Yes, it is true! The study of wine throughout the history of mankind will reveal some interesting facts about the role it has played in religions and spirituality as such.
The earliest indications of how wine was used “religiously” took place in an area of Greece. The Cretans honored their god Dionysus by using wine as a sacramental entheogen to induce a mind-altering state. In legend, it was Dionysus who brought the vine to Greece -from Asia Minor, today’s Turkey. Dionysus, the son of Zeus, was born twice. The second time he was born in a virgin birth to a mortal woman. He was the vine; his blood was wine.
Romans increased their power as Greece’s declined. Rome borrowed Dionysus and “tamed” him into Bacchus. Bacchus was a happy god, having fun, drinking a lot, but the darker side of Dionysus was passed on. Christianity, the growth of which was definitely linked with the expansion of the Roman Empire, took over many of the Bacchic symbols and rites that are too numerous to detail here.
Christians recognize the story of the marriage feast of Cana in the Gospel of St. John. Through His first miracle of record, Jesus changed water into wine. At the wedding, to which Jesus, His mother, and His disciples had been invited, everyone became aware of the fact that they ran out of wine. Jesus turned 20 or 30 gallons of water into wine. The master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then the master of the feast called the bridegroom.
“And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’ ” (John 2:9-10) Jesus also used wine at the Last Supper – an event that is remembered at every celebration of the Eucharist.
Biblical scholars claim that wine is mentioned 155 times in the Old Testament, as well as 10 times in the New. Indeed, wine and religion have been inseparable throughout history, beginning with the ancient Greeks, and continuing today as part of Christian communion services, in one form or another.
Quite a long time ago, when I was an altar boy at my home parish, I had no idea that one day I would have a doctorate in divinity. Nor did I ever imagine that I would be an advocate for drinking wine because of its health benefits. All those church services watching a priest consume wine in remembrance of the Last Supper are marked indelibly in my memory. wine tours in willamette valley