The History of the Allowing of the Blood of Christ in Communion?


Hello all!

I know in the very early Church the Eucharist was offered in both forms (the Body and the Blood) but at some point in time it was disallowed and only the priests could receive it.

Does anyone know of any books or websites that go into detail about why this occurred? I know that it was to prevent heresies and possible lack of respect for the forms, but can anyone cite any specific Councils or Popes that said this.

I’m looking for a very in-depth timeline of the distribution of the Blood of Christ, if anyone can provide that (and suitable sources) that would be amazing!

Thank you very much! :slight_smile:


Try googling Professor Paul Bradshaw. He is English but based in the University of Notre Dame. He has written some fascinating books on the hsitory and development of Eucharistic Prayers and theology, and looks at this issue from the perspective of both the Eastern and Western Churches.


I would also like to know when they started distributing Communion as a wafer instead of a loaf. God Bless, Memaw


Christian Initiation:

Baptism and Latin confirmation were separated due to insistence that the bishop must administer it. Pope Innocent I (d. 417) instituted the change to oil administered only by the bishop suggesting the Paraclete Spirit is given and only through the bishop.

Infants were excluded from Latin communion when bread only began to be used (1215 A.D., Fourth Lateran Council, transubstantiation defined). The people were afraid of spilling the blood of Christ and infants could not receive (eat) the body of Christ (bread).

West: emphasis on Christology.
East: emphasis on Spirit.

Exodus 30:22‑25 has the formula for the Holy Myron.

[FONT=Arial]According to Maxwell Johnson, just the Ethiopian retains the milk and honey for first communion. Coptic and Ethiopian also have imposition of hands at first communion.[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]Johnson also relates, regarding the Eastern Catholic Churches (of seven categories – Armenian, Byzantine, Coptic, Ethiopian, East Syrian, West Syrian, and Maronite) :[/FONT][FONT=Arial]At baptism, the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, East Syrian, and West Syrian, and Maronite use oil in some way.

Coptic, Ethiopian, and East Syrian still employ imposition of the hands at Chrismation.[/FONT]

  1. Aidan Kavanagh, Confirmation: Origins and Reform (New York: Pueblo, 1988).
  2. Gerard Austin, Anointing with the Spirit: The Rite of Confirmation (New York: Pueblo, 1985).
  3. The rites of Christian initiation: their evolution and interpretation by Maxwell E. Johnson, PhD [minister of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] (1999, revised in 2007) Note: Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., called it “the best overall treatment of Christian initiation available”.


An interesting book is: Ages of initiation: the first two Christian millennia, by Paul Turner, pp. 28-33 (chapter 8 is on the age of discretion 1215-1519).

Something significant happened in the Latin Church that changed their sacramental discipline: confession and communion was less frequent. So as a result annual confession and communion was legislated at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 A.D.). The age of discretion was the time at which annual communion was first required, but infant communion was not prohibited by the Council. In practice, first communion was delayed till ages 10-12 with confession preceeding it. Confirmation was promoted before communion, as early as at baptism, when the bishop was present, otherwise the bishops would tour the diocese and confirm those that were baptised, so some received it as adults. The Synod of Cologne (1280 A.D.) first urged confirmation at or after age 7. It *gradually *became expected to receive catechesis before first communion. Three of the earliest reasons (given in the book above, shown below) show that the change was gradual. Meanwhile, the eastern churches continued to follow the original tradition of infant communion.

The reasons given in the book for disappearence of infant communion:

  1. Since infants do not need communion for salvation, and the annual communion was only required by the Church (Lateran IV 1215) at or after the age of discretion, people began to wait.

  2. St. Thomas Aquinas (lived 1225-1274) expressed concern that the precious blood would be spilled.

  3. Pope Leo X (Pope: 1513-1521) prohibited infants from receiving, to resolve an issue in Bohemia.

Also, chapter 7 of the book states that during the period of 965 and 1215 were a time of relative prosperity and cultural revival in the west along with Pope Gregory VII’s (Pope: 1073-1085) declarations of central papal authority, allowed practical adjustment of the sacramental rites. In contrast, the Crusades during 1095 to 1270 were very hard on the east.



The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity are present in each species, so there was never a point in Church history were the Blood of Christ was never offered. In fact, it cannot be separated.

What you are referring to is the species of wine.

Both the bread and the wine are Consecrated into the same thing (actually Person), and differ only in how they appear to our senses.

So if you receive in only a single species, you receive BOTH the Body AND the Blood (with an added bonus of the Soul and Divinity at no additional charge :wink: :stuck_out_tongue: )

The Church withheld the species of wine from the Faithful to combat certain heresies, such as Ultraquism, which held that both species needed to be received by the Faithful.


I recommend reading the book, The Story of the Mass by Pierre Loret.


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