This weekend is a big celebration for our nearly two-year-old parish of Most Blessed Sacrament. It is our feast day and we are pulling out all the stops, from having a picnic after Mass to the traditional Corpus Christi procession complete with umbrellina (no, I’m not telling you what the umbrellina is, let’s see where your liturgical curiosity takes you).
Regardless of your parish, the feast of Corpus Christ is more than a one-day event; it is the experience shared each time we gather for Mass. Simple bread and common wine are offered by the community, and through the power of God’s Holy Spirit these elements become our Corpus Christi, our Body of Christ. Unchanging for almost 2,000 years, bread blessed and broken, wine blessed and poured…but exactly how did that bread and wine make it to our Sunday Liturgy?
First the church begins with some basic rules that have been in effect for centuries. The bread must be wheaten only and according to the ancient tradition of the Latin church, unleavened. The wine must be natural, made from grapes of the vine.
The making and baking of the bread for the Eucharist is a ministry that communities of contemplatives throughout the world continue. The molds for hosts are instruments similar to waffle irons. Eucharistic bread is produced on a large scale and provided in bulk to smaller communities, such as Our Lady of Charity in Green Bay, who sort and package the hosts. In some parishes, members bake the bread used for Eucharist, but it can be a labor intensive activity.
There are many wineries that produce sacramental wine as a side business and some dedicated wineries like the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, Calif. There, 25 monks have opened the first Roman Catholic Cistercian winery in North America. They now grow 10 varieties of grapes in their two vineyards, named St. James and Poor Souls.
Parishes usually purchase altar wines and altar breads from local religious goods stores. The price of wine varies, but an average case of 12 bottles costs approximately $47 while 1,000 hosts will run about $15. For some parishes this is a budgeted expense, while others have adopted the tradition of individuals donating.
At each Mass we pray “…through your goodness we have this bread (this wine) to offer… work of human hands.” Let us remember then, the planter, the harvester, the vintner, the baker, the packager, the distributor, the sacristan, all those working hands that helped to bring to us the Body of Christ we now hold within our own.
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh. She has a master’s degree in liturgical studies.