Monday, May 3, 2010

The Wafer Wars

Opening hostilities in the Wafer Wars commenced when a renegade monk by the name of Sensibilius published a commentary on the Gospel of John in which he suggested that the words, “I am the true bread,” should be interpreted figuratively rather than literally.

His book was immediately placed on the index, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was promptly burnt at the stake.

That seemed to put an end to the matter, but his contraband commentary became the subject of learned disputations, and this—in turn—merely raised more meddlesome questions.

If the Son was a loaf of bread, then who was the Baker, and when did he come out of the oven?

After much agitation, the Council of Holy Dough solemnly decreed the dogma of the eternal fermentation of the Son.

However, the Western Church took it upon herself to amend the decree. The amended text of the Council now decreed the double fermentation of the Son.

This led to a schism between the One True Church of the West and the other One True Church of the East.

In the East, the Patriarch of Constantinople soon has his own crisis to deal with. For centuries, Eastern liturgy specified that the sacred baker add the salt after the flour, but before the water.

This was in accordance with The Booke of Julia Chylde, in the Slavonic version. Unless the ingredients were added in the prescribed order, the sacrament was invalid.

However, the Slavonic version was a translation of the long lost Nubian version. A monk at St. Catherine’s recently discovered the misfiled copy of the Nubian version.

Upon inspection, church authorities found, to their chagrin, that in the Nubian version the baker was to add the salt before the flour, but after the water.

Church authorities tried to suppress the discrepancy, but word got out. Soon the One True Church of the East was rent between the pre-Saltine faction and the post-Saltine faction, depending on which recipe was deemed to be the canonical recipe.

One pre-Saltine baker was charged with sacrilege for surreptitiously adding the ingredients in the wrong order. As punishment, he, his wife, and their eleven children were stuffed into a giant puff pastry and heated in his own oven.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Nubian version also contained a variant reading of Ps 103:12. For centuries, the Church had used this verse as a prooftext for unleavened communion bread. In the Slavonic version, it read, “as far as the yeast is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Now, however, they found out that the original reading was “east” instead of “yeast.”

This was a matter of extreme delicacy, for it meant that generations of devout communicants had been receiving mere bread. When word leaked out of this revelation, lay believers began to practice proxy communion on behalf of the dead—in hopes of redeeming their loved ones from the lake of fire.

Meanwhile, the other One True Church of the West was fighting the Wafer Wars on another front.

Charles the Short, lord of the Holy Roman Empire, needed to form a military alliance with the king of Saxony to defend his border along the Palatinate. And to do that, he needed to arrange a marriage between his only daughter, Princess Crumbcake, and Duke das Brot, nephew to the king of Saxony.

But the nephew to the king of Saxony was already married, so he needed to annul his marriage.

However, Pope Obnoxius III needed to form a military alliance with the Palatine king to defend the eastern flank of the papal estates. And he couldn’t grant an annulment to the king of Saxony without offending the Palatine monarch.

On the other hand, he couldn’t afford to offend the king of Saxony since he needed his troops to defend the western flank of the papal estates.

To further complicate matters, Princess Crumbcake was a secret disciple of the Cinnamonians. This was a sect that ardently believed the wafer should be made of cinnamon bread.

After all, if the Savior was literally bread, then what sort of bread was he? Princess Crumbcake’s theological judgment was admittedly swayed by the fact that she had a sweet tooth.

By contrast, the Duke was of the firm conviction that banana bread was the only true communion bread. After all, the true bread came “from above,” which is true of banana trees, but hardly true of wheat fields.

Pope Obnoxius III convoked the Second Council of Holy Dough to hammer out a compromise. By handing out a preferment here and a preferment there, Pope Obnoxius was able to secure the votes necessary to pass an infallible decree.

But his compromise provoked a peasant revolt. For generations the peasantry had been led to believe their liturgy was the true liturgy. To go to Mass one day and suddenly hear new words and see new rites left them deeply shaken. They boycotted the new Mass. They threatened to do violence to the village priest unless he recited the old Mass. Civil war was close at hand.

Pope Obnoxius laid the countryside under edict. For a while, there was a thriving black market in old communion wafers, consecrated under the old rites. At its peak, a wafer might go for as much as a milk cow and two guinea hens.

Families huddled behind barricaded doors during the witching hour, for fear the bowels of perdition would open wide and swallow them whole now that they had no digested wafer to ward off evil spirits.

But as time went on, people began to notice...well...they began to notice that time went on. Things that go bump in the night were no bumpier than normal. Death by ritual Satanic murder remained well within the actuarial mean.

It slowly dawned on people that maybe Sensibilius was right all along.