Liturgy Matters — The bread and wine

By Dr. Judy Bullock

Are there special requirements for the bread and wine that may be used in the celebration of Mass?

Yes, the bread for celebrating the Eucharist must be made of wheat flour and water, with no added ingredients, such as honey or salt. According to ancient tradition, this bread must also be unleavened, that is, made without the benefit of yeast. This tradition honors the connection to the Passover meal when there was no time to let the dough rise before the Israelites fled captivity.

The bread for the Mass must also be fresh or recently made. It is very difficult to perfect the art of baking unleavened bread with the proper amount of moisture enabling loaves to be broken into small pieces for distribution. These difficulties have led to the practice of using a large host which can be broken during the Fraction Rite with the addition of a large quantity of small hosts that do not need to be broken.

The wine used for Mass must be fermented naturally from grapes. No other wine made from another type of fruit or from other ingredients may be substituted for grapes. The wine for the Celebration of the Eucharist cannot contain additives, other than the preservatives used in the process of fermentation. There are no specific requirements for the percentage of alcohol in the wine used for Mass.

What is intinction?

Intinction is the manner of receiving holy Communion where the Sacred Host is dipped into the Precious Blood and then consumed. The communicant, however, is never permitted to undertake intinction on his/her own.

The church gives specific instructions on how intinction may be done. The Communion minister holding the vessel containing the Sacred Host and the minister serving the chalice of the Precious Blood must be next to each other. The communicant is required to have a paten under his or her chin.

The conference of bishops in each country has the responsibility to determine the manner in which holy Communion is distributed. The norms for the United States instruct communicants to receive the Sacred Host either in the hand or on the tongue and to drink from the chalice that is presented to them following Jesus’ dictum, “Take and eat, take and drink.” With this in mind, the required arrangements for intinction are rarely available today.

What is concomitance?

The accounts of the Last Supper in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke attest to Jesus instructing his apostles to “Take and eat; take and drink” of his Body and Blood. Likewise for us, the church teaches that it is a fuller sign when we receive holy Communion under both forms, receiving both the Sacred Host and drinking from the chalice of the Precious Blood. However, the church also teaches that Christ is totally present — body, soul and divinity — in the Sacred Host and Christ is totally present — body, soul and divinity — in the Precious Blood. The term for this teaching is “concomitance.”

Concomitance is particularly important since many of us, at times, have reasons why we cannot receive under both forms. Some illness or a particular medication may prevent our drinking from the chalice or consuming the Sacred Host.

For example, persons suffering from Celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a primary ingredient of wheat flour. Even though low gluten hosts are available and are valid matter for the sacrament, some cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of gluten and can only receive holy Communion by receiving the Precious Blood. When we can only receive holy Communion under one form, we are still receiving Christ in totality.

Dr. Judy Bullock is the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Worship.

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