Why do we add water to the wine at the Eucharist?
by St. Maggie | November 8, 2016Dear Maggie,
Why is water mixed with the wine during the Eucharist?
All Mixed Up
Dear Mixed Up,
I hope I can unmix ya on this liturgical mixing question! Like so many of our rites and rituals there is a long history of pouring water into wine at the preparation of the table, but various reasons folks give for exactly why the practice came about. Practically Greeks added water to wine because it was often too strong and a bit gritty to most pallets. The Romans thought the Greeks were a cultured group that deserved imitation so they followed suit. It was also the practice in early Judaism at the Passover to mix water and wine. Since Christians trace their lineage to Judaism and the Eucharist possibly has its roots in the Passover meal then that also offers a reason for mixing wine and water at the table.
Those may have been the practical and historical beginin’s of it, but over time there have been other meanings that have been added. One symbol many see in the practice is the water and blood that poured from Jesus’ side after his death on the cross. By the 4th century priests were teaching that the water represented Jesus’ humanity and the wine his divinity—by mixing the two together in the chalice we were witnessing the mystery of God become human. I like those images and so I encourage you to reflect on them as you watch the deacon setting the table next time you go for communion. I hope that unmixes the mystery just a bit!
Peace be with ya!