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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Wafer (2)

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in ecclesiastical terminology, is the bread used in the eucharist by the Romanists and Lutherans. In the ancient Church, so long as the people continued to make oblations of bread and wine, the elements for the use of the eucharist were taken out of them; and, consequently, so long was the common leavened bread in ordinary use employed for that purpose. The use of wafers and unleavened bread was not known in the Church until the 11th century. It has been conjectured that the change crept in from the people's leaving off their oblations, and the clergy being compelled to provide the bread themselves. Under pretence of decency and respect, they changed it from leaven to unleaven, and from a loaf that might be broken, to a nice and delicate wafer, which was formed in: the figure of a denarius, or penny, either to represent the pence for which our Savior was betrayed, or because the people, instead of offering a loaf of bread as formerly, were ordered to offer a penny, which was to be expended upon something pertaining to the sacrifice of the altar. This alteration in the eucharistical bread occasioned great disputes between the Eastern and Western churches, which separated about it; the Western Church going so far to the extreme as almost to lose the nature of the sacramental element by introducing a thing that could hardly be called bread, instead of that which our Lord had appointed to be the representative of his body in the eucharist. The wafer now in use in the Roman Church is a small thin portion of unleavened-bread, bearing upon it either the figure of Christ or the initials I. H. S. In the Church of England wafers have been used from the earliest times of Christianity, and are still not uncommonly used; but the rubric of the present Prayer-book maintains that the best and purest wheaten bread that may be conveniently obtained will suffice.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Wafer (2)'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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