An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Eucharistic Elements

Bread and wine that are consecrated in the eucharist. The bread recalls the work of human hands required to harvest the wheat and make the bread, and the companionship of sharing. The wine recalls festivity and celebration, along with sacrifice. These elements of the communal meal are offered by the congregation and blessed during the Great Thanksgiving. The bread and wine of the eucharist are commonly called “elements” or “species.” The elements are the outward and visible sign in the sacrament of the eucharist and the matter of the sacrament. The body and blood of Christ are understood to be really present in the eucharistic elements after consecration. They represent the inward and spiritual grace of Christ’s Body and Blood that is given to his people and received by faith (BCP, p. 859).

Following a widespread and ancient tradition, congregations of the Episcopal Church use bread made from wheat and wine made from grapes. Other sources of bread and wine may be more appropriate in other cultures. The bread may be leavened or unleavened. It may be in the form of wafers or a loaf that is broken for distribution. No particular kind or color of wine is required, although many prefer red wine as a symbol of sacrifice and Christ’s blood. It is an increasingly common practice to use loaf bread made by members of the congregation. Homemade or local wine may also be used. The BCP makes no provision for the replacement of bread and wine with other eucharistic elements. For example, unfermented grape juice is not used for the eucharist in the Episcopal Church. See Matter (Sacramental).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.