Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Friday, July 02, 2004

Liturgical Abuse of the Week 

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 (Redemptionis Sacramentum 48, emphasis added).

You would be shocked to find out how widespread this abuse is on the parish level. Aside from the more spectacular controversies, such as the gluten-free host debate a few years back (which appears to have been resolved satisfactorily), the phenomenon of freshly-baked communion loaves goes on around American utterly unhindered, in monasteries and in dissident communities, the latter of which seem to do it specificaly because it is forbidden. When our friend at Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam discovered such adulterated recipes circulating among parishes in his Archdiocese and promptly forwarded them to the bishop, he was immediately kicked off the mailing list. Leavened communion bread seems, in many cases, to have become a veritable 'emblem' for dissenting communities, signifying 'grass-roots,' 'populist' Catholicism standing defiantly against the regulations of the hierarchy.

Why is it that the ghastly banners which loom over over so parish altars always depict the Eucharistic bread as a leavened loaf, rather than as an unleavened host? It can only increase the confusion among the faithful.

The common reason given for the Church's care with regard to the matter of the sacrament of the Eucharist generally revolves around Christ's historical use of certain rites and matter in the institution of such sacraments. The matter is generally more complicated than that, however. Incidentally, I'm reading Edward Schillebeeckx' Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God (that's a mouthful) at the moment, and he has some interesting observations regarding these questions:

"Christ himself, in some cases explicitly, in others probably merely implicitly and without particularization, determined the sevenfold direction of the signification which is brought out in the ecclesial saving acts that are the sacraments. Whether he determined the nature of these visible acts or left this to the Church, so long as the act determined upon manifested its purpose in the direction he laid down, is another question . . . The positive data provided by an [historical] investigation of this kind show clearly that there has been enormous variation in the shape of the liturgical world and the liturgical action (the so-called form and matter) but that, even so, the general direction of the sense manifested in each sacrament has remained constant."

"The outward rite as determined by the Apostles may be something which the Church receives as unalterable. This unalterability does not mean that the Church in later times could not bring about a broader development in the ritual as a whole; for it is an historical fact that the Church has done this. But it does mean that within the entirety of the richly developed ritual the apostolic core must be retained, and must remain the truly essential factor in that ritual

To contextualize these statement would require more room than my handful of devout readers are willing to read. In any case, Schillebeeckx notes that, whether or not we can determine that the matter of a given sacrament has been definitively and unalterably fixed by Christ, the inner core of the rite must be protected and held intact irregardless. What Christ did do is to establish a visible Church as the prolongation and extension of His glorified body, and to grant this Church -- and especially the apostolic Church -- a privileged role in the carrying out of the sacraments which He instituted, and this 'carrying out' includes, at least for certain sacraments, the role of clarifying and specifying the rites and matter to be used, and this in a fasion that would be definitive and binding upon the later Church.

As usual, I'm out of commission for the weekend blog-wise. Have a blessed and patriotic holiday, all.

# posted by Jamie : 2:36 PM


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Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

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