Bread and Wine

Some few decades ago there was much handwringing about wording in the Roman Missal first edition, and in some songs that accompanied its use. A fine priest I knew got his socks bothered over Laurence Rosania’s “The Supper of the Lord.” It was banned because “Precious Body, precious Blood” wasn’t sufficient in preceding “here in bread and wine.” (“here” has since been replaced with “seen”)

Over the years, much parish fussing about how Eucharistic Ministers were designated on charts and schedules. “Bread” and “Cup” bad. (On the latter, someone should inform MR3’s ICEL on one of the Mysteries of Faith.) For English speakers, too bad “Body” and “Blood” start with the same letter. Often, I’ve just put down the letters B and C on the map. Let the liturgical police figure out for themselves what they symbolize.

This week’s Office of Readings feature many delightful and instructive passages from Cyril of Jerusalem. He didn’t seem to be too bothered by the liberal use of what the Eucharistic elements look like.

On the night he was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat: this is my body.” He took the cup, gave thanks and said: “Take, drink: this is my blood.” Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he himself has said quite categorically, This is my blood, who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?

Therefore, it is with complete assurance that we receive the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. His body is given to us under the symbol of bread, and his blood is given to us under the symbol of wine, in order to make us by receiving them one body and blood with him. Having his body and blood in our members, we become bearers of Christ and sharers, as Saint Peter says, in the divine nature.

The mystagogue doesn’t seem too bothered with the word “symbol” either. He has a firm affirmation of Church teaching:

Do not, then, regard the eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine: they are in fact the body and blood of the Lord, as he himself has declared. Whatever your senses may tell you, be strong in faith.

It is a matter of faith. Not DNA, as an internet priest once suggested. He was scandalized I suggested there was no human DNA in the Eucharist we receive, and I certainly wouldn’t tolerate some genetic testing. The appearance of blood coming from consecrated elements? Private revelation. The piles of things one can read in the Catechism? Not that either. Not what any catechist, cleric, or guru says. Just faith.

Now, many folks are atwist about the idea that two-thirds of Catholics don’t have this faith. I keep saying that if we were celebrating the Eucharist more like the inn at Emmaus, and less like a comedy club or a vestment fashion show or a means to maximize the collection, it would be clearer to people of faith. Still, I remain a skeptic on the 70%. It might be closer than I’d like to think. It might. It’s not a matter of appealing to any sense of logic or wisdom in Catholics though. People won’t suddenly believe because a priest turns his homily into a catechetical session. If he tries, he’s going to summon the lyricism of a Cyril of Jerusalem.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Bread and Wine

  1. Liam says:

    The problem with the word symbol in current vernacular English is that it partakes of the quality of the word sanction: it can be understood to mean the opposite of its original meaning. In current usage, symbol typically carries an implied “mere” with it as a distinction from ultimate reality. Symbol originally meant something very different. So I would not encourage people to get too clever by half in invoking translations of Patristic writing that have that problem with equivocal understanding due to shifts in usage.

    • In other words, judge the context carefully. I get it. But I don’t think the Ratzinger CDF, the parallel CDWDS, nor their fanboys and girls always perceived.

      • Liam says:

        Totally agree. But let’s not mirror them in turn. Too much of that internalized resentment manifests that way. If one wants to end a cycle of recrimination and tit-for-tat, it starts with ourselves, including in the choice of rhetorical fencing points.

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