Ablutions are the ceremonial cleansing of the paten (a plate about the size of a saucer), the chalice, and the celebrant’s fingers with water and/or wine following Eucharist. The method of the ablutions is guided by one’s theology. Those Episcopalians who view Eucharist as a re-enactment of the Last Supper might not have a problem with flushing consecrated bread and wine down the sewer. However, this view seems to reject the notion of the Real Presence of Christ at Eucharist. At the other end of the spectrum are those Episcopalians who hold that at Eucharist, the bread and wine are transubstantiated into Christ’s Body and Blood. To these persons, the consecrated host must only be consumed or reserved. Most Episcopalians are somewhere in between these extremes. Some believe that the consecrated host can be strewn upon the ground (giving back to “nature”) or poured down the piscina (a sink which drains directly to the ground). However, high church persons believe that the purpose of the piscina is to dispose of water used to cleanse the holy vessels and not to dispose of the consecrated wine itself. Episcopal canon only requires reverent consumption of the consecrated elements.
~Dr. Gil Haas, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
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