Preparation of the Host





  There is nothing to indicate that the first Christians thought of reproducing the appearance of the "loaves of proposition" of the Jewish Liturgy; they simply used the bread that served as food. It seems that the form differed but little from what it is in our day.

Out of respect for the sacrament, some of the faithful would not consent to having the bread made by bakers, and took charge of it themselves. In the Rule of St. Pachomius, religious are recommended to devote themselves to meditation while kneading the sacrificial loaf. Many facts go to show the prevalence and extent of this custom. In monasteries hosts were made principally during the weeks preceding the feasts of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, and the process assumed a very solemn character.

Some prescriptions of the Oriental Churches are worthy of notice: among the Copts, Syrians, Jacobites, Melchites, Nestorians, and Armenians, the altar-breads must be baked on the very day of their consecration. In the Artotyrite faith, the altar-breads are prepared by priests, widows, the wives or daughters of priests, or the so-called calogerae. The Artotyrites, after kneading the flour with leaven, are accustomed to work in some of the leaven left from the preceding baking. They believe that this practice dates from the earliest Christian times and that it preserves the leaven brought to Syria by Saints Thomas and Thaddeus, for, according to tradition, the Apostles, prior to their separation celebrated the Liturgy in common and each carried away a portion of the bread then consecrated.

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