History of the Host





  The bread destined to receive Eucharistic Consecration is commonly called the host, and though this term may likewise be applied to the bread and wine of the Sacrifice, it is more especially reserved to the bread.

According to Ovid the word comes from
hostis, enemy, because the ancients offered their vanquished enemies as victims to the gods. However, it is possible that hostia is derived from hostire, to strike, as found in Pacuvius. In the West the term became general chiefly because of the use made of it in the Vulgate and the Liturgy. It was applied to Christ, the Immolated Victim, and, by way of anticipation, to the still unconsecrated bread destined to become Christ's Body. In the Middle Ages it was also known as "hoiste", "oiste", "oite".

In time the word acquired its actual special significance; by reason of its general liturgical use it no longer conveyed the original idea of victim. Many other names were given to the host, e.g. "
bucellae", "circuli", "coronae", "crustulae ferraceae", "denaria", "fermentum", "formatae", "formulae", etc. The Greeks call the host artos (bread), dora (gifts), meridia (particles), and prosphora (oblations).

(Excerpted from H. Leclercq, transcribed by Herman F. Holbrook, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company.)