Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Wine that Goes with the Host...

While growing up my home congregation used good old King Solomon Kosher Sacramental Wine -- a rich, sweet, dark red wine.  It was and remains the alcoholic equivalent of Welch's grape juice.  (Couldn't find a photo, Manischewitz will have to do.)

In my first parish we used something similar but a tad less sweet -- just as deep, dark red.  We switched to an amber wine, a muscatel that was neither sweet nor dry.  At first I heard complaints that it did not look like blood.  I reminded them that only those who believed it was a sign which should look like what was being signed cared about this and that for Lutherans it was the Word with the element that gave us the confidence that this wine was Christ's holy and precious blood.  The altar guild loved the change.  A cranky old German in the congregation told me nobody cared what the altar guild thought, that it was just a bunch of women anyhow, and to go back to the previous wine.  We did not.  Not a few folks admitted that early on Sunday morning the previous sweet wine was a smell almost too much to take and they, too, appreciated this switch.

In my second and current parish, I found them using concord grape wine that was both sweet and deep red.  After a time we switched to another amber wine, much less sweet but certainly not dry, from the same vintner and also from a concord grape (albeit white).  It is not my favorite flavor but it is serviceable.  Again I found a few who thought the wine should look like the color of blood but again I explained to them that this was a Reformed idea and not a Lutheran one -- it matters not what the wine looks like (though it does matter if it is grape or not).  Our confidence that this cup is the cup of blessing and our participation in the blood of Christ comes from the Word with the element.

What wine does your parish use?  Is it red, sweet, white, dry, amber, semi-sweet?  Are you satisfied?  What would you use if you could change (price, availability, etc. all being equal)? 


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Good old Mana. . . however it is spelled. However, down in New Mexico my dad used wine from the local town winery. I've got a winery here in Lahoma, but he does mainly fruit (excellent fruit wines), so that doesn't work.

Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr. said...

A lot of the congregations down here in southern Louisiana use Mogen David Concord Grape.

I remember that, during my time as Bronxville's sacristan, we had to use a white, "lest someone think they're actually being given blood".

Bishop Robert Lyons said...

I have used several different wines, including Manischewitz and Mogen David.

These days, my preference is to do business with a local winery, and then to vary things. Mostly I buy from Oliver Winery in Bloomington, Indiana or from one of wineries in Traverse City, Michigan (where my wife's side of the family owns a vacation cottage).

From Oliver I get either their Red or White table wines (white is kinder on the linens), and from Grand Traverse and St. Julian (Michigan wineries) I trend towards their white wines.

When I entered the ministry, I did use St. Paul altar wine from Mt. LaSalle Altar Wines of California. I will also admit to having used Mustum from the same firm. Mustum is fresh squeezed grape juice with the natural alcohol content present within it. It is frozen after a few days of fermenting to retard the natural fermentation process, which begins afresh when the bottle is opened. It has an alcohol content of about .5% when delivered.


Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

We've used both Manischewitz and Mogen David.

I think there's another aspect to the color of the wine, though, besides the Reformed angle. I've visited congregations that use white wine because it leaves fewer stains when spilled. I dislike that practice, not because the essence of the Sacrament is gone, but because it avoids the obvious visual aid that red wine affords, and why? Because we can? Because it doesn't stain as much? That visual aid is used throughout Scripture, making the obvious connection between (red) wine and blood (e.g., Isaiah 63:1-3). Since the Sacrament is the "visible word," I see a pastoral benefit in using a form that more readily calls to mind what one is actually receiving in the Sacrament. One doesn't have to be a Representationist to prefer red wine.

Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman said...

My parish uses Manischewitz Cream White Concord purchased in a big bottle. Don't know how long it has been that way here. Probably a matter of cost was involved, though the move to white was deliberate: both to avoid the representational issue [lots of "Grape Juice Lutherans" in South Central PA; Schmucker country] and staining.

Personally, I think that a Riesling or Gewurztraminer would be good. Germanic in origin; white in color: sounds like a Lutheran choice! Cost really shouldn't be a big factor, considering that we are using it for the greatest of meals on earth. [In my small parish, we wouldn't need a whole lot each week, anyway.]

And having relatives in Traverse City, MI, I fully endorse Fr. Lyon's use of their local product. Good white wines are available from the wineries in Grand Traverse County.

Matthew said...

To be honest, I have no idea what kind of wine my current congregation uses (it is sweet but no overwhelmingly so - it is a dark red). I've been here less than a year and I simply haven't had the chance or the inclination to look in to it. It's wine and not grape juice... enough said. My last congregation used a homemade wine donated by a congregation member: a blackberry merlot that was somehow (mysteriously, when one considers the blackberries) not all that sweet. I think a higher quality fine-tasting wine is a much higher consideration than color or dry/sweet-ness. There's no reason to settle for the cheap stuff... only the best to serve as the visible element for the blood of Christ Jesus our Savior.

Pastor Peters said...

If the appearance of the sign were so important, perhaps we might impress upon the host the imprint of veins just to make sure that it is not mistaken as just bread... ;-)

I do recall reading somewhere, perhaps on the back of the Ashby Lutheran liturgical kalendar that Lutherans did prefer white wine to distinguish themselves from Reformed which insisted upon red wine... Piepkorn I think was the source of this quote...

Jonathan said...

O man, O man, O Manischewitz! We use the white variety. Red Welsch's grape for those who must abstain.

Anonymous said...

My congregation was using a white port when I arrived and I've not sought to make a change. The primary criteria upon which I would insist is that it be grape wine, "the fruit of the vine," as Jesus used when he instituted the meal. (We use wafers from Cavanagh Company, a non-leavened wheat bread.)

To use anything other than these elements can foster doubt rather than faith. Some people might well question, "Do we really have the Supper if we use other elements?" Using grape wine and unleavened wheat bread there is no room for doubt. We "do this" as he instructed and we most assuredly receive what he has so graciously promised.

Pr. John Rutz

+ Robert Wurst said...

MD Concord.

It is really silly for us to do so. We live in Leelanau county, Michigan. Vineyards, very good ones, surround us. One time, we used a local wine and got a TON of complaints.

The reason? Not as syrupy sweet as the MD. Good grief.

MD is much cheaper too. :P

X said...

The more it tastes like Welch's and the less tannins the better. (I don't enjoy wine) White grape is fine by me.

Dennis Voss said...

We used Mogan David for most of eleven years at both of my parishes. Then with the advent of H1N1, I talked them into switching to an American Port, 18% rather than the 11%. One church went through their bottle and has switched back, at least for now, because they had just bought a new bottle of MD.

I use Muscatel for shut-in visits, and have not really had any complaints. They are just pleased to receive the sacrament.

Interesting, I tried to get my one congregation to switch to white, but because the lighting is so poor in the sacristy, they said they wouldn't be able to see how full they were getting the individual cups (yes, I know some of you will be horrified).

Rev Peters you said, you use a different white now rather than Muscatel, what to you use? Is it just a white port?

Lee said...

The red Mogan David is what we use, which we seem to get at a "bargain" in bulk from the local store. (I know, I cringe at that "bargain" language, too).

I have another question, however: What do your various congregations do with any extra bread or wine? This always seems awkward.

+ Robert Wurst said...

Dear Pastor Rat (I just had to write it!) :)

We don't have remaining bread and wine. We have the reliquae - the Body and Blood of Christ.

I consume the Blood at the Altar after all have communed. If there are a few Hosts I also consume them. If there is more than I can handle, I reserve them in the Ciborium until the next celebration (the next Sunday). I don't mix consecrated and unconsecrated elements at all.

I am pretty careful with how much I set on the Altar. I count the hosts and measure the wine for the number I expect. As 8 years here, I pretty much know who is coming or not. Once in a while, I have to consecrate some additional though it's rare.

Bishop Robert Lyons said...

So, to put out a burning theological question... is port 'valid matter' for the celebration of the Supper?

I ask because many jurisdictions forbid the use of wines like Fre', which has been de-alcoholized through an artificial process, saying that the substance used no longer meets the criteria of being wine. (Rome uses this argument against de-alcoholized wines and in favor of Mustim for alcoholic priests).

On the flip side, every port I am aware of is a fortified wine, meaning that distilled spirits have been added to the wine. One might argue that such a practice is, likewise, arbitrarily changing the element and that it would invalidate the Sacrament.

The discussion about port reminds me, though, of an instance about 10 summers ago when I served on a Sunday in a supply capacity in a parish in Coschocton, Ohio. Being the 4th of July weekend, they had a bare crowd - about 19 in the pews, plus an organist and a server.

At the Offertory, the server, a former USAF officer, brought the cruets to the edge of the Altar and I held out the chalice. He began to pour the wine. The chalice was quite sizeable... and the guy kept pouring and pouring and pouring. I quietly (no mics) told him to stop, and he shook his head and emptied the entire cruet. He proceeded to drop in three individual drips of water, and I must confess I nearly tipped the thing over then and there. I figured, however, that he knew what he was doing. I proceeded to consecrate what was there and then, at the distribution, after drinking enough of the Precious Blood to ensure that the server wouldn't trip and spill it, I proceeded to the Altar Rail. The congregants took the Sacred Body, said their Amen, and then waited for the server to come by. One by one, he intincted their hosts and placed them on their tongues, and then returned a nearly full chalice to the Altar.

He started to walk away and I motioned for him to come back up. I made him drink the reliquae, as just the smell of port nauseates me (I don't care for wine to start with, but port just makes me cringe), and because I had a five hour drive back home to officiate at the evening service in my own parish in Anderson, Indiana, and I sure wasn't going to get pulled over by the Highway Patrol for being 'under the influence' of Jesus!!!

Needless to say, I have never since permitted a bottle of port in my home, in my Church, or anywhere else I have had the authority to bar it from!!!


Anonymous said...

Fr. Lyons,

Regarding port, as I understand it it is "fruit of the vine." The "spirit" with which it is fortified is a grape product as well.

The simplest explanation I could find was at Wikipedia: "Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region [of Portugal]. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as Aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. The fortification spirit is sometimes referred to as Brandy but it bears little resemblance to commercial Brandies."

I'd be interested to hear whether any judicatories oppose port and on what basis.

Pr. John Rutz

Loneviking said...

Mogen David, concord grape is what is used in my parish. Two pastors ago we did use both this and a Muscatel, but now it's just the MD.