The Ontology of Wafers

A few months ago, a Facebook friend posted a video on their timeline (featured right) which characterized Breyers Ice Cream as "crap". The author, who conducted a somewhat rudimentary experiment, not only asserted that the product was made with "modified milk products" but also that the substance failed to melt as ice cream should. Essentially, the author relied upon a rather simplistic methodology: he placed scoops of various ice cream brands in seperate bowls, left them stand at room temperature, and re-examined and compared their various states over extended periods of time. He ultimately concluded that the Breyers' brand, which had not melted even after being on the counter for 10 days, "smelled like rotting arse". Now I have no idea what rotting arse actually smells like as I've never had the desire, nor misfortune, of getting my schnoz close enough to give one a whiff. But should I ever be compelled to sniff rotting arse, I'll just leave some Breyers Ice Cream out on the counter for 10 days and accept his claim that its a reasonable facsimile.

Indeed, when I consult the company website and refer to the Nutritional Facts and Ingredients Declaration listed for the product, I discover the ingredients are: "Modified Milk Ingredients, Water, Sugar, Glucose, Maltodextrin, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Mono & Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Natural & Artificial Flavour, Guar Gum, Polysorbate 80, Colour (Contains Tartrazine), Carrageenan. May Contain Peanuts And / Or Other Nuts. Ingredients and Nutrition Facts are current as of 3/1/13. (Mercifully, there's no "rotting arse" in there.) I suppose the only thing in that list which frightens me more than maltodextrin, diglycerides and polysorbate 80 put together, is the caveat that the ingredient list is at least three years old. Knowing what's in the things we eat is, I'd argue, a good idea. And in most cases, the nutritional facts are generally easy to find. This, however, is not always the case....

Several months ago I attended a funeral. And, as is the custom in services of the Catholic faith, a communion accompanied the funeral service. (For those unfamiliar with the ritual, suffice it to say that it involves the consumption of consecrated bread and wine as a symbolic reception of the body and blood of Christ.) In this ceremonial context, long lines of parishioners make their way to the front of the church where each is served a small thin wafer following the exchange of the ritual's incantation. (Only casual observers may notice that the priest drinks all the wine by himself and only shares the bread with parishioners.)

The wafer oblation, also known as the Sacrament, communion, the host or the Eucharist, looks more like an ultra-thin piece of Styrofoam than it does a piece of bread. In fact, I'd argue that it even TASTES more like Styrofoam than it does a piece of bread. The logical question which follows, of course, is what are the ingredients in the Eucharistic wafers that are served at Catholic ceremonies? I've never seen a Nutritional Facts & Ingredients Declaration sheet posted anywhere on a parish wall. In fact, I've never even seen the packaging that the bland snacks even come in. Do they come in a box like cereal, a bag like cookies, a tube like Pringles potato chips or something else?

I'm unable to substantiate the ingredients in any definitive way. In other words, I doubt a search for the Acme Eucharistic Manufacturing Co. Ltd. or Bob's Holy Wafers would garner much success in determining the precise composition of Sacramental wafers. A quick Google search on the subject, however, does suggest that there are only four corporeal ingredients contained therein: fine (white) wheat flour, pure water, yeast and salt. And because I have made a concerted effort to exorcize salt from my diet, I refrain from eating salty Jesus wafers. He may be good for my soul, but he's not particularly sympathetic to my high blood pressure. It's my understanding that some parishioners with Celiac disease have similar health concerns, though their's with respect to wheat content. (Don't laugh, there is both a demand and provision for gluten-free Jesus wafers.)

Image of Eucharist Okay... so where is all this going? What, exactly, is the point of discussing Breyers Ice Cream in the same missive as the Eucharist? Well, I conducted a little experiment of my own. I placed a Eucharist in a bowl and left it standing at room temperature, re-examined it over time, and guess what happened? Its state did not change in any meaningful way! Real ice cream is supposed to melt. But real bread is supposed to grow mold. I left a Jesus-wafer in a bowl for several months (not a mere10 days) and it looks EXACTLY as it did the day it was served by the guy in the black robe.

I'd be loathe not to acknowledge a degree of theiscepticism on my part. As a consequence, I offer two competing hypothesis which may serve to address any concerns over the apparent flippancy otherwise contained herein:

    a) Bread that does not go moldy (like ice cream that does not melt) after being left out for several months cannot be a good thing and, as such, should not be consumed; or,
    b) the Eucharist is, indeed, the embodiment of Christ and as such is eternal. In other words, Jesus just doesn't get moldy so don't get too concerned if you're swallowing Him on a regular basis.

I leave it up to the individual to decide which explanation best meets their personal worldview and/or schema. As for me, it's lunchtime, so I'm going to make a sandwich....

Submitted by Vincent Pachinskie, 31 August 2016