Redemptionis Sacramentum 48-50

Chapter Three discusses “The Proper Celebration of Mass.” The CDWDS covers four topics and today we’ll review an important one, “The Matter of the Most Holy Eucharist.”

[48.] 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.[Cf. Code of Canon Law 924 §2; GIRM 320] 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.[Cf. Dominus Salvator noster (1929) 1] 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.[Cf. Dominus Salvator noster II]

Aware that there is a long-ish history of manufacturing altar bread in a certain way, there is also an entirely positive movement among some Catholics to make what is literally “the work of our hands” to utilize for the celebration of Mass. The obvious benefits of thoughtful labor, sacrifice, and local custom do present some obstacles.

First, that wheat flour one often buys in stores may be of questionable composition. That said, I do detect the openness to something less than 100% wheat flour as long as what is produced is undeniably wheat bread.

Second, it may well be our sugar/fat/salt saturation that suggests to some people that a single bite of unsweetened wheat bread is somehow burdensome to modern tastebuds. I’ve been confronted with parish bakers who have pleaded for a tiny bit of honey. I reply that the unleavened bread of the Passover was the bread of an oppressed and impoverished people. We align in solidarity with them, with a faith tradition that spans Judaism and Christianity, and we have no gravely serious reason to even consider a variance from that tradition. Frankly, I doubt these are serious obstacles to inplementing a parish ministry of baking altar bread.

[49.] By reason of the sign, it is appropriate that at least some parts of the Eucharistic Bread coming from the fraction should be distributed to at least some of the faithful in Communion. “Small hosts are, however, in no way ruled out when the number of those receiving Holy Communion or other pastoral needs require it”,[Cf. GIRM 321] and indeed small hosts requiring no further fraction ought customarily to be used for the most part.

This paragraph strikes me as rather unconvincing. All through this document, as well as the GIRM, the institutional Church challenges us to integrity and loyalty. Let’s face it: individual small pieces of bread are not quite aligned with the practice of the Lord and the oldest tradition of Christianity. Sign value is not waived because the bishops are nervous about breaking large pieces of bread for everyone. Let’s just admit it’s a developed practice, it’s not the ideal, perhaps, and move on.

Let’s talk about wine:

[50.] 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.[Cf. Lk 22,18; Code of Canon Law 924 §§ 1, 3; GIRM 322] 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.[Cf. GIRM 323] 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.

Here, one must be certain the wine is 100% from grapes. Note that if one is unsure, one is forbidden from using it.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Redemptionis Sacramentum 48-50

  1. Liam says:

    “Not that if one is unsure, one is forbidden from using it.” Um, that does not necessarily flow from the quoted passage. “Doubtful” would be probably interpreted objectively in light of “certainty”, rather than subjectively; in part because one has an affirmative obligation of great care, not normal care, and so higher due diligence would be required.

    Another reason to procure wines that are all-grape without sweetener is that one can then avoid sweeteners made from glutinous grains.

    In any event, the canons remain the touchstone for valid matter.

    • Todd says:

      I was reading, “It is altogether forbidden to use wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance.” It seems that if there’s any doubt about a wine, it’s not used.

      I’ll correct the typo in the post text, too.

  2. Pingback: Circular Letter on Bread and Wine | Catholic Sensibility

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