Bread and wine for the Body and Blood must be uncorrupted

| February 2, 2011 | 1 Comment

The Catholic Spirit recently asked Father John Paul Erickson, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship, to explain the church’s teaching regarding the elements of the Eucharist.

Q: What does the church require regarding the bread and wine used at Mass?

A: In the Code of Canon Law, the following is prescribed as the matter of the Eucharist: “The Most Sacred Eucharistic Sacrifice must be celebrated with bread and wine, with which a small quantity of water is to be mixed. The bread must be made of wheat alone and recently made so that there is no danger of corruption. The wine must be natural wine of the grape and not corrupt” (Canon 924). This description was further clarified in 2004 in a Vatican document entitled “Redemptionis Sacramentum: On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist.” From paragraphs 48 and 50 we read:

“The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition. It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament. It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools . . .”

“ . . . The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances. During the celebration itself, a small quantity of water is to be mixed with it. Great care should be taken so that the wine intended for the celebration of the Eucharist is well conserved and has not soured. It is altogether forbidden to use wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance, for the Church requires certainty regarding the conditions necessary for the validity of the sacraments. Nor are other drinks of any kind to be admitted for any reason, as they do not constitute valid matter.”

The church provides guidelines on this matter due to the connection of the eucharistic sacrifice to the actions of Christ at the Last Supper who himself took bread and wine on the night he was betrayed, as well as the Mass’ fundamental connection to the Passover meal described in Exodus.

Q: What is mustum? Can it ever be used at Mass?

A: “Mustum” has been defined by the church as “grape juice that is either fresh or — preserved by methods that — suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing).” It is indeed valid matter for the Eucharist, which is to say that when it is used during Mass it truly becomes the blood of Jesus Christ. In several letters, the Vatican has clarified that when a priest celebrant suffers from alcoholism or is otherwise impeded from ingesting alcohol, it is in fact permissible to use mustum, once that priest has received requested permission from his local ordinary. When this situation occurs, wine is to be provided for concelebrants and, in those cases where both Sacred Species (bread and wine) is offered to all, the congregation as well.

Q: What about a situation in which a person has celiac disease or is gluten-intolerant? What Communion options exist for them?

A: In the very same correspondence outlining the regulations concerning the use of mustum at Mass, the Vatican also clarified that low-gluten hosts are in fact valid matter for the eucharistic sacrifice and may be consecrated for distribution to those members of the faithful afflicted by celiac disease. Completely gluten-free hosts, however, are not permitted, due to the necessity of wheat for the valid confection of the Eucharist, as outlined above. Another option for those unable to receive a wheat host is the reception of the Precious Blood.

It is important to point out that Jesus Christ is present, body, blood, soul and divinity in both forms, that is, the appearance of bread and the appearance of wine, and thus, it is not necessary for both Species to be received by a communicant in order to receive the abundant graces of Holy Communion, even as it is clearly the ideal that both forms be offered and received by all.

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Category: The Lesson Plan

  • Brent

    I love that it is in Canon Law: The Most Sacred Eucharistic Sacrifice. Too often we think of Mass as a gathering of the faithful for a communal meal etc rather than on Worship of the Triune God in an un-bloody Sacrifice.