It’s a chalice, not a glass

The other day I was driving with a friend on the Mass Pike in Boston and she pointed out a Stella Artois billboard that read, “It’s a chalice, not a glass.” There must have been a Catholic on their marketing team, she said. My friend was referring to the recent change in the words of the Catholic Mass where “cup” changed to “chalice”, referring to the Last Supper. This ad campaign began last August, about three months before the wording change in the Mass occurred in the US, so I have no idea if there really was a purposeful connection or not, but the word chalice connotes something special.

When the new Roman Missal was announced I admit I wasn’t a fan of some of the changes. And “chalice” just didn’t seem right to me. Let’s face it, Jesus didn’t use a chalice at the Last Supper. A “cup” of some sort would make more sense. Chalice comes from the Latin calix, meaning cup. But the word chalice suggests reverence and ritual. And that’s just what Stella is going for. Their website they says, “Bring the ritual home.” I’ve spoken about ritual before, but it’s worth mentioning again: Human beings long for ritual. It’s why we have engagement rings and morning coffee and birthday cakes and Super Bowl parties.

Stella knows this well. This is not the kind of beer you chug from a mug. No, it’s a ritualistic experience you deliciate in from a chalice with a gilded rim and contours that improve the flavour and maintain the temperature. I was impressed by their Chalice Factory site which, using your voice, guides you through a mystical tour of how their chalices come to be: first crafted from a crystalline stones, then heated, shaped, and cooled by pretty women blowing on it. The rim is painted gold while it spins on a phonograph, the Stella Artois name placed, and the chalice is ready for a pour. They even make the production process mystically ritualistic.

What’s the point I’m trying to make? Language can have an effect and ritual’s important. Maybe the word chalice” is appropriate for the cup that holds the Blood of Christ. You don’t have to be Catholic to see Stella’s intent in their advert: Rituals are important to us, whether we’re drinking beer or going to Church. Rituals in all their forms give meaning in our lives.

>> I comment briefly on ritual in Portlandia (the Cool Wedding couple). Read here.
>> UPDATE: Stella Artois has removed the Chalice Factory but added a page about the ritual of serving Stella Artois.

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