty chalice above the full chalice (which is not moved), so that, should any drop of the Blood of Christ drip from the ladle, it will fall back into the chalice rather than onto the Table. He thus uses the ladle to transfer sufficient Blood into the second chalice, after which it is set upon the antimins, behind the main chalice. The same process is repeated for any additional chalices.

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A Deacon correctly dispersing the Precious Blood from the principal chalice (on the Holy Table) into a second chalice (in his hand), as described here.

    • Under no circumstances do we pour the Holy Blood directly from one chalice to another! The transfer is always done by means of the ladle. If no ladle is present, multiple chalices may not be used.
    • Under no circumstances do we add additional wine into the chalices after the consecration or distribution into multiple chalices (i.e. in order to increase the volume). Only the wine that has been consecrated as the Blood of Christ is distributed.
  • The ladle is then left in the main chalice, if it is deep enough that it can rest within at no risk of toppling; or it is lain upon a red communion cloth, ensuring that no drop of the Lord’s Blood drips anywhere.

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The ladle left safely in the principal chalice, after being used to apportion the Precious Blood into the second chalice.

  • After ‘The holy things are for the holy’ and the breaking of the Lamb, the ‘IC’ portion is divided into the number of portions to match the number of chalices, and a portion placed into each with the words ‘The fullness of faith…’
  • The warm water is blessed as usual. As it is poured into the first chalice, it is carefully poured over the ladle, to purify it in such a manner that any Blood remaining upon it is collected in the chalice. Once purified, the ladle is wrapped in a communion cloth and taken to the Table of Oblation, where it will in due course be cleaned further by the Deacon during the normal cleansing of the sacred vessels at the conclusion of the Liturgy. Further warm water is then added to the main chalice, if needed, and then to the other chalices.
  • The clergy commune in the Altar as usual, and then remaining portions of the Lamb are divided and placed equally into each chalice. All the chalices are brought onto the Amvon at the Deacon’s exclamation (‘With fear of God, in faith draw near’), and then the faithful communed as usual. Great care must be taken when moving to appropriate locations with the additional chalices: it is best for a Subdeacon to assist the second Priest by walking with him, ensuring there is nothing in his way and clearing a route if the church is crowded with many faithful, that there be absolutely no risk of a fall whilst carrying the Holy Gifts.
  • At the conclusion of the communion of the faithful, only the main chalice is returned to the Holy Table; the additional chalices are brought back into the Altar via the Royal Doors and taken directly to the Table of Oblation, where they are covered appropriately with a communion cloth (Altar servers must take especial care, especially in small Altars, not in any way to jostle or upset the Oblation Table, since the consecrated Gifts are now upon it). The main chalice is laid upon the Holy Table as usual, and into it are placed the particles from the diskos, in the customary manner; and it is then shown to the faithful (at ‘Always, now and ever…’) and taken to the Table of Oblation in the normal way.
  • At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the Deacon consumes the remaining Holy Gifts from all the chalices; then he cleanses the vessels as customary, ensuring that he thoroughly cleans all the chalices, spoons, and the ladle, together with the other items. If there are several chalices, it is customary for one or more additional serving Priests or Deacons to assist in the consuming of the Gifts from them at the end of the Liturgy; in this case, such clergy must remember not to partake of zapivka immediately after communing, but to continue their Eucharistic fast until they have finished consuming the Gifts at the Liturgy’s end.
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