Tomorrow, November 29, Christians around the world will begin Advent in preparation for the Nativity of Christ.
This means that more Holy Masses will be held in the coming days, especially nearing Christmas when we Filipinos would be having the traditional Simbang Gabi. Masses also mean remembering and reflecting on Jesus’s last supper, His words, and taking His body and blood in the form of bread and wine. (Read: CBCP Adds More Simbang Gabi Masses to Accommodate Churchgoers)
But have you ever wondered how the Holy Eucharist is made nowadays? We can all admit that it’s tasty and we want more of it—but of course, we can’t—but how does it become the “bread” we’ve been eating for so long, and have all come to know?
Based on the Roman Rites or the guide for all Holy Masses, Offices, and Sacrifices, among others, there are very specific guidelines for the creation of the host that will be used during the Holy Mass. These guidelines are further strengthened by the Canon Law, which is a set of rules that Christian organizations, churches, and its people must follow.
My Pope Philippines explores the intricacies associated with the creation of the Holy Eucharist.
The Holy Eucharist: It Should Be Made With Wheat
According to the Church laws, the host should only be made using wheat and water. It also shouldn’t be unleavened, meaning there was no yeast or any other leavening agent used in its creation. In the Redemptionis Sacramentum, it is stated that if the bread is made from or mixed with any other substance that can’t be considered as wheat, it can’t be used for Holy Masses. (Read: Pope Pens Letter to Celebrate 500th Anniversary of First Mass in Chile)
“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,” the instruction reads.
The Holy Eucharist: It Should’ve Been Made Recently
Just like any other food or edible substance, the Holy Eucharist must be unspoiled for it to be eaten by churchgoers. The Canon Law clearly states that for it to be usable during Mass, the bread should be made recently, “so that there is no danger of spoiling.” Only unleavened, fresh bread may be used for the Holy Communion. (Read: Prayers Before and After Receiving Communion)
The Holy Eucharist: It Cannot Be Gluten-Free
As a general rule, the host can’t be gluten-free as it makes the bread “invalid matter,” according to a circular letter by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict the XVI) from 2003, reiterated in another letter written by Pope Francis in 2017. However, those with reactions to gluten, most especially those with celiac disease, reacted negatively towards this. (Read: 5 Saints to Call on for Health-Related Problems)
Because of the negative feedback, the Church’s heads compromised by saying that low-gluten bread may be used given that they “contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread.”