Ancient Use of Unleavened Bread

Originally posted 12/11/2009.

Update 1/3/2018: This entry needs to be updated with data from Dom Marie-Jean Parisot, O.S.B., “Azymes,” Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vol. 1 (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1909), 2653-2664 [pages 581-586 of the PDF] and Dom Fernard Cabrol, O.S.B., “Azymes,” Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, vol. 1, issue 2, 3254-3260. Stay tuned.


Catholic use of unleavened bread is an 11th-century Judaizing innovation

The Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the legitimacy of unleavened bread,{1} but the Catholic Church does not attack the legitimacy of leavened bread. Latin Catholics follow the institution of our Lord, Who did not transgress the Law [Mt 5:17] and thus used unleavened bread at the Last Supper [Mt 26:17; Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7]. Archbishop St. John Chrysostom the Great says that Christ celebrated the Last Supper with unleavened bread [PG 58:754]. Such use is fitting because it conforms to the sincerity of the faithful [1 Cor 5:7] and the fact that the body of Christ was not conceived with any corruption. There are plenty of witnesses to the use of unleavened bread well before the schism of Patriarch Michael I Cerularios of Constantinople. They include Alcuin of York [PL 100:289], Bl. Archbishop Rabanus Maurus of Mainz in the early 800s [PL 107:318,324], and Origen of Alexandria [PG 13:988CD989ABC]. Several more are included in Cardinal Hergenröther’s magnum opus on Photios, vol. 3, p. 787. Moreover, in the first century Philo the Jew testifies that Christians in Alexandria used unleavened bread in the Liturgy [On the Contemplative Life p. 19 sec. X]. Other possible witnesses include Archbishop St. Gregory I the Theologian of Constantinople [PG 35:397A] and Pope St. Leo I the Great of Rome [Sermon 63:7].

Notes & References
{1} Two Epistles of Patriarch Michael I Cerularios of Constantinople to Patriarch Peter III of Antioch; Encyclical of Metropolitan Mark Eugenikos of Ephesus (1440); Council of Constantinople with Patriarchs Jeremiah II Tranos of Constantinople, Silvester of Alexandria, and Sophronios IV of Jerusalem (1583); Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs Anthimos VI of Constantinople, Hierotheos II of Alexandria, Methodios of Antioch, and Cyril II of Jerusalem to Pope Pius IX of Rome (1848); Encyclical of Patriarch Anthimos VII of Constantinople to Pope Leo XIII of Rome (1895).

One Response to Ancient Use of Unleavened Bread

  1. […] the Lord’s death till He come’ (1 Cor 11:26); instead of leavened bread in the liturgy, they use wafers.” *Joseph of Maramures (April 24): (1) “This was a period of great trials and […]

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