|ROME, 7 JUNE 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
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:
" 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
" 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
" 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
by suspending its fermentation (by means of freezing or other methods
which do not alter its nature).
"D. In general, those who have received permission to use 'mustum' are
prohibited from presiding at concelebrated Masses. There may be some
exceptions however: in the case of a bishop or superior general; or,
with prior approval of the ordinary, at the celebration of the
anniversary of priestly ordination or other similar occasions. In these
cases the one who presides is to communicate under both the species of
bread and that of 'mustum,' while for the other concelebrants a chalice
shall be provided in which normal wine is to be consecrated.
"E. In the very rare instances of laypersons requesting this permission,
recourse must be made to the Holy See."
The document required furthermore that the ordinary must ascertain that
the matter used conforms to the above requirements; that he grant
permission only for as long as the situation continues which motivated
the request; and that scandal be avoided.
Finally, it disposed that due to the centrality of the celebration of
the Eucharist in the life of the priest, those who suffer from a
condition that would impede the normal reception of the Eucharistic
species may not be admitted to holy orders. ZE05060729
* * *
Follow-up: Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread [06-21-2005]
Among the readers who responded to our piece on the proper matter for
the Eucharistic species and the danger of making it invalid through
untoward additions (see June 7) a seminarian from Iowa asked the
"What would cause the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to
no longer be? You indicated that a host saturated with water would no
longer contain the True Presence. However, a while back we had the
gluten-free battles, which seemed to indicate even if there is any
quantity of gluten in the host the True Presence would exist. How would
saturation of the host change this? Furthermore, would there be a
similar situation present somehow with the species of wine? It is
necessary to add water to wine, but why would too much wine invalidate
consecration, and what would be the factor for judging what is too
Although similar, the two situations are not quite the same. The
question regarding gluten refers to the minimum requirements necessary
for bread to be considered as valid matter for effecting the
consecration. The question regarding soaking a host in water or the
addition of copious quantities of water to the Precious Blood refer to
the integrity of the already consecrated species.
Christ's presence is tied to the integrity of the species. Once this
integrity is gone, then Christ's real presence also disappears. Thus,
although a host soaked in water may retain for a while some of the
accidents of bread, it has undergone such a change that removes the
Likewise, if the quantity of water added exceeds that of the Precious
Blood, although similar in appearance, it is no longer integrally what
it once was.
Although adding unconsecrated wine to the Precious Blood does not change
the accidents in any way, I believe the effect is the same in destroying
the integrity of the species as after the consecration we are no longer
dealing with wine but with the Lord's Blood.
For precision's sake I would note that if altar bread were soaked or
altar wine severely diluted before the consecration, they would no
longer be valid material for confecting the Eucharist. However, if done
after the consecration they would not, technically speaking, invalidate
the consecration, but rather corrupt the species so that it no longer
contains the Real Presence. The holy sacrifice of the Mass would still
have been validly celebrated.
This could throw light on a related topic regarding the duration of
Christ's presence in the communicant. It is important to remember that
the graces received in Communion derive from the participation in the
sacrifice and the act of receiving holy Communion.
The consideration of the actual physical duration of the Real Presence
after Communion, while beneficial for personal devotion, makes
practically no difference as to the grace received in the act of
Communion itself. Thus even if it were true, as some experts sustain,
that the disintegration of the host is almost immediate, there would
still be multiple motives for remaining in thanksgiving after Communion.
An Arizona reader asked about a practice in her parish. She tells of
"extra ciboria (there may be two or more) taken by the server and
brought to the far side of the altar and left on the end of the altar.
The priest during the time of consecration does not even acknowledge
that they are there, and they are not moved to the middle of the altar
on top of the corporal for consecration. They are not picked up until
Communion by the priest, who then hands the ciboria to the extraordinary
ministers of Communion."
Certainly all hosts to be consecrated should be placed on a corporal,
preferably in front of the priest. If the space before the priest is
insufficient, then another corporal may be placed on the altar to
receive the ciboria. It might be that there is a corporal on the altar
not visible from the pews. If there is no corporal, then the practice is
liturgically deficient -- but it would not necessarily affect the
For a valid consecration it is sufficient that the priest be aware of
the presence of the ciboria and have the intention of consecrating them
or has a general intention of consecrating all that has been placed upon
the altar for that purpose.
Another reader asked regarding the omission of the rite of adding water
to the wine at the presentation of gifts. We have addressed this topic
June 29 and July 13 of last year. ZE05062120
* * *
Follow-up: Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread, Continued
Several readers have made yet further enquiries regarding the integrity
of the Eucharistic species (see follow-up in June 21 column) and the
high level of interest leads me to address the topic once more.
Some readers requested the theological sources for the affirmation that
the loss of integrity leads to the loss of the Real Presence.
My reply was principally based on an application of the doctrine of St.
Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologiae" III pars q 77. In the corpus of the
fourth article of this question "Whether the sacramental species can be
corrupted" the Angelic Doctor affirms:
"An accident can be corrupted in another way, through the corruption of
its subject, and in this way also they can be corrupted after
consecration; for although the subject does not remain, still the being
which they had in the subject does remain, which being is proper, and
suited to the subject. And therefore such being can be corrupted by a
contrary agent, as the substance of the bread or wine was subject to
corruption, and, moreover, was not corrupted except by a preceding
alteration regarding the accidents.
"Nevertheless, a distinction must be made between each of the aforesaid
corruptions; because, when the body and the blood of Christ succeed in
this sacrament to the substance of the bread and wine, if there be such
change on the part of the accidents as would not have sufficed for the
corruption of the bread and wine, then the body and blood of Christ do
not cease to be under this sacrament on account of such change, whether
the change be on the part of the quality, as for instance, when the
color or the savor of the bread or wine is slightly modified; or on the
part of the quantity, as when the bread or the wine is divided into such
parts as to keep in them the nature of bread or of wine. But if the
change be so great that the substance of the bread or wine would have
been corrupted, then Christ's body and blood do not remain under this
sacrament; and this either on the part of the qualities, as when the
color, savor, and other qualities of the bread and wine are so altered
as to be incompatible with the nature of bread or of wine; or else on
the part of the quantity, as, for instance, if the bread be reduced to
fine particles, or the wine divided into such tiny drops that the
species of bread or wine no longer remain."
In conformity with this doctrine, the liturgical tradition of the Latin
rite treats with utmost respect the tiny particles of hosts remaining
after Communion (it doesn't, however, attribute gestures of adoration to
The liturgical tradition also takes great pains to ensure the proper
purification of sacred vessels and altar linens as well as prescribing
the careful purification of any place where the Precious Blood might
have been accidentally spilled.
A Missouri reader characteristically asked to "be shown" how my
"For a valid consecration it is sufficient that the priest be aware of
the presence of the ciboria and have the intention of consecrating them
or has a general intention of consecrating all that has been placed upon
the altar for that purpose"
be true in the light of the fact that at: "Papal Masses I see hundreds
of priests standing many yards from the altar holding ciboria filled
with unconsecrated hosts. It is taken for granted those hosts are
consecrated by the Pope during the Mass, even though they are no where
near the Pope or the altar."
My statement responded to the precise question at hand, which referred
to ciboria placed on the altar.
I did not address the general principle of the priest's intention and it
was not my purpose to set an absolute limit on the physical extension to
In the case of papal Masses, and similarly numerous celebrations, the
celebrant has the specific intention of consecrating the hosts in the
In general, the papal master of ceremonies organizes the deacons and
priests holding the ciboria so that they are as close to the altar as
possible and that nobody except concelebrants are between these
ministers and the altar.
Most priests have a habitual intention of consecrating all that is upon
the corporal, but they may explicitly extend this intention to all that
is upon the altar.
Although it is technically possible for a priest to extend his intention
in the manner of papal Masses, it is practically never necessary to do
so in a parish situation where the logistic difficulties proper to St.
Peter's Basilica do not occur.
The proper solution in a very large parish Mass is to consecrate
sufficient hosts in large ciboria upon the altar and transfer them to
empty ciboria at the moment of Communion.
Several other readers also asked about the period of thanksgiving after
Communion. One put it thus: If Christ disappears almost immediately "at
such point, then to whom do I address my thanksgiving?"
Many, perhaps most, of us were formed in the tradition that the period
of thanksgiving after Communion was somehow linked to the duration of
the species within the body. This period was variably placed at 5 to 15
minutes, with some saying more and others less.
Although this abiding is a reality, over time I have become convinced
that it is not the best focus to adopt in explaining the motives for
giving thanks after Communion.
My reasons are that this explanation tends to obscure the act of
receiving Communion as the high point and completion of participation at
Mass, or of uniting ourselves spiritually to the Mass if we receive
Communion outside of Mass.
Indeed, this tradition arose above all in an epoch in which the faithful
who desired to receive Communion remained behind after the completion of
the Mass, compounding this dissociation between the Sacrifice and
Why then should we give thanks?
When we have participated at Mass we have been present in a sacramental
but real way at a new Bethlehem and a new Calvary. We have walked with
Christ the dusty road to Emmaus and felt our hearts burning as he opened
our minds to the Scriptures and recognized him at the breaking of bread.
We have been witnesses to his death and resurrection.
In virtue of the common priesthood received at baptism and confirmation
we have received the capacity to offer our personal prayers and
sacrifices with and through the priest so that we are certain that our
personal offering, although it seems to us no more than a grain of sand
or a drop of water, is placed alongside the infinite and eternal
sacrifice of Christ and presented to the Father as a pleasing and
Through our reception of holy Communion, we are nourished spiritually
for life's journey; the new and eternal covenant between God and man is
ratified once more.
We strengthen the family ties between God and ourselves, grow in
friendship and imitation of Christ, become more fully children of the
Blessed Virgin Mary and build up the bond of brotherhood that unites us
to the communion of saints and with all those who are blessed to partake
of the Lamb's supper.
In the light of all this, and there is much more to be said, a lifetime
would not suffice to give personal thanks to Christ for the grace of
participating in a single Mass and a single Communion.
To dwell only on the duration of the Real Presence is to reduce the
graces received to one aspect and leave aside a trove of blessings from
a God who is not content to show his love for us but almost spoils us in
his generosity. ZE05070522