My Parents’ former Presbyterian Pastor converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. They use Leavened Bread, symbolizing Christ’s rising from the dead.
Catholic Christians, however use unleavened bread for a couple of reasons. One, because Jesus used unleavened bread when he instituted the Eucharist. Second, because Jesus referenced the pride of the Jewish leaders as being puffed-up like leavened bread (Matthew 16:6, Luke 12:1, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Jesus humbles Himself in the Eucharist. He does not come as someone who is puffed-up, though He deserves the greatest of reverence and devotion.
Though both are beautiful in their symbolism, the Eucharist is not merely symbolic, but is truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, our Savior! This gift is true food and true drink (John 6:55).
Just as it is better for a baby to have his mother’s milk than it is to have something that symbolizes his mother’s milk for physical nourishment, it too is better for us to receive the real gift than something that is merely symbolic for spiritual nourishment.
Keeping with this theme of a baby, some Protestants (#notAll) will mock ancient Christians for believing in the Eucharist, but these same individuals might say (as we do) that this baby born in the manger is God, though this greatest gift to many looks like a baby.
In all the different types of religious services that I’ve been to, I’ve ever only came across leavened bread for a Communion service once. Let’s just say I was glad that it was not consecrated by an actual priest because there were crumbs everywhere! People received “communion” by walking up to the bread which was located on a stand and ripping a piece off of the loaf and putting it their mouth. This was done at an “Emmaus Walk” retreat held at a Methodist church.
The Eastern Orthodox, though they use leavened bread for the Eucharist, they administer it differently than you describe in the Protestant’s merely symbolic “communion”.
From what I understand, the leavened bread and wine are mixed in the Chalice and a spoon (Κοχλιάριον in Greek) is used to drop the Body and Blood of Christ into the communicant’s mouth without ever coming into contact with the spoon, while in other Orthodox Churches, one might receive from the spoon with one’s mouth.
Are there any Eastern Rite Catholics in the forum? I wonder if they use leavened or unleavened bread, as they are Catholic, but from the Eastern tradition. It would be interesting which is used in this case.
Thank you for sharing the symbolism of leavened bread representing Christ having been raised from the dead. It had long struck me as odd that the Greek liturgy would favour leavened bread, but now it is more clear.
I have never participated in a Ukrainian Catholic Divine Liturgy, but it is my understanding that it is the norm for them to use leavened bread and the spoon.
What I would really be interested in differences between various Eastern liturgies. Perhaps there is even variety within particular rites.
In my limited experience with the Maronite liturgy, unleavened bread is used. Communion was given by intinction.
In my even more limited experience with the Syro-Malabar liturgy, unleavened bread was used (if I remember correctly). However, I do not remember what was done with the chalice.
(P.S. Lest I cause confusion, I should note that I am a Western priest.)
I am a Western Rite Catholic. We use unleavened bread like Jesus did ; )
My Parents were Presbyterian and they use leavened bread and grape juice, but they viewed communion as merely symbolic. Fr. Edward, my Catholic Priest, used to joke that Pastor Bob (my Parents’ Pastor) was more Catholic than he was. It wasn’t long after that Pastor Bob converted to Orthodoxy and moved to another State, which is about the time my Parents left the Presbyterian Church and began attending a non-Denominational Church.
My Parents have stayed in touch with Pastor Bob and visited him a couple times (as my step-Dad and he became pretty good friends). They attended his Orthodox Church once and they said the Liturgy lasted about 2 1/2 to 3 hours long. So if your Church Family ever complains about you going five minutes over, they really do need to check themselves : )
My Wife’s Family on her Dad’s side are Lutheran and depending on the Congregation, some use leavened and some use unleavened.
I’m currently reading the writings of the Early Church Councils this Lent and I’m betting this will come up.