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Liturgy: Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread

6/9/2005 - 6:15 AM PST

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Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread

And Still More on Blessings for Non-communicants

ROME, JUNE 9, 2005 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: Is the use of "real bread" with yeast, and other ingredients valid matter for consecration? If it is not, why is it valid matter in Byzantine Churches in union with Rome? I've seen priests "consecrate" rolls, etc., and break it for distribution; while it is not licit, does it affect the validity of the consecration? Speaking of matter for validity: Is the use of pure grape juice by an alcoholic priest who is in recovery still considered valid matter? I know an indult was available for these priests in the '70s and '80s but I thought it had been withdrawn -- which could endanger the sobriety of some of our priests. -- J.L., Sydney, Nova Scotia

A: This topic is dealt with most recently in the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," Nos. 48-50, which states:

"[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. 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.

"[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,' and indeed small hosts requiring no further fraction ought customarily to be used for the most part.

"[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. 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."

Although this document is written primarily for the Latin Church, what it says about the requirements for the validity of Eucharistic species also serves for the Eastern Churches, but not necessarily what refers to licit matter which may vary among Churches.

The use or omission of leaven in baking bread does not affect the reality of the end product as true bread. And so both leavened and unleavened bread are valid matter for the Eucharist.

The traditional use of unleavened bread in the Latin Church is a requirement for the Eucharist's licit celebration. A priest who consecrates a roll, bun or some other form of true wheat bread containing leaven performs a valid but illicit act.

Most Eastern Churches traditionally use leavened bread for the Eucharist and this would be a requirement for the licit celebration of the Eucharist in those Churches.

It must be observed, however, that one or two movements or associations of faithful within the Latin Church have received permission to use leavened bread within the context of Mass celebrated exclusively for members of the group or association.

The question of the validity of the use of "mustum," or grape juice, for priests suffering from alcoholism or for some other medical reason was finally resolved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1994 in a letter signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger which also dealt with the question of low- gluten bread.

This letter stated:

"A. The preferred solution continues to be communion 'per intinctionem,' or in concelebration under the species of bread alone.

"B. Nevertheless, the permission to use 'mustum' can be granted by ordinaries to priests affected by alcoholism or other conditions which prevent the ingestion of even the smallest quantity of alcohol, after presentation of a medical certificate.

"C. By 'mustum' is understood fresh juice from grapes or juice preserved ...

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