Jesus' life leads Church to require wheat for Blessed Sacrament

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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Question:

Why can't a grain other than wheat be used for Communion host? 

Fr. Mayo's answer:

The Eucharist is intended to be a wondrous gift of Christ to the members of His Body. At the same time, this awesome gift can cause in some persons health issues. It would seem that Christ would instruct the Church to do whatever she could to allow as many persons as possible to receive this gift, even by changing the form under which He comes to us. The Church, in her wisdom, has maintained very strict guidelines as to the matter that can be used for the valid celebration of Holy Mass.

In 1980, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote "The Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery." In it, the Church reaffirms that "the bread for the celebration of the Eucharist in accordance with the tradition of the whole Church must be made solely of wheat." This tradition the instruction speaks of is natural and biblical.

The lifecycle of wheat closely follows that of Christ's life. The ground is plowed, the seeds are sown and broken and ultimately must die in order to germinate. Christ uses this example of wheat and compares Himself to it in John 12:24. The prophets of ancient Israel prepared the ground for Christ. When Christ came, He spent His life spreading the Good News throughout Israel. He was broken for us on the cross and died, yet rose to new life in the Resurrection.

In 2009, wheat fields covered 60 million acres of land worldwide, producing 2.17 billion bushels of wheat. This great amount of wheat over such a vast area symbolizes what the Church is called to be: a community where all people gather together into the new people of God.

Christ used wheat as an analogy when He taught. In Matthew 13:24-30, Our Lord tells the parable where at the end of time, the wheat will be gathered into the barn, whereas the empty husks will be burned. Those who are chosen to dwell with Him forever are likened to wheat, whereas other herbage does not have such enduring worth and is thus burned.

Wheat is used in the Old Testament, too. The place where the temple was built was a threshing floor for wheat before being bought by King David (1 Chronicles 21:22-23). The location of this threshing floor was on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1) — the exact place where Abraham led his son Isaac to in order to sacrifice him upon a pile of wood carried by Isaac. Here, we see the connection between Isaac being a Christ-like figure, carrying wood up to be sacrificed. It cannot be any accident that God would allow this place to then become a threshing floor for wheat before being the place where He would be worshiped. In Exodus 34:22, where God calls upon Moses to institute a Feast of Weeks to celebrate and give thanks for the wheat harvest. This feast of thanksgiving for the wheat harvest reminds us of the Holy Eucharist, which literally means thanksgiving, where we come to receive the finest of wheat.

Due to the deep roots wheat has in our faith, it is hard to imagine celebrating the Holy Mass without it being an integral part of the celebration.

 

This column was published in 2010.

Next week, Father Mayo will explain the use of wine for the Precious Blood of Christ.

Father Mayo is associate pastor of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Washington. Send questions for a priest to: St. Louis Review, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119 or to letters@stlouisreview.com.

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