Wine, Liturgical Use of
WINE, LITURGICAL USE OF
Wine, the fermented juice of the grape, first appears as a drink in the early civilizations of the Near East, from which it spread to the Middle East and to the West. In Egypt and Mesopotamia beer was the more common fermented beverage, but in Palestine, Syria, Greece, and Italy wine was and remained supreme. Through its widespread use as a liquid exhibiting mysterious power as a source of strength and joy, as a medicine, and especially as an intoxicant, it acquired a central place in public and private religion, being used in solemn petitions to divinities, in thanksgivings, in expiation rites, and in offerings to the dead. Among the Greeks, especially at Athens, the worship of Dionysus, or Bacchus, the god of wine, was a very influential cult, and it became popular also in Italy. The vintage festivals connected with the harvesting of the grapes and the making of wine were religious in character, but, in keeping with the spirit of fertility rites, these festivals condoned or even encouraged drunkenness and sexual license.
The observation of the physical and mental effects produced by drunkenness suggested the metaphorical employment of intoxication as a symbol of spiritual contemplation or ecstasy. Hence, in Philo of Alexandria, in Plotinus, and in the Fathers of the Church, there is an
elaborate development of the oxymoron "sober intoxication" (sobria ebrietas ).
Wine is never referred to in the Jewish Scriptures as an independent sacrificial offering, but always as a libation accompanying the sacrifice of a lamb, a ram, or a bullock (Ex 29.40–41; Nm 15.7, 15.10). It was also poured out at the foot of the altar of holocausts (Sir 10.15). Officiating priests, however, had to abstain from wine and other fermented drinks (Lv 10.8–11), and nazirites were bound by a like prohibition during their period of consecration (Nm 6.1–21). The Rechabites abstained from wine permanently. In later Judaism, wine was drunk according to a prescribed ritual at the Passover meal. It reached its supreme religious significance at the Last Supper, when Jesus used bread and wine in the institution of the Eucharist.
In the Eucharist . At the Preparation of Gifts in the Roman Rite of the Mass, a small quantity of water is mixed with wine. Irenaeus (Adv. haer. 5.3) and Cyprian (Epist. 63) were among the first to see in this the union of Christians with God Ambrose (De sacr. 5.1, 4) saw in this the symbol also of the blood and water that flowed from Christ's side on Calvary. The shedding of Christ's blood for the remission of sins is recalled, moreover, in the words of the consecration of the wine. For an explanation of the custom of dropping a particle of the consecrated bread into the consecrated wine, see commingling.
Requirements. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that "the wine for the eucharist must be natural and pure, from the fruit of the vine," and "should not be mixed with any foreign substance." (n. 284). The wine may be either red or white. Altar wine is not valid material for Mass if a notable part (more than a third) has become vinegar, or if added substances make up a notable part of it; such wine would be corrupted or not natural. Altar wine which has begun to turn to vinegar or to which significant additions have been made is illicit; it may be used only in an emergency.
Bibliography: h. lewy, "Sobria Ebrietas: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Antiken Mystik," Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche, Beihefte 9 (1929). j. a. jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, tr. f. a. brunner (rev. ed. New York 1959); Public Worship, tr. c. howell (Collegeville, Minn. 1957). j. j. farraher and t. d. terry, "Altar Wine," American Ecclesiastical Review 146 (1962) 73–88.
[m. r. p. mcguire/
t. d. terry/eds.]