Intinction is the Eucharistic practice of partly dipping the consecrated bread, or host, into the consecrated wine before distributing it to the communicant.
Western ChristianityIt is one of the four ways approved in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church for administering Holy Communion under the form of wine as well as of bread: "The norms of the Roman Missal admit the principle that in cases where Communion is administered under both kinds, 'the Blood of the Lord may be received 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, 245). As regards the administering of Communion to lay members of Christ's faithful, the Bishops may exclude Communion with the tube or the spoon where this is not the local custom, though the option of administering Communion by intinction always remains. If this modality is employed, however, hosts should be used which are neither too thin nor too small, and the communicant should receive the Sacrament from the Priest only on the tongue" (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 285b and 287).
"The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand. As for the host to be used for the intinction, it should be made of valid matter, also consecrated; it is altogether forbidden to use non-consecrated bread or other matter."
Intinction is common in some Anglican Churches, which often give the communicant the choice of drinking from the chalice or receiving by intinction. In many Lutheran and Methodist Churches the communicant, not the minister, dips the host in the chalice. This is the practice in some Baptist and Congregational Churches as well, using grape juice in place of wine.
Eastern ChristianityIn the Eastern Orthodox Church, leavened bread is employed for the Eucharist. Traditionally, the consecrated bread is placed in the chalice and is given together with the consecrated wine directly into the communicant's mouth with a small spoon. Some of the Byzantine-rite Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with the Church of Rome adopted intinction during the early twentieth century, dividing the bread into pieces long enough to be partially dipped in the consecrated wine and placed on the communicant's tongue. This is the practice at least of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church.
Some Eastern Catholic Churches (for instance, the Ethiopic-rite Catholics of Ethiopia and Eritrea) have adopted the use of unleavened bread, justifying it by reference to the ancient Jewish practice of using only unleavened bread at Passover meals, and give Communion by intinction.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified GiftsEastern Orthodox practice with regard to the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts has varied historically and geographically. At this Liturgy no consecration takes place but communion is distributed with bread consecrated and reserved at the Divine Liturgy the Sunday before. Wine is placed in the chalice at the Presanctified Liturgy, but it is not consecrated. It remains ordinary wine and is used only to facilitate swallowing the bread and so that the people can receive Communion in their customary way. The already consecrated bread used in this Liturgy has been united, at the time it is reserved, with the consecrated wine by placing some of the consecrated wine on the bread with the spoon. In the Russian tradition the wine is placed so that it traces out a cross. Also in the Russian tradition, whichever of the ministers is to consume the remaining elements at the end of the Presanctified Liturgy partakes of the bread alone when he receives Communion at that service and does not drink from the chalice so that he does not break his pre-Communion fast. However, the Greek tradition is that the wine in the cup is sanctified, once a portion of the bread, on which consecrated wine has previously been poured, is placed in it at the "union" after the Fraction. All celebrants therefore receive the cup as well as the bread.
Even when it happens that, at the time of reservation, a priest partially dips the unbroken consecrated bread into the consecrated wine instead of pouring some of the wine on it with the spoon, this does not constitute intinction in the sense here understood of performing the action at the time of administering Communion.
References and notes
intinction in French: Intinction