Recently, my doctor told me to go on a gluten free diet. No gluten. No wheat. Although it needs to be confirmed, my blood work shows I may have Celiac Disease. So, I have been following doctor’s orders, and experimenting with gluten free products.
Some products are better than others. One thing I have noticed is that my gluten free breads, cookies and pancakes don’t hold together very well. They seem to crumble or separate rather easily. The gluten in wheat apparently has a cohesive quality to it that other grains lack.
When faced with the “go gluten free” order from the doctor, I began to wonder what I should do about Holy Communion. Although I had heard some vague mentioning of this issue, I never really paid much attention to it. Now I have to, so I did a little research. I discovered this article: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/why-wheat-bread
Previously, I had no idea how scripturally important it is to use wheat for the Eucharist. Two points really struck me. First, the sacramental substance really is important (like using only water for baptism and not milk or orange juice, for instance). Secondly, the cohesive quality of wheat has so many spiritual and symbolic applications that never occurred to me until I read this article. No other grain can fulfill the role. Suddenly, I saw the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life in a whole new light. When I hold a hamburger on crumbling, gluten free bread or watch the bottoms fall out of my gluten free pancakes and cookies, it reminds me of how important it is for all Christians to partake of the authentic, Holy Eucharist in unity. We are not supposed to be divided into competing, crumbling denominations with our own versions of the Lord’s Supper. We are supposed to worship in one accord with the Holy Eucharist holding us all together.
Thank God for the bishops that insist that Catholics must keep at least some gluten in our communion bread. I love the authenticity of Catholicism and the Church’s steadfastness. I’m not offended one bit that the Church’s suggestion to me is, “Receive Christ from just the cup, because both the bread and the wine are transubstantiated to become the whole Christ.” Nor does it upset me in the least that completely gluten free wafers are not offered. I would have it no other way. I want the Church to remain authentic in every aspect.
Incidentally, those who ask, “Doesn’t the gluten disappear when the bread is changed into Christ?” are misunderstanding what transubstantiation is about.
Maybe I have Celiac Disease, or maybe I just have gluten sensitivity. In any case, this experience has opened my eyes to yet another grain of truth in Catholicism. The more I learn about it, the more I appreciate it.