Divine Liturgy. Proskomidia
The Proskomedia (from the Greek προσκομιδή, "offering"), sometimes referred to as prothesis (from the Greek πρόϑεσις, "setting forth") or proskomide, is the Office of Oblation celebrated by the priest prior to the Divine Liturgy during which the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist.
The Proskomedia is performed by the priest in a quiet voice at the Table of Preparation when the altar is closed.
The priest takes the first prosphora and with a small spear (a small, wedge-shaped knife) makes the sign of the Cross over it three times, saying the words, "In remembrance of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ." The priest then cuts a cube out of the center of the prosphora. This portion of the prosphora called the Lamb is placed on the holy paten (diskos), a metal plate. Then the priest cuts a cross in the bottom of the Lamb.
Then he pierces the right side of the Lamb with the spear, saying the words of the Evangelist, "One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith there came out blood and water. And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true". In accordance with these words wine is poured into the chalice mixed with water.
From the second prosphora, the priest cuts out one portion in honor of the Theotokos and places it on the right side of the Lamb on the diskos.
From the third prosphora, which is called "that of the nine ranks," are taken nine portions in honor of the saints, John the Forerunner and Baptist, the prophets, the Apostles, the hierarchs, the martyrs, the monastic saints, the unmercenary physicians, the grandparents of Jesus, Joachim and Anna, the saint who is celebrated that day, the saint to whom the church is dedicated, and finally the saint who composed the liturgy being celebrated.
These portions are placed on the left side of the Lamb.
From the fourth prosphora, portions are removed for the hierarchs, the priesthood, and all the living.
From the fifth prosphora, portions are taken for those Orthodox Christians who have reposed.
Finally, portions are removed from those prosphoras donated by the faithful, as the names of the health and salvation of the living and for the repose of the dead. All these portions are placed on the diskos below the Lamb.
At the end of the Proskomedia, the priest covers the bread with a metal asterisk (star) and then covers the diskos and chalice with special veils, censes the diskos and the chalice and prays that the Lord bless the offered Gifts and remember those who have offered them and those for whom they are offered.
The sacred instruments used and actions performed in the Proskomedia have symbolic meanings. The diskos signifies the caves in Bethlehem and Golgotha; the star, the star of Bethlehem and the Cross; the veils, the swaddling clothes and the winding sheet at the tomb of the Savior; the chalice, the cup in which Jesus Christ sanctified the wine; the prepared Lamb, the judgment, passion, and death of Jesus Christ; and its piercing by the spear, the piercing of Christ's body by one of the soldiers. The arrangement of all the portions in a certain order on the diskos signifies the entire Kingdom of God, whose members consist of the Virgin Mary, the angels, all the holy men who have been pleasing to God, all the faithful Orthodox Christians, living and dead, and, in the center its head — the Lord Himself, our Savior. The censing signifies the overshadowing by the Holy Spirit, whose grace is shared in the Mystery of Holy Communion.
Prosphora - offering for the Liturgy
" I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh"
"Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me"
The Meaning of the Offering
Bread is used not only to represent Jesus Who is the Bread of Life, of which, if any man eats, he shall never hunger, but also to express the offering of our life to God. The Greek word for altar bread is prosphora which means an offering to God. Bread is used as an offering because it represents life. Once consumed, it becomes part of us, i.e., our flesh and bones.
Baking with a prayer
Preparing the prosphora for Divine Liturgy is the ancient and meaningful Orthodox Church tradition. It is a great privilege and requires a blessing from the priest.
By reflecting on the bread's use, the baking of it becomes a prayerful and solemn undertaking. Needless to say, before one begins the baking process, prayers are in order. After the bread has been baked, the prayer may be said by the family.
The Slavic tradition uses a small seal, stamped on five loaves, in honor of the "feeding of the 5000." These small loaves are made with two layers to represent both the two-fold nature of Christ and the uniting of heaven and earth.
Thus, in bringing the loaf of bread to God, we are, in effect, offering our lives to Him. It is the gift of our love.
The priest accepts the gift and places it on the holy altar. This act represents God accepting our gift. It now passes into His possession. God transforms it through the Holy Spirit and gives it back to us as His Precious Body. We give ourselves to God and He, in turn, gives Himself to us. We come to the Liturgy not just receive Christ, but also to give ourselves to Christ.
The Greek style, which uses one large loaf marked with IC-XC NIKA in the center, surrounded by several other seals, signifies the one Body of Christ.
Prosphora Baking Recipe: Greek Style
5 cups flour (sifted)
1 teaspoon salt
11/2 cups warm water
2 cakes yeast
- Dissolve the yeast in warm water.
- Add salt and flour and knead until smooth
- Place in a bowl, cover, and let rise.
- When it doubles in size, knead again
- then divide dough in half and put in cake pans that have been floured only (no grease)
- Dip seal in flour and stamp bread, leaving a stamp on bread until it is ready to bake.
- Let rise, remove the seal and bake for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees.
Prosphora Baking Recipe: Slavic Style
Ingredients1 tsp active dry yeast (i.e. Fleischmann's)
1 3/4 - 2 cups warm water (110-120°F)
7 cups flour (preferably Gold Medal Globe A-1 bleached pre-sifted All Purpose Flour)
(Special note: to modify this recipe, remember to increase or decrease the yeast in proportion, and remember the for every cup of flour you should need approximately 1/4 cup of water)
- Combine yeast with the warm water until it foams a little.
- In a bowl, mix 3 cups of flour with the yeast/water and mix with spoon or hands.
- Keep adding one cup of flour at a time until all 7 cups have been added.
- Knead dough until done - i.e. when the dough feels "springy"
- Roll dough out with rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness.
- Cut out 30 large pieces with a larger biscuit cutter and place them on a cookie sheet that is covered with aluminum foil, then cover with towel.
- Cut out 30 small pieces with a smaller biscuit cutter and place them on a cookie sheet that is covered with aluminum foil, then stamp them with prosphora seal and cover with a towel. Let both cookie sheets stand for 1 hour to let the dough rise in a warm place
- After 1 hour, remove towels from over prosphora, fill a small cup with water and cover the tops of the large pieces with water (do not drench them) and the bottoms of the small pieces and affix to each other. Make sure there isn't an air bubble between the two pieces
- Prick the prosphora seal (making the sign of the cross, then piercing the center) - make sure needle insertion goes through the bottom half.