chapter  4
7 Pages

Tastes of the Host

But what was worse was that the two substances that were indispensable for the holy sacrifice, the two substances without which no oblation was possible, had also been adulterated: the wine by repeated diluting and the illicit addition of Pernambuco bark, elder-berries, alcohol, alum, salicylate, and litharge; the bread, that bread of the Eucharist which should be made from the finest of wheats, with beanflour, potash and pipe-clay! And now they had gone even further; they had had the effrontery to leave out the wheat altogether, and most hosts were made by shameless dealers out of potato-flour! Now God refused to come down to earth in the form of potato-flour. That was an

undeniable, indisputable fact .... Because of the easy manipulation of this flour and the attractive appearance of the wafers made with it, this outrageous swindle had become so common that the mystery of transubstantiation scarcely existed any longer and both priests and faithful communicated, all unwittingly, with neutral species. (344-45; 216-17)

This passage from chapter XVI of A Rebours deals with Jean Des Esseintes's complaint about the falsification of sacramental elements. According to him it is important to avoid denaturalized ingredients and artificial materials in the manufacture of the host. If the altar bread is prepared with synthetic components, one risks creating a terrestrial body, a shell unworthy of transformation, at the time of the consecration, into celestial flesh; God will not descend. The host will stay empty, the spiritual and corporeal marriage will not take place and the infinite powers that should emanate from the sacrificial loaf will be absent. The consumption of neutral matter will not have any effect on the believer. Body and soul merge only under optimum, authentic circumstances. One needs "the finest of wheats," "a competent substance for the Blessed Sacrament" (345; 216) for God to show Himself to us at the moment of consecration.