Elements, Eucharistic

Elements, Eucharistic The Latin word elementa does not appear to have been used in this technical sense in the early ages of the Church, though it is a very natural word to express the component parts of anything. The unconsecrated elements on the altar are called, in Eastern liturgies, "the Mysteries;" the bread alone, "the Seal," from its being divided by lines in the form of a cross. When the elements have been placed on the altar they acquire other names, having more distinct reference to sacrifice, as "the Lamb," or "the First-born." The elements are also called "symbols," "types," "visible forms," as outward representations of inward and spiritual grace.

Throughout the Church, bread and wine have always been recognized as the elements in the eucharist, with but few exceptions. An obscure sect, called the Artotyritse, added cheese to the bread. Some sects used no wine, but water alone; while others used wine in the evening service, but not in the morning.

I. Composition of the Bread. — The Church has been unanimous in using wheat as the material for the bread, it being regarded as the superior grain. The great controversy has been, Shall the bread be leavened or unleavened? The principal arguments bearing on this question are the following: It has generally been assumed in the West that the Last Supper was eaten at the feast of the Passover, and that therefore the bread used was unleavened, which was the only kind the Jews were allowed to eat at that time. But it is contended by some writers of the Greek Church that the Last Supper was held on the 13th Nisan, when leavened bread was still used; and there is no direct statement, either in the New Test. or in the writings of the early fathers, to indicate that unleavened bread was used; on the contrary, the fact that only "bread" was mentioned would lead to the inference that only common bread was meant. Justin Martyr simply speaks of bread, and as he is giving: a particular description of the Christian rites, it seems most probable that he would have mentioned the fact had any particular kind of bread, been used. Epiphanius says that the Ebionites, in imitation of the saints in the Church, celebrate mysteries yearly in the Church with unleavened cakes. Innocent I sent to the bishops leavened bread, said to have been called by him "fermentum," in distinction from the unleavened. Cyprian, and still later, Isidore of Seville, in their discussions, leave out all mention of leaven as an ingredient in the eucharistic bread, which they would hardly have done had it been in use. But Alcuin (A.D. 790) says that the bread should be perfectly free from leaven of any kind. Rabanus Maurus (A.D. 819) likewise directs that the bread should be unleavened according to the Hebrew custom. It has been inferred by some that the eucharistic bread was introduced between the latter part of the 9th and the 11th centuries, for the reason that Photius of Constantinople (A.D. 867) never mentioned the use of unleavened bread; while Michael Cwerularius, also patriarch of Constantinople (A.D. 1054), frequently does. The silence of Photius would only show that either the use of it was unknown to him, or that he regarded it as a thing of no consequence. But John Maro, writing, at any rate, before the Trullan Council, says that those who made the eucharistic offering in leavened bread reproached the Western churches, the Armenians, and the Maronites, with offering "unleavened cakes," which were not bread at all; a clear proof that the Western churches generally, in the 7th century, were thought to agree with the Maronites and the Armenians in this respect.

On the whole, then, there is distinct evidence that unleavened bread was. used in the eucharist by the Latins, and by some eastern sects, in the 7th and 8th centuries; and there is strong evidence that it was used in the 3d. In the orthodox Eastern Church, there can be no doubt that leavened bread has been used from a very early period indeed; if not from the very first, at any rate from the time when Judaizing sects insisted on using unleavened cakes, like those of the Passover, in the Lord's Supper.

The Syrian Christians, besides the leaven which is common to almost all Oriental communions, mix with the bread a little oil and salt, a practice which they defend by many mystical reasons. The modern Greeks eagerly advocate the mixture of salt, which (they say) represents the life; so that a sacrifice without salt is a dead sacrifice.

In regard to, the character of, the bread, the sixth canon of the Council of Toledo (A.D. 693) enacts that no other bread: than such as is whole and clean and especially prepared shall be placed on the altar of the Lord.

The form of the loaf used by the Jews was round, and somewhat less than an inch thick, and six or eight inches in diameter. Oblates were frequently used, and impressed with a cross.

II. Composition of the Cup. — With regard to the element of wine there has been less controversy, though it Is an interesting and unsettled question whether the cup was mixed at the institution of the sacrament by our blessed Lord himself. Lightfoot (Temple Service, 1:691) says that he that drank pure wine performed his duty; so that, although it seems probable that our Lord used the mixed cup, yet it is not certain that he did so. The Babylonian Talmud calls water mixed with wine "the fruit of the vine;" but it would appear that the same term is used for pure wine in Isa 32:12; Hab 3:17; so that nothing positive call be ascertained from the use of that term. On the whole, it seems probable that our Lord used a mixed cup, and it is acknowledged on all hands that, with the exception of a few heretics, the Charch used wine mixed with water. Justin Martyr and Cyprian both justify the mixing of the two. The third Council of Carthage orders "that in the sacrament of' the body and blood of the Lord, nothing else be offered but what the Lord himself commanded; that is, read, and wine mixed with water." The African code, both Greek and Latin, has this same canon. The liturgies of James and Mark contain like words, while the liturgies of Basil and Chyrsostom order the deacon to put wine and water into the cup before the priest places it on the altar. In like manner, in some form or another, the mixing is mentioned in the liturgies of Ethiopia, Nestorius, Severus, of the Roman and the Gallican churches. A peculiar rite of the Byzantine Church is the mixing of hot water with the wine. In the liturgy of Chrysostom, after the fraction of the oblate, the deacon, taking up the vessel of boiling water, says to the priest, "Sir, bless the boiling water;" the priest then says, "Blessed be the fervency of thy saints forever, now and always, and for ages of ages;" then the deacon pours a small quantity of the boiling water into the chalice, saying, "The fervency of faith, full of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The principal deviations from the received practice of the Church in this matter have been the opposite usages of the Aquarians and Ebionites, who used no wine at all in the eucharist, and of the Armenians, who mixed no water with the wine.

Some in the 7th century offered milk for wine in the eucharist; others communicated the people not with wine pressed from grapes, but with the grapes themselves.

A peculiar instance of an addition to the cup is the dropping of milk and honey into it, according to the Roman rite, on Easter eve, the great day for the baptism of catechumens.

The wine in use in the Church has in general been red, apparently from a desire to symbolize as much as possible the blood of our Lord. Various mystical reasons have been given for the mixture of the water with the wine. Besides the presumption that our Lord used the mixed cup at the first institution, the liturgies generally allege as a further reason thatn blood and water flowed from his pierced side. In the comment on Mark, ascribed to Jerome, another is given: that by one we might be purged from sin, by the other redeemed from punishment. Alcuin (Epist. 90) finds in the three things, water, flour, and wine,, which may be placed on the altar, a mystical resemblance to the three heavenly witnesses of 1Jo 5:7.

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