The offering bread used in the Eucharist
A prosphoron (plural prosphora) (Greek for offering) is a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox Christian liturgies. The term originally meant any offering made to a temple, but in Orthodox Christianity it has come to mean specifically the bread offered at the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist).
The only ingredients in prosphora are white flour, water, salt and yeast. This prosphora will become the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration. When we partake in the simple bread of prosphora, we do so while remembering that our Lord came as a simple carpenter and endured our poverty out of love for us.
Although some people think that whole wheat flour is somehow “more natural” and therefore more appropriate for prosphora, nothing could be further from the truth. Whole wheat flour should be avoided since this flour was never used in the early Church. White flour was always used, since it was more expensive that the brown variety and the loaf was quite literally a sacrifice for those who provided it. Whole wheat flour is the same grain as the white, but with the outer shell ground in with the kernel.
Any member of the Church in good standing and whose conscience is clean may bake prosphora. Often in a parish church the women will take turns baking the prosphora, and in monasteries, the task is assigned by the abbot or abbess, to one or several monastics.
It is common but not necessary to go to confession before baking prosphora, and it is often done in the morning while fasting. Sometimes, special kitchen implements are used for making the prosphora which are used for no other purpose. The baker tries to maintain a spiritual state of mind throughout, often saying the Jesus Prayer.
A prosphoron is made up of two separate round pieces of leavened dough which are placed one on top of another and baked together to form a single loaf. This double-loaf represents the two natures of Christ: human and divine. Before baking, each prosphoron is stamped with a special seal called sphragis, usually bearing the image of a cross with the Greek letters IC XC NIKA (“Jesus Christ conquers”) around the arms of the cross. This impression is baked into the bread and serves as a guide for the priest who will be cutting it.
In the Slavic practice (Russian Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc.) five smaller prosphora are used (in commemoration of the five loaves Jesus used to feed the multitudes). In the Greek practice one larger prosphoron is used (in commemoration that all share in one “Bread” I Cor).
In the part of the Divine Liturgy known as the Liturgy of Preparation (Proskomedia), a cube is cut from the center of the prosphoron, and is referred to as the Lamb. It is this Lamb which is consecrated to become the Body of Christ and from it both the clergy and the faithful will receive Holy Communion. The remainder of the prosphora is cut up for the antidoron, the blessed bread which is distributed at the end of the Liturgy to cleanse the palate, making sure no particle of the Body and Blood of Christ inadvertently be spit out when talking after receiving the Holy Mysteries.
In addition to the Lamb, particles are removed from the prosphoron to commemorate the Holy Virgin, the nine ranks of angels and saints, the living (including the ruling bishop and the local authorities, and the departed. The laity may also present smaller prosphora together with a list of the faithful living and departed whom they wish to have commemorated during the Liturgy. From each of these smaller prosphora the priest will remove a triangular piece as well as several smaller particles while he prays for each of the persons listed.
With love in Christ,
Photos: Greek and Slavic style Prosphora seals.
Thursday July 30, 2015 / July 17, 2015
9th Week after Pentecost. Tone seven.
Great-martyr Marina (Margaret) of Antioch in Pisidia (4th c.).
Venerable Irenarchus, abbot of Solovki (1628).
Venerable Leonid, abbot of Ust-Neduma (Vologda) (1654).
Translation of the relics of Venerable Lazarus, monk, of Mt. Galesion near Ephesus (1054).
“Svyatogorsk” (1569) Icon of the Mother of God.
Child Martyr Prince Kenelm of Wales (821) (Celtic & British).
Martyrs Speratus and Veronica (Greek).
St. Euphrasius of Ionopolis, bishop (Greek).
St. Timothy, fool-for-Christ of Svyatogorsk near Pskov (1563).
The Daily Scripture Readings
1 Corinthians 14:6-19
Tongues Must Be Interpreted
6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? 7 Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? 8 For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? 9 So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. 11 Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. 12 Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.
13 Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? 17 For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.
18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Jesus a Third Time Predicts His Death and Resurrection
17 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”
Greatness Is Serving
20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.
21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?”
She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”
22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
They said to Him, “We are able.”
23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”
24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”