Ask a Priest

Why bread and wine?

Apr 15, 2015

Why did Christ chose bread and wine in particular to give Himself to us in the Eucharist? Is there anything special about these two items?

Asked at 12:19 am on April 15th 2015

Dear Sammy,

Jesus uses bread and wine because they were significant in the Jewish Passover meal. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Eucharist was prefigured in the Old Covenant where bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth in thanksgiving to the Creator. Bread and wine were also very significant in the celebration of the annual Passover meal which the Jews celebrated with unleavened bread in remembrance of their liberation from Egypt. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of the “cup of blessing” (1Cor.10:16), which would be at the end of the Passover meal. So when Jesus uses bread and wine as he institutes the Eucharist he gives these elements “a new and definitive meaning” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1334).

This quote from the Catechism gives further explanation:

“The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces Jesus’ Hour of glorification. It makes manifest the fulfilment of the wedding feast in the Fathers’ kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1335).

Answered by Fr Simon Kitimbo

Replied at 01:47 am on April 27th 2015

Very informative reply, thanks Fr Simon.

Replied at 12:10 am on May 12th 2015

Dear Sammy

All that Fr Simon said, plus this:

Bread and wine are things that require nature (wheat, water, grapes, yeast), the work of human hands and time. They are not quick to produce. You have to wait for the dough to rise, you have to wait for the grapes to ferment. To produce bread and wine of fine quality equires skill and experience.

They are a mix of nature and work, of the divine gift and the human response.

It is the human work that goes into these two items that makes them more suitable for offering in sacrifice than fruit and vegetables or sheep and cattle.

They are also the two items that raise a meal from ordinary to special. Only when special guests come do we bother with dinner rolls (or herb bread) and uncorking a bottle of wine.

Replied at 01:05 pm on May 13th 2015

I agree with the spirit of this response. However, it would probably be advisable to exclude ‘yeast’ from the example, because at the original Passover there was no time to use yeast and allow the dough to rise. This is why passover is celebrated with unleavened bread, and it is also why the communion wafer is never made with yeast.

Replied at 09:45 pm on May 15th 2015