Q: What is “intinction,” and is it allowed?
A: “Intinction” is the practice of dipping the consecrated host into the Precious Blood and then receiving the “intincted” host in Holy Communion.
Distribution of holy communion to the lay faithful in the Roman Rite can take place in a number of ways: either “by drinking from the chalice directly, or by intinction, or by means of a tube or a spoon” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal [=GIRM] 245). These latter methods—via tube or spoon—as suggested by the U.S. Bishops’ Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America (Norms)are “not customary in the Latin dioceses of the United States of America.”
Reception by way of intinction, however, is an option foreseen by both the GIRM and the U.S. Bishops. The GIRM instructs: “If Communion from the chalice is carried out by intinction, each communicant, holding a Communion-plate under the mouth, approaches the Priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The Priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says, The Body and Blood of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the Priest, and then withdraws” (287; see also Norms 48).
The priest celebrant or concelebrants may also receive by way of intinction, where the priest himself dips the host into the Precious Blood and self-communicates (GIRM 249). Deacons and the lay faithful, however, may never intinct the host themselves and then receive: “The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand” (Redemptionis Sacramentum 104).
The US Bishops also emphasize this point: “The communicant, including the extraordinary minister, is never allowed to self-communicate, even by means of intinction. Communion under either form, bread or wine, must always be given by an ordinary or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion” (Norms 50).
The topic of intinction begs a further question. Even though communion can be distributed by intinction, should it be? Pastors disagree. To its credit, communion via intinction means that each communicant receives the Blood of Christ under the form of consecrated wine. The practice also requires that the priest, the ordinary minister of communion, is the distributor. On the other hand, a host may drip the Precious Blood, although current intinction vessels lessen this danger. Also, the communicant himself cannot receive an intincted host in his hand—which is considered a benefit by some, but not by all. Still others observe that the Lord’s command to “drink this” and not simply “receive this” is better signified by receiving directly from the chalice.