Could Holy Communion trip up brothers and sisters in Christ?

A question came in for Elizabeth who did a brave blog interview about her alcohol addiction and recovery. The question was centered around Communion being served in churches and how this could effect one recovering from an alcohol addiction when the grape juice isn’t grape juice but instead is the real deal wine. Would this be hard for one who is in the middle of recovery? Her response was really interesting.

(This blog post is about serving wine for communion in light of the recovering alcoholic. It is not about denominations so please keep that in mind with any potential feedback. Elizabeth herself humbly admits to being a learner in her understanding of some of these things. Feel free to chime in gracefully.)

This is a great question!  I’ve only gone to “grape juice” churches so this is something I honestly haven’t thought about before.  After rolling it around in my head throughout the day I did some quick research on Catholic mass and the use of wine.  Man do they have a LOT of rules surrounding communion.  Didn’t Christ come to free us from the law?  From these rules and legalities that the pharisees held in such high regard.  Jesus shows us time and time again that people are what mattered, not the law.  From what I gathered there is a “legal” type of grape juice that has been fermented at the very minimum length of time allowed by the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Churchso.  The argument I read was that the alcohol content was so low that it was safe to drink even by someone with an alcohol addiction.

For me, just tasting wine would be a trigger.  So, I’m trying to be careful here because I really know very little about Catholicism, but it looks like their hands are tied as far as offering an alternative to wine. From what I can tell, the episcopal church changed their rules surrounding the Eucharist a few years ago and now allow a non-fermented grape juice option (due to a bishop who was under the influence and hit and killed a bicyclist, it brought to light the wine culture in the Episcopal Church and some changes were made.)  It seems as though Lutherans are also more lenient about using grape juice as an option.  Methodist and Baptists tend to only use grape juice.  Catholics believe that the wine and bread actually becomes Jesus’s blood and body, therefor their rules are stricter I suppose. They believe that the “consequence of changing the elements is that it has the potential to introduce doubt concerning whether the Sacrament is valid and capable of delivering the blessing God has promised.”  One the other hand, Baptists, for example, believe that it’s just symbolic of His blood and body.

The church I attend has grape juice and even a gluten-free option for the bread.  It’s all symbolic anyways, right?  If I regularly attended a church other than Catholic (who again, seem to have their hands tied on this matter), I would absolutely mention to the pastor that they needed a non-wine option for communion.  If they didn’t offer that option, I would just never partake of the Lord’s Supper and that would bother me.  So, that was probably more than you wanted to know, but I found it interesting to research all the different opinions of some major denominations on this!

Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your heart on this matter! 

If you have other questions for Elizabeth feel free to shoot me a message or contact her directly.