Jesus frequently ate with his disciples and the crowds, breaking bread and sharing it with those around him.
At the last supper Jesus “took bread, gave thanks
and broke it and gave it to them …” (Luke 20:19). Similarly, the first church met together to break bread and remember the Lord’s death, resurrection and coming. Breaking bread together meant sharing a meal together. The Lord’s Supper in the early church was a more substantial meal than
we are used to in our fairly ritualised setting. Nevertheless, these occasions have the same sense of sharing together to remember what Jesus had done for use.
The bread used then was probably a flat bread baked either in Roman ovens similar to today’s pizza ovens or in the tannur ovens common for millennia throughout the
Middle East and right into India (but rare in Palestine in the last 1,000 years).
The Eastern Orthodox Church has generally used leavened bread to emphasize the daily bread. Because its language is Greek, it also understood the Greek term “artos” used in the New Testament in its ordinary meaning as everyday, leavened bread.
The Western, Latin Church has generally used unleavened bread to commemorate the association between the Eucharist and the Passover. For convenience sake (and possibly due to some external influences) this developed into the use of wafers, with special wafers reserved for priests.
Reformation churches, including the Anglican Church, reverted to using everyday bread. The Anglo-Catholic movement of the 19th century saw the re-introduction of wafers, which also provided some practical advantages.
I believe that the symbolism of sharing one (or a few) larger bread(s) is significant. After all, the liturgy says: “We who are many are one body, for we all share the one bread.” Breaking bread means coming together and sharing bread together.
As a trial until Easter, I intend to use unleavened flat bread(s) for Communion from next Sunday onwards. This bread also has no raising agents. Gluten-free individual wafers will also be available. Whenever we come together, but especially when we celebrate the Eucharist, let us remember that we are one in Christ.