Have you ever wondered about what was on the altar when the service starts? You can see a cloth covering something in the center. What is it?
Underneath all is the chalice that will be used at the consecration of the elements. Ours is golden plated and very simple. Many chalices are quite ornate and are solid gold or silver, intricately carved and may even containing precious jewels. The chalice [or cup] is meant to remind us of the one used by Jesus at the Passover Supper that we now call The Last Supper. It was here that He instructed His apostles to do this in memory of Him. Thus we obey Him when we celebrate communion together.
On top of the chalice is a folded square of cloth called the purificator. It is used, as you might suppose, to keep the chalice clean after someone takes a sip from it. You will notice that both the deacon and LEM [Lay Eucharistic Minister] each have one and that they carefully wipe the lip of the chalice after each person drinks from it.
The paten [a small, shallow gold plate] rests on top of the purificator. It holds the large wafer used by the celebrant during the consecration of the elements. It is used to catch any fragments that might fall during the fraction [breaking] of the bread. It is also held up with the chalice when the celebrant announces “The gifts of God for the people of God.”
Resting on top of the paten is the pall. It is a stiff, square of cloth that is meant to protect the elements from dust or flies [more of a problem in earlier centuries]. Embroidered on the pall is usually a cross or some other symbol for Jesus. In Anglican churches a pall [this time a very large rectangle of material that has a cross on it] also covers the coffin during the funeral service. Only the pall covers the coffin since we all enter the presence of God through the cross of Jesus. We can do or bring nothing to our salvation and the pall on the casket points to the Savior.
Finally, the chalice veil covers all. Its color always matches the color of the church year.