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Eucharist (GB)

Within the Catholic Church, the following controversial questions have arisen for centuries: Must wine be provided for all the faithful who participate in Mass or only for the priest? Must it necessarily be white wine or red wine, or is that irrelevant? May wine be mixed with water? Are grape juice, sparkling wine or other beverages permitted instead of wine? And how do we deal with these questions, which are hotly debated by many highly educated clergymen, or the problematic consumption of alcohol by children, the sick and alcohol addicts? And last but not least: Must the wine(wine for the mass) be produced in a special way according to certain "Christian" rules?

Patene (Zelebrationshostie), Messkelch, Speisekelch (mit Hostien) und Velum

This sounds strange at first sight, because the answer should actually be clear and unambiguous. The origin lies in the famous Lord's Supper at which Jesus enjoyed bread and wine with his disciples on the eve of his death on the cross and commanded them to continue the custom in his memory. The Church otherwise also refers to the unconditional interpretation or observance of Jesus' words, so why these questions here at all? The problem escalated from the beginning of the Reformation at the beginning of the 16th century, because Martin Luther and also other reformers such as Johannes Calvin and Thomas Müntzer vehemently demanded the unconditional observance of Jesus' words.

In the sacrificial rituals described in the Old Testament in the Bible, the Jews spill wine as a symbol of prosperity, atoning for guilt and as a sign of worship of God, and animal blood as a symbol of life, and thus return it to God. In the Christian church, wine and bread have a mystical meaning as a sacrament of the Lord's Supper (Greek Eucharist = thanksgiving), which was instituted by Jesus. The king Melchisedech, mentioned in the book of Genesis in the Abraham narrative, is regarded as the symbolic forerunner. One of the numerous oversized bottles of champagne is named after him.

According to Christian faith, at Holy Mass bread and wine are actually (i.e. by no means only symbolically) transformed into Christ's body and blood (consecration = the substance; not the appearance) and forms the climax of this celebration. In the early days of the Christian community, bread and wine were usually given to all present at the reception of the Lord's Supper (communion = union). From the Middle Ages on, however, in the Roman Catholic Church, for purely practical reasons (e.g. lack of wine due to poor harvests), it became apparent that only the priest took wine and the host (Latin sacrifice) was considered to be, so to speak, both - the blood and the body of Christ - or represented both.

Eucharistie - Trauben, Messweinkelch,Hostie und Bibel / Priester mit Hostie

This innovation or interpretation was vehemently criticized by all reformers (Hus, Luther and Calvin), who conceded wine to all believers. This was justified by the clear command during the Lord's Supper with the disciples with the following words of Jesus: "Take and eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. Take and drink all of you from it, this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me". The statement "my blood" could indicate red wine, but of course this can no longer be determined. The fact that wine (and not perhaps grape juice) was clearly meant, in the opinion of the Protestant Church, clearly follows from the fact that Jesus is speaking of "this plant of the vine", and that it must undoubtedly have been wine. At the time of the Lord's Supper (spring), by the way, there could no longer have been any unfermented grape juice because of the lack of preservation at that time.

In 1562, the Swedish King Erik XIV (1533-1577) asked at the Diet of Sweden whether another beverage instead of wine (e.g. beer, grape juice, milk, water) could be used during the Lord's Supper. The reason was the lack of wine due to the war against Denmark. This triggered the "liquoristic dispute" (lat. liquor = liquid), which also involved the question whether wine should at least be mixed with water. Martin Luther (1483-1546) categorically rejected this and insisted on bread and unadulterated wine. The distribution in both forms then became so prevalent that the receipt of the measuring cup (wine) was also considered a public declaration of belief in the Reformation. The Protestant communion rules were also laid down in the Augsburg Confession in 1530. The question of how alcoholics (or children) should deal with them was (still valid today) determined in this way: The Lord's Supper is not absolutely necessary for salvation, sick people would have to renounce the Lord's Supper and "this burden imposed by God must be borne".

The Protestant Church allows exceptions in justified cases, namely for alcoholics and children. These are acceptance in only one form, in that the wine goblet is passed on and thus waived, or grape juice instead of wine. As a currently valid rule, it was decided at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) to again allow both forms with the permission of the responsible bishop. By the way, according to the decision in 1983 also alcoholic priests have to drink wine during the Lord's Supper, since this is regarded as central symbolism (from 1973 on they were allowed to drink grape juice instead after a withdrawal cure with the permission of the bishop). They must consume at least a trace of the consecrated wine in the form of a host immersed in wine. In the 19th century, the Methodist churches (free churches), which were widespread in England and the USA, largely enforced the practice of taking communion with grape juice.

Concerning the question at which Mass, how often and by whom a wine for the Mass is enjoyed (see also there), a practical account by the Catholic priest Matthias Wünsche from Bamberg, who kindly provided the text. His practice is fully in accordance with canon law: On weekdays and normal Sundays I use a regional, dry Silvaner Kabinett or something comparable. On festive days there is something fine, for example at Christmas 2003 a 2000 Rieslaner Auslese from the Bürgerspital in Würzburg. On Maundy Thursday the whole parish can enjoy home-made bread and wine(Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau), which the parish priest himself can guarantee to be naturally pure. The principle of "graded celebration" also reigns with the wine for the Mass:

During Lent it should be simple and dry, in festive periods full, ripe and perhaps a little residual sweet. Red wine is rarely used for practical reasons, because it soils the chalice. Wine is basically the "matter" at every Mass in all Christian denominations. While the churches of the Reformation usually only celebrate the Eucharist on Sundays and holidays, in the Eastern Churches the practice of celebrating two or three times a week in each congregation has developed. In the Catholic Church there is a recommendation that every parish and every priest should celebrate the Eucharist approximately daily, with exceptions according to the needs of the respective parish on Sundays and public holidays also two or three times a week. The practice therefore varies considerably depending on denomination, country, region and the instructions of the responsible bishop.

The quantity of the mass wine is determined by the number of those who drink from the measuring cup. If only the priest drinks, the quantity of up to 0.1 litre is usual. If the entire congregation drinks, the quantity must be correspondingly larger. In the Protestant Church, wine is generally enjoyed by all who go to communion. In the Eastern Church, bread and wine are mixed before Communion and distributed by spoon to all communicants. In the Roman Catholic Church only the priest drinks (especially at "simple" masses or occasions), on Sundays at least also the communion helpers, often also the lectors and altar boys; at bridal masses or other special occasions often also a larger circle (bridal couple, witnesses of the marriage, confirmands, jubilant couple etc.). On feast days it is also possible for the whole congregation to drink; it makes sense, for example, on Maundy Thursday, Corpus Christi, Easter, First Communion and First Mass (first mass of a newly ordained Catholic priest). Communion can/should also be administered in small groups. See also under Church.

Goblet, Dinner Goblet: Picture of James Chan on Pixabay
Velum: From I, Łukasz Szczurowski, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Grapes, goblet, bread: Copyright = demarco / 123RF Royalty free images
Priest with Host: João Geraldo Borges Júnior on Pixabay

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