The traditional communion wafers served during Roman Catholic services are made out of two ingredients, wheat flour and water. In fact, during the earliest years of the Christian church, there was an entire ritual surrounding the process of creating the wafers, beginning with the selection and cleansing of the wheat. Once the wheat had been properly washed and ground, only a baker sanctioned by the local church council could produce communion wafers in a ceremonially shielded iron-plated oven.
Eventually, certain orders of nuns assumed the responsibility of creating communion wafers, which often became a source of income for their convents. The standard ingredients still remained wheat flour and water, with no seasoning or leavening permitted. The wafers were intended to melt in the recipient's mouth as he or she reflected on the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ. During the Eucharist service, a form of wine or natural grape juice is also served along with the bread or wafers.
Modern wafers may be embossed with religious symbols or perforated for easier dispensation. The priests who serve holy communion may have to consume larger wafers, also called hosts, than those placed on the tongues of congregants. There are also larger sheets of wafers designed to be broken along pre-scored lines. Religious supply stores often carry several different varieties of communion breads to address the needs of different Christian denominations.
The use of plain wheat flour and water does give communion wafers an air of humility, but some find the bland taste to be very unappealing. Some Christian denominations which observe holy communion have opted for other types of bread, such as unleavened pita bread, table crackers, leavened loaf bread or even flour tortillas. Some manufacturers of communion wafers also offer gluten-free varieties made from soy or potato flour. While acceptance of these alternative breads may vary from denomination to denomination, the symbolism of the bread as the body of Christ still remains.
The appeal of communion wafers as a snack food may remain elusive to many of us, but there are a number of places in the world where a form of communion wafer can be found next to pretzels, corn chips and peanuts. Since these crackers are fat-free by nature, and generally free of any unnatural preservatives or salt, they may be popular. Since these particular wafers have not been consecrated by the Catholic church, their religious significance is considered nominal. Other forms of unleavened "Bible bread" can also be found in a number of grocery stores.