The combination of the wheat and grapes is most often used to represent the elements of the communion meal, also sometimes called the Eucharist. This ritual recreates and honors the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples before his crucifixion and death. It is also used as a representation of a fruitful harvest and to symbolize abundance.
The Last Supper
In Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, (11:23-26), he writes this account of the last supper that Jesus ate with his disciples: "...The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." These words referred back to Jesus' various gospel teachings about being the Bread of Life and the vine that produces good fruit.
In many cultures, bread, in whatever form it is found, is considered to be a basic requirement for life. While bread can be made of many different sorts of grain, the most common type of bread in the region where Jesus lived was bread made from wheat flour. In the gospel of John, Jesus referred to the manna that God provided to the Israelites when Moses led them out of Egypt. He reminded the people that the Israelites ate this bread that came down from heaven and they still died. Jesus then went on to say that God sent him from heaven to be like that bread, but that by consuming him, the Bread of Life, his followers will have eternal life.
Symbol of Rebirth
Jesus also used wheat, and the sowing of wheat, in his illustrations. Just as the wheat dies and returns, Jesus predicted that his death would also end with him rising again. As a result, a sheaf of wheat has come to symbolize not only the bread that represents Christ's body but also his teachings, which provide nourishment for the human spirit just as bread provides nourishment for the body.
Wine, made from grapes, was the drink of choice in biblical times. Cultivated and produced all through the area of ancient Israel, wine was consumed by people of all ages. Jesus chose to use this beverage, commonly shared at meals and celebrations, to symbolize the blood that he would spill as he was nailed to the cross. However, the grapes have other significance as well.
Vines and Branches
In numerous places throughout the Gospels, Jesus makes reference to his being the branch from which all vines grow. He also talks about his followers as being productive branches that bear good fruit, as opposed to his opponents who are branches that are withered and barren. His consistent use of vineyard imagery has come to be symbolized by a cluster of grapes, the good fruit of the vine, which represents the good works that Christians will do in the world.
Other Religious Traditions
Christianity is not the only religion to find meaning in wheat and grapes. In earth-based religions, such as Wicca, the fruits of the harvest are equally as important. These are also traditional parts of the celebration of Mabon, the harvest festival of the autumnal equinox. In this celebration, the woman representing the Harvest Mother often wears a headdress made of a cluster of wheat and grapes. Additionally in the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons, Dionysius and Demeter, also known as Bacchus and Ceres, the gods of agriculture and fertility, are symbolized by the grapevine and the wheat.
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