How did the mass become BYOB?Wine possesses a multi-layered significance that brings Christians into communion with Christ but also with one another, with our Jewish heritage, and with cultures preceding our own. It serves as a flavor-enhancing, pleasure-giving element of the messianic banquet. Receiving it in faith, we are "enthused" filled with the divine reality that is the source of all life. In a sacramental sense we know it as the Blood of the Lord. But how did wine get involved with religion in the first place?
Historical research into the consumption of wine and other alcoholic beverages
Because grapes ferment ferment /fer·ment/ (fer-ment´) to undergo fermentation; used for the decomposition of carbohydrates.
1. on the vine if invaded by a particular bacteria, the pleasurable effects of alcohol consumption were probably discovered by accident. As a cultivated crop, the fruit of the vine became an important part of daily life and religious ritual. It had medicinal purposes and was a safe alternative to unsanitary un·san·i·tar·y
Not sanitary. water.
The religious rituals of ancient Greeks and Romans included many uses for wine. It was offered as a libation li·ba·tion
a. The pouring of a liquid offering as a religious ritual.
b. The liquid so poured.
a. A beverage, especially an intoxicating beverage.
b. to the gods, often in honor of the dead. The Greeks understood wine consumption as an actual imbibing of the god of wine; the sense of inebriation inebriation /in·e·bri·a·tion/ (in-e?bre-a´shun) drunkenness; intoxication with, or as if with, alcohol.
The condition of being intoxicated, as with alcohol. demonstrated the deity's control over them. Wine spilled accidentally was considered by the Romans to belong to the gods and had to be handled in a ritual manner.
A thriving wine trade existed in Palestine and Egypt by 2,500 B.C., and the Egyptians considered certain wines necessary for a satisfying afterlife. The Hebrews understood wine to be a divine gift for the purposes of bringing joy to the heart (Ps. 104:15), an obvious reference to the effects of fermentation. Many Jewish prayers are offered with a glass of wine held aloft, a simple gesture incorporated into the Eucharist.
Although drunkenness is condemned in the Bible, there is no outright rejection of alcohol. As with all of God's creation, the problem is not with the Giver but with misuse of the gift. The enjoyment of wine has traditionally been understood as a legitimate experience of a blessed life, overindulgence o·ver·in·dulge
v. o·ver·in·dulged, o·ver·in·dulg·ing, o·ver·in·dulg·es
1. To indulge (a desire, craving, or habit) to excess: overindulging a fondness for chocolate. being frowned upon because of the impropriety that can be its byproduct by·prod·uct or by-prod·uct
1. Something produced in the making of something else.
2. A secondary result; a side effect.
Noun 1. . Perhaps this is why cultures around the Mediterranean have long diluted their wine with water, a practice common in Palestine in Jesus' time. It continues to be part of the Eucharist today, where it symbolizes the ancient Christian hope of deification: "Through the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."
By JOHN SWITZER, who teaches theology at Spring Hill College For the former Mansfield College (University of Oxford), see .
Spring Hill College is a private, co-educational Roman Catholic Jesuit college in the United States. It was founded in 1830 on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama, by Most Rev. in Mobile, Alabama.
By ALICE CAMILLE, author of Invitation to Catholicism (ACTA Publications) and a forthcoming Bible book for children.