“As a Chalice Cast of Gold” - Worship IV, #660
  • This hymn has been on my mind. It was written by Thomas Troeger, and I was just looking for some clarification in the final verse. I apologize for including all verses below, but I felt as if I needed to do so in order to get my point across. The hymn is set to “DIX” in W4.

    The hymn is primarily written in first person with the petitioner speaking to God, but it shifts to second person at the end of the final verse. I’m having a hard time discerning who the *your* is in this verse. I thought that maybe it’s the hymn writer speaking to the singer? I wouldn’t think it would be the singer speaking to God—seems rather odd to refer to God’s “inward light.” If anyone could help shed some light onto what/who is being mentioned in this final verse, it’d be greatly appreciated.

    As a chalice cast of gold,
    Burnished bright and brimmed with wine,
    Make me, Lord, as fit to hold
    Grace and truth and love divine.
    Let my praise and worship start
    With the cleansing of my heart.

    Save me from the soothing sin
    Of the empty, cultic deed
    And the pious, babbling din
    Of the claimed but unlived creed.
    Let my actions, Lord, express
    What my tongue and lips profess.

    When I bend upon my knees,
    Clasp my hands, or bow my head,
    Let my spoken, public pleas
    Be directly, simply said,
    Free of tangled words that mask
    What my soul would plainly ask.

    When I dance or chant your praise,
    When I sing a song or hymn,
    When I preach your loving ways,
    Let my heart add its “amen.”
    Let each cherished, outward rite
    Thus reflect your inward light.


  • I suspect it is referring to God's light being veiled to us here on earth through the Eucharist. I don't think "inward light" is a poor term for God's light, although it goes much beyond that for sure.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • The poet needed a contrast between externals and internals, as we see in the rest of the poem, and so OUTward stood against INward light.

    It's possible to interpret this passage in an an entirely sensible, orthodoxic way. Among the options are the action of God's grace in our souls. That light came from God, so it's not "MY" inward light.

    On the other hand, I suppose this could be an outright heretical text.
  • KARU27
    Posts: 184
    What is "the empty cultic deed" supposed to mean? And the "pious babbling din"?
  • The idea of sacraments as “outward signs of inward grace” is found everywhere from Heb 11 to Augustine, Peter Lombard, Trent. However the Catholic faith was and is that the sacraments are efficax gratiæ, causes of grace. Here, and also in the ends of the earlier verses, there seems to be a Calvinist or protestant hint that the sacraments only "reflect” a reality that is inward, even psychological. Troeger is not a Catholic, of course.

    I think “light” is not the right word, since it suggests conscience rather than grace. Perhaps, as C S Lewis said about a similar problem, it was “just pulled in for the rhyme”.

    I don't think verse two suggests every cultic action is empty nor that piety is always only babble. I think that the poet is (quite consistently) praying that his cultic actions and piety, here and now, should not be empty -- empty of the inner “light” which for the poet is the meaning and purpose of the rite.

    This is not a Catholic hymn.
  • I want to rewrite it to say "Let my cherished, outward rites thus reflect God's perfect light." I find that more easily digestible, but I don't know if that's much better.
  • CatholicZ09,

    I encourage you not to rewrite it. Thomas Troeger, for good or ill, wrote what he wrote. Use it as is, or find a replacement. Nothing is so disconcerting as trying to sing a hymn everyone knows, to a tune everyone knows, only to find that the words aren't the same in all the editions and the music isn't either.
  • Chris,

    I should’ve been more specific. What I wrote is just what I think might sound better. I’m not saying I’d plug this hymn in and then change the wording. I was just jotting down my idea. I definitely prefer to pick something else if I don’t like something.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,366
    From The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
    As a chalice cast of gold. Thomas Troeger* (1945- ). From Troeger’s New Hymns for the Lectionary: to Glorify the Maker’s Name (New York and Oxford, 1986), reprinted in Borrowed Light (1994). It is based on Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23, with its contrast between the outward forms of worship and the inward self, and its reminder (verse 15) that ‘there is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.’ Thus the final verse, of four, is a prayer for the outward forms to reflect a good inner self...
  • That reinforces my point rather well: the poem indeed asks for the outward forms to reflect the (already) good inner self.

    Whereas, in the Church, the sinful inner self is to be made good by the grace which the outward forms make visible.

    Compare St Thomas’s prayer for after Mass:. I thank You Lord Almighty Father, Everlasting God, for having been pleased through no merit of mine... I pray that this Holy Communion may not be for my judgment and condemnation, but for my pardon and salvation.

    Or St Ambrose: Grant that the holy foretaste of your body and blood which you vouchsafe me a sinner may be a pledge of the full remission of my sins and may it be to me of body and soul a sure protection and defence against all my enemies.

    Or any Office Hymn, nos novi per gratiam novum canamus canticum.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 436
    This hymn seems to me to be a prayer for help in practicing the good old participatio actuosa – which we talk about all the time on this board. As others have said, the Sacraments impart grace regardless of our merit, but the person who wholeheartedly confesses the Creed, who strikes their breast in the Confiteor with an awareness of their sins, who attentively hears the readings and unites themselves with the prayers, is generally edified to a greater degree than the hungover, snoring high schooler just barely dragged out of bed by his parents.

    The “empty cultic deed” could be the children’s Liturgy of the Word, or singing Blest are They…..
    Thanked by 1Andrew_Malton