One of Christianity’s most important symbols is wine, ever since the oldest religions gathered. Jesus himself declares at the Last supper how God should be worshipped and how the Communion should be held. Mark’s Gospel is the first of the gospels, in which one of the most well-known chapters describes the Last Supper as such:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
But how is it even possible that bread and wine contain God? Christian teachings differ in many ways from one another: roman catholics attribute the phenomenon with transubstantiation, meaning that a priest transforms the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ, respectively. The ancient latin liturgy “Hoc est corpus meum” – this is my body – is supposedly the origin of the popularized expression “hocus-pocus”. Similar to this is the representation of magic wands in children’s tales or cartoons, or the ringing, bell-like jingle associated with them. This transformatory reasoning is shrouded in mystery among the catholic rites, although it’s one of the things that defines it and separates them from other religious denominations.
The protestant communities claim a slightly different viewpoint – there are even two different understandings. According to a puritan approach the communion is merely a memorial supper. The other, dominant approach claims that during the communion’s reception God is somehow present in the communion itself. The Lutheran Church believes this as well, although Martin Luther described this in an unusual way. There are other differences as well, since the Calvinist communities hold the communion with bread, while the Lutherans and Catholics hold it with wafers.
Moving on to wine, there are several communities and congregations that stick to red wine mostly because of its color, but in Hungary – and therefore Tokaj – many communities hold the event using Tokaj wine. Religious practice shows that Tokaj wine tastes really well even if drunk from one of those old, metal chalices. It’s important that one focuses on their spiritual connection during the communion, so drinking bad wine can distract the disciples from concentrating on achieving this connection, however irrelevant this little detail might be. It’s difficult to find something more annoying than being brought a sour wine during such a communion and seeing the faces of the people contort in various ways of discomfort instead of experiencing the community’s most bonding moments. After all, this is what a communion is all about: to achieve the most complete earthly connection with Christ.
Martin Luther describes wine and other drinks: “Wine is a commendable thing, mentioned in the Bible, while beer is made by men.” He also says: “He who likes not women, wine or song remains a fool his whole life long.” Perhaps one of his most well-known quotes is: “Wine is strong, the king stronger, the wife even stronger, but truth is the strongest!” Besides his wife pioneering a brewery, Luther highly appreciated wine. In around 1540 he owned roughly 600 grapevines. However, this could never have been enough for his entire household, which consisted of around 60 people. It was for this reason that his friends, supporters and even the monarch of Wittenberg often gifted him wine. It is known that his preachings were also frequently paid in wine.
It’s quite difficult to search for the frequency of expressions in the electronic versions of the Holy Texts. Most Hungarian editions cannot separate full words from syllables, making it extremely hard to say how often ‘wine’ or ‘grape’ appears in the Bible. It’s still known that at least two hundered different mentions include grape, as the fruit of the plant, and this doesn’t include grapevines or grapebranches.The number of mentions of ‘wine’ are also somewhere around two hundred.
According to the Old Testament it was Noah who first planted grapes and produced wine, and it was he who was inebriated the first. Due to the intoxicating influence of wine it’s usually placed into negative context, such as bad consequences or other unfortunate events. Grape, however, is one of the most noteworthy plants in the Bible, sharing the top of the list with wheat and figs. All the way from the Promised Land, Canaan to the Kingdom of God, it is regarded as a valuable and praiseworthy fruit.
In the New Testament, Jesus compares the Father to a grapegrower in his own parables. In other places he represents himself as a grapevine, while his teachings are the branches of the grapes. This proves further just how privileged grape and wine is in both Jewish and Christian teachings. Paul the Apostle writes to his student, Timothy in one of his letters: "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.” But first, he clearly warns: “Keep yourself pure!”. According to these, even the very strict Paul sometimes recommended a little wine in order to lead a healthy and pure life.
And let’s not forget: the first miracle performed by Jesus according to the Gospel of John was when the wine ran out during a local feast in Cana. Jesus proceeded to turn six stone buckets of water into wine in order to refill the supplies. In case of avoiding the blame on Christ and not to accuse him of “splashing around”, the following exchange is said between the groom and the best man: “Everyone brings out the choice wine first, and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink"
translated by Áron Várhelyi