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Bread-and-wine Regulations May Be Hard To Fathom Today


With the Eucharistic bread now only being unleavened bread, regulations regarding the making of this unleavened bread were drawn up that some may find hard to fathom today.  Some of these procedures included that each wheat kernel was to be individually chosen so that only the best and finest wheat was used in the Eucharist; the grinding mill had to be clean with curtains hung around it; the monk overseeing the grinding of the wheat was required to wear religious vestments; and the monks assisting in the baking of the bread chanted psalms during this time.  In France, even until the 18th century, the Eucharistic bread was still made only by priests.  


The bread was no longer the round loaves of previous generations, which could be broken and shared.  Now they began to be shaped like thin disks, first made into a rather larger size to be broken for Communion for the faithful.  In the 12th century, when the faithful received communion only on major feast days, these disks were smaller and shaped for each individual person (as is still customary today).  The priest’s host was larger so all could see the host when it was held high after the consecration.  According to Josef Jungmann, the bread began to be referred to as a “host,” a word originally used for the sacrificial victim that was slaughtered.  Therefore, the host could easily refer to Jesus, who was our sacrificial Lamb (cf. Ephesians 5:2).  The people’s hosts were of a much smaller size.  


Changes also were made regarding the kind of wine to be used in the Eucharist.  In the Eastern Churches, red wine was preferred since it more clearly represented the shed “blood” of Christ.  Red wine was also used in the Roman Church to prevent any accidental misuse between water and white wine.  Around the 16th century, when the purificator began to be used to clean the cup, white wine was preferred in the Western Church preventing the grapes from staining them.  Today either red or white wine may be used in the Eucharist.


Water was also mixed with the wine. Apparently this practice originated in Greece and was introduced into Palestine.  This practice was followed during Jesus’ time. The reason I have often heard for this was that the wine was very syrupy and needed dilution with water for drinking purposes.  According to the Gnostic heresy, all wine drinking was forbidden, which led them to replace the wine entirely with water, a practice condemned by St. Cyprian.  In the Eucharist, the mixing of water and wine symbolized the intimate union of the faithful with Jesus bound to him by baptism and faith, and celebrated in each Eucharist.  Just as the water can no longer be separated from the wine, nothing can sever our union with Christ save our own sinfulness.  However, Christ will always remain faithful to us.  In the Mass, the wine now mixed with a small amount of wine represents that not only is Christ offered up, but also the Church “through Him, with him, and in him”.


Before the bread and wine could be placed upon the altar, the altar had to be prepared through placement of the corporal (the white cloth) on the altar where the gifts were placed. In most Masses, this was a small piece of cloth; at the Pope’s Mass it covered the entire width of the altar, which is becoming the usual practice again today in our parishes.  The deacon would place the bread and wine upon the altar (a “stylized” presentation procession).  Then the celebrant would pray quietly over them.   

Father Sauer continues his look at the Mass in the April 7 issue of The Message.