A chalice is fit for the King

The revised translation of the Institution Narrative employs the word chalice instead of cup. As a humble carpenter it seems logical to believe that Jesus would have used a cup to celebrate the Passover meal.
Since the Passover celebration was a moment in which Jews recalled their liberation from Egypt, they certainly used the best items at their disposal. People still do this when we reserve our best china for important occasions.
The Gospel authors used the Greek word “poterion,” or “cup,” to describe Jesus’ vessel at the Last Supper but when St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, he used the word “calix,” or “chalice.” 
There is a reason for this. Four centuries after He ascended into heaven, Christians had the opportunity to more deeply reflect on the life of Jesus and the relationship of the Old Testament to Him.
This manifested itself in typology. 
Typology comes from the Greek word meaning figure. So in the Old Testament we can see pre-figurements, or prototypes, of events and personages in the New Testament.
Jesus Himself uses this technique when He says that He will give no sign except that of Jonah, who was thought dead, but after three days in the belly of the whale, came to Nineveh to convert its residents.
Jesus was thought dead, but after three days in the belly of the earth, or tomb, He came back to convert the masses.
St. Jerome used typology in his translations to compare Jesus to Joseph from the Book of Genesis.
Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers; Jesus was betrayed by one of His disciples. When in Egypt, Joseph became an interpreter of dreams, or prophet; Jesus fulfilled our dreams by opening up the way to salvation and prophesized many things, like the eventual destruction of the temple.
Joseph first interpreted the dreams of the pharaoh’s cupbearer.
A cupbearer would literally carry a safe vessel from which important people could drink without fear of poisoning. These were typically ornate vessels, fit for kings, and when Joseph rises to prominence, he too is given a special cup so that he cannot be poisoned.
Prophets like Joseph used these vessels for divination, the process of seeking divine revelation by staring into liquids poured into a container. Genesis 44 describes Joseph’s vessel as made of precious silver.
Since Joseph serves as a prototype of Jesus, St. Jerome chose a more elegant word for Jesus’ vessel. Instead of cup, Jesus took a “precious chalice in His holy and venerable hands.” 
Just as Joseph would look into his precious cup and prophesy, so also Jesus prayed over His precious chalice and, looking therein, prophesied His impending crucifixion in saying, “this is the chalice of my blood …which will be poured out for you and for many.”
Jesus was a simple carpenter, but in celebrating divine events He would have used the best materials at His disposal.
When we celebrate the Mass, a divine event in which Jesus pours out His body and blood for us again and again, we too should use the best vessels available.
Joseph put ordinary wine into his precious cup, but we put Jesus’ blood into a chalice. The more sacred the material it holds, the more sacred the vessel becomes.
A precious chalice is truly fit for the blood of the King.
Father BRYAN BABICK, SL.L., is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston.