Question about Hosts

Okay, I’ve been recently thinking about these questions, and here goes:

1.) Is it a requirement that the Host be circular in shape? Will it somehow be illicit (or even invalid) if an oddly-shaped Host - say, square is somehow used?
2.) Since there is a requirement that only wheat flour and water are to be used on altar breads, or at least in the Latin Rite, does that mean Passover matzo - by requirement also generally made from flour and water only - would be valid matter as well? (Yes, the hard, cracker-like version does have the problem of leaving crumbs when breaking it, but what about soft matzot?)

No, there’s no such requirement.

2.) Since there is a requirement that only wheat flour and water are to be used on altar breads, or at least in the Latin Rite, does that mean Passover matzo - by requirement also generally made from flour and water only - would be valid matter as well? (Yes, the hard, cracker-like version does have the problem of leaving crumbs when breaking it, but what about soft matzot?)

Unleavened bread made solely of wheat flour and water? You’ve just described the exact requirements for a Communion host. :slight_smile:

It is worth pointing out, though, that Passover matzah can be made of other flours than wheat – spelt, barley, and I think other grains may be used. It would be impermissible for a Communion host to contain any of these, and they would be invalid matter if they contained so much non-wheat material that they could not commonly be considered wheat bread.

Oh, okay. :slight_smile:

Unleavened bread made solely of wheat flour and water? You’ve just described the exact requirements for a Communion host. :slight_smile:

It is worth pointing out, though, that Passover matzah can be made of other flours than wheat – spelt, barley, and I think other grains may be used. It would be impermissible for a Communion host to contain any of these, and they would be invalid matter if they contained so much non-wheat material that they could not commonly be considered wheat bread.

There are actually five grains that are not allowed to be consumed during the Passover save for either dry-roasting or as matzo: wheat, barley, spelt (biblical spelt is now more correctly identified as emmer wheat), rye, and the elusive shibbolet shu’al, which could be either oats (as per Rashi) or two row barley (as per Maimonides). Of course, I do agree that matzot made of anything but wheat would be out, but I was just wondering.

BTW, for anyone who’s curious, no, I’m not holding my breath for priests to suddenly start using handmade soft matzo. Or oval or rectangular or square or rhomboid or dodecahedronal hosts. :smiley:

I hope not. :slight_smile: Outside of at least some Middle Eastern Jewish communities, soft matzoh is somewhat of a rarity in itself. It’s actually very similar to an unleavened flatbread made by the bedouins.

Using soft unleavened bread for Mass presents its own problems. I recall many years ago a priest, consumed by post-conciliar zeal, tried this (using the bedouin-style bread) and it was kind of a mess, what with the ripping and tearing, etc.

I think it is a requirement, though it does not bind for validity. In 1970, the words “unleavened and baked in the traditional shape” were explicitly added to the GIRM for precisely this reason.

That’s a good point, but I wouldn’t read that sentence of the GIRM that way. It says, “It is therefore expedient that the eucharistic bread, even though unleavened and baked in the traditional shape, be made in such a way that the priest at Mass with a congregation is able in practice to break it into parts for distribution to at least some of the faithful.” (The Latin says, “Expedit ergo ut panis eucharisticus, quamvis azymus et forma tradita confectus . . . .”) I suppose one could read this as implying an expectation that the bread will be baked in the traditional shape, but surely not as creating a requirement. (Note that the requirement of being unleavened is specifically expressed in the previous paragraph of the GIRM, as well as in canon law, while the issue of shape is not mentioned elsewhere.)

Just remember everyone–the circular shaped host prevents flaking and crumbling. So, when consecrated, the chances of the eucharist breaking or crumbling diminishes, making it hard for the sacrament to be defiled.

Truebut when taken with the reply of the Congregation given i the same year as the alteration, it does seem like a requirement:

In the GIRM no. 283 what does eucharistic bread mean?

REPLY: The term means the same thing as the host hitherto in use, except that the bread is larger in size. The term eucharistic bread in line 2 is explained by the words of line 4: “The priest is able actually to break the host into parts.” Thus line 2 is about this eucharistic element as to its kind and line 4 as to its shape. Therefore, it was incorrect to interpret eucharistic bread in line 2 as a reference to its shape as though the term implies that bread in the shape designed for its everyday use may be substituted for the host in its traditional shape. The GIRM in no way intended to change the shape of the large and small hosts, but only to provide an option regarding size, thickness, and color in order that the host may really have the appearance of bread that is shared by many people: Not 6 (1970) 37, no. 24.

Well, perhaps you’re right. I would say, though:

  1. That’s a mighty oblique way to express a requirement. About the least straightforward phrasing I’ve ever seen with respect to a simple liturgical point, if it is indeed a requirement.

  2. The answer you quoted actually seems to presuppose that the requirement comes from somewhere else; all that’s being specified here is that it’s not changing. Does any such document exist that’s still in force? One ought to be able to find it, if it does.

  3. Is this really the last word on this issue? The question posed wasn’t even about shape; has Rome not seen fit to provide any further guidance or rulings?

Like I say, you could well be right. My general view is that Rome knows how to express requirements when it wants to do so (“The host must be ___”), and here it has apparently not elected to make any clear statement to that effect about shape. I’d be reluctant to read requirements into such vague language as this.

If I may, I’m going to pipe-up with another comment: I’m really not sure what all the pseudo-legalistic hubbub is about the shape.

Bread is, in general, round in one way or another. A baguette, e.g., may be long in length, but it’s round in width. Pita is round and flat. The bedouin bread I mentioned in an earlier post is round and thin, and so, too is Levantine matzoh. A boule is round, almost like a ball (from which it gets its name). Peasant loaves are somewhat elongated, but are roundish. Not to mention the oodles and oodles of others (including Chinese bao) that are round in one way or another. Among the few “square” (or “angular”) breads that come to mind are “English Loaf” and it’s well known American cousin, sometimes called “sandwich bread” (or “wonder bread” etc), (neither of which is widespread outside their home countries), and perhaps an Afghani-style nan bread (the name escapes me at the moment) that is shaped liked a plank. There are a few other “angular” loaves, but the bulk are round in one way or another.

Anyway, while there may not be a legal requirement for the round shape, one has to think that the traditional shape of bread itself would have some bearing.

We use a large host for the priest’s host at our masses. The priest then breaks it into many pieces [two or three dozen I think]. He consumes two and adds the others to the ciboria for the people. The broken pieces are deformed rectangles.

There have been a lot of oblique of answers and explanations provided to liturgical questions over the last few decades…

Because clear and definitive liturgical requirements are passe, and not well-received. Consider Redemptionis Sacramentum – a rather straight-forward, no-nonsense liturgical instruction – and its reception. One need look no further than this very forum, where people regularly post questions about the pouring of the Precious Blood, EMHC conduct, etc.

The traditional shape of Communion hosts in the Roman Rite.

As do the people who want to do things in a “new” and “exciting” way. (I’m not saying you are such a person, just that the reluctance to see Rome as requiring something specific for the liturgy is what enables the innovationists to do things their own way.)

I didn’t mean just this answer, I meant also the line in the GIRM section it is putatively explaining: “even though made in the traditional shape . . . .” Huh? If that’s how a requirement is expressed, that’s like the way people joke about how incredibly polite British or Japanese people phrase a request (“I don’t know if I possibly ought to trouble you, but if it wouldn’t be terribly much of an inconvenience . . . .”)

Because clear and definitive liturgical requirements are passe, and not well-received. Consider Redemptionis Sacramentum – a rather straight-forward, no-nonsense liturgical instruction – and its reception. One need look no further than this very forum, where people regularly post questions about the pouring of the Precious Blood, EMHC conduct, etc.

RS in fact proves the opposite point (mine) – that when Rome wants us to do something, it is perfectly comfortable saying, “You must do X.”

The traditional shape of Communion hosts in the Roman Rite.

Sure. So, is it mandatory? If so, on what basis?

As do the people who want to do things in a “new” and “exciting” way. (I’m not saying you are such a person, just that the reluctance to see Rome as requiring something specific for the liturgy is what enables the innovationists to do things their own way.)

I certainly don’t think I’m such a person! But that is precisely why I think it’s important to read documents for what they say, not for what one surmises they were trying to say, still less for what one thinks they ought to say. I’m completely willing to take Rome as requiring specific things. But that’s the very reason why I’m not immediately inclined to read “There shall be two candles” the same way I might read “Even with two candles . . . .”

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