Shouldn’t the Bread of Life resemble actual bread?

Yesterday on Twitter I mentioned that I like it when we use real bread for communion at church and asked, half in jest, whether there were theological arguments for using tasteless wafers that I was unaware of.

The answers I got, at least some of which were, I think, tongue-in-cheek, included avoiding getting crumbs of Christ’s body on the floor or mangling the body by chewing it and the symbolic value of unleavened bread to connect the Eucharist to the Exodus.

A cursory Google search turned up this article at the Episcopal Cafe, which makes the case for real bread and good wine at communion:

If there had been a deliberate campaign to isolate the Eucharist from everyday life, and seal it off a in a purely ritual context, the results could have hardly been more successful. But of course there hasn’t been. It’s just that the desire for efficiency and an almost superstitious concern with what we suppose to be reverence have created conditions for severing the roots of sacramental practice from our everyday lives. Wafers can be efficiently counted and stored, they don’t make crumbs. They don’t require any effort, simply being delivered by mail. The sickly fortified wines marketed by the ecclesiastical supply houses keeps indefinitely. We have dozens of excuses to justify using these customary products as the elements, and we would prefer not to examine the spiritual losses we incur. At home we can savor wonderful wholesome bread, and appreciate even modest wines day by day as the glorious distillation it is of earth and sunshine. And then we go to church and find unique ecclesiastical stuff being used that has no connection with what we love to eat and drink normally.

I think it’s worth noting, in particular, how the connection between the sacrament and the Kingdom of God is obscured by the way the Eucharist is commonly celebrated in many of our churches. Jesus described the Kingdom as a banquet, a feast. And yet how much does the typical Eucharist resemble a feast, even though it’s supposed to be, among other things, an anticipation of the Kingdom?

At the church I attended when living in Berkeley, we would occasionally have not only real bread and wine at communion, but also olives, and milk mixed with honey! At the time I thought that was just left-coast liberal flakiness, but now I think they might’ve been on to something.

I’m curious what others think about this.

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3 thoughts on “Shouldn’t the Bread of Life resemble actual bread?

  1. Well, at our midweek Eucharist, we use real bread. Then we take the leftovers into the kitchen and eat it with dinner.

    Nothing like watching a bunch of people dunk Jesus in their soup.

    (I’m a lot more easygoing on my theology of Real Presence than some of my friends, one of whom visited once and at the first sight of crumbs ran screaming back to the Cathedral.)

  2. We are fortunate in our little storefront parish. Two doors down in our strip mall, we have a Jamaican bakery that bakes us the most fragrant bread for our communion meal. It is the same bread that they sell over the counter, except that the owner bought a special cross stamp so that the bread is “sealed” when we get it. For midweek when we don’t need as much bread, I will pick up some naan, which works well.

    Now if I could just get the altar guild to quit buying that overly sweet Jewish wine we would be in good shape.

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