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Altar-bread

ALTAR-BREAD: The bread used in the Roman Catholic and Greek churches in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is made from pure wheaten flour, mixed with water, and baked, all conditions being regulated by strict law. The Council of Florence, to meet the contention of Michael Cærularius that the Latins did not possess the Eucharist because of their use of unfermented bread, defined that either kind may be validly employed. Nevertheless, it is unlawful today for a Latin priest to use fermented, or for a Greek priest, except in the Armenian and Maronite rites, to use unfermented bread. The practise of the Greeks has always been the same, but in the Western Church both fermented and unfermented bread were employed down to the ninth century. The altar-bread is also called a host, because of the victim whom the sacramental species are destined to conceal. In the Latin Church the host is circular in form, bearing an image of the crucifixion or the letters I. H. S., and is of two sizes; the larger is consumed by the celebrant or preserved for solemn exposition, and the smaller given to the people in communion. The name “particles” given to the smaller hosts recalls the fact that down to the eleventh century communion was distributed to the faithful by breaking off portions of a large bread consecrated by the celebrant. The large host of the Greeks is rectangular in shape, and the small host triangular. Great care is taken in the preparation of altar-breads, many synodal enactments providing that it shall be committed only to clerics or to women in religious communities.

John T. Creagh.

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