Prosphora

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Prosphora
22-prosphore.jpg
Russian-style prosphora seal, for five small identical loaves.
Type Bread
Main ingredients Wheat flour (white), yeast, salt, water

A prosphoron (Greek : πρόσφορον, offering) is a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox Christian [1] and Greek Catholic (Byzantine) liturgies. The plural form is prosphora (πρόσφορα). 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).

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Bread Staple food prepared from a dough

Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history it has been a prominent food in large parts of the world and is one of the oldest man-made foods, having been of significant importance since the dawn of agriculture.

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 200–260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods, although roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

Contents

Baking

Mount Nebo (Jordan) fifth-century monastery Prosphora inscription in Greek: "Offering of Caesarios, at the time of Alexios and Theophilos, priests" Prosphora Nebo.jpg
Mount Nebo (Jordan) fifth-century monastery Prosphora inscription in Greek: "Offering of Caesarios, at the time of Alexios and Theophilos, priests"
Saints Spyridon and Nicodemus, prosphora bakers of the Kiev Caves Monastery. Saint Spyridon and Saint Nicodemus of Kyiv Caves.jpg
Saints Spyridon and Nicodemus, prosphora bakers of the Kiev Caves Monastery.

Prosphoro is made from only four ingredients, wheat flour (white), yeast, salt, and water. [1] Salt was not used in early times[ when? ] and is still not used in the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.

Wheat flour is a powder made from the grinding of wheat used for human consumption. Wheat varieties are called "soft" or "weak" if gluten content is low, and are called "hard" or "strong" if they have high gluten content. Hard flour, or bread flour, is high in gluten, with 12% to 14% gluten content, and its dough has elastic toughness that holds its shape well once baked. Soft flour is comparatively low in gluten and thus results in a loaf with a finer, crumbly texture. Soft flour is usually divided into cake flour, which is the lowest in gluten, and pastry flour, which has slightly more gluten than cake flour.

Bakers yeast strains of yeast commonly used as a leavening agent in baking

Baker's yeast is the common name for the strains of yeast commonly used in baking bread and bakery products, serving as a leavening agent which causes the bread to rise by converting the fermentable sugars present in the dough into carbon dioxide and ethanol. Baker's yeast is of the species Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and is the same species as the kind commonly used in alcoholic fermentation, which is called brewer's yeast. Baker's yeast is also a single-cell microorganism found on and around the human body.

Salt mineral used as ingredient, composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl)

Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of salts; salt in its natural form as a crystalline mineral is known as rock salt or halite. Salt is present in vast quantities in seawater, where it is the main mineral constituent. The open ocean has about 35 grams (1.2 oz) of solids per liter of sea water, a salinity of 3.5%.

Any member of the church who is in good standing and whose conscience is clean may bake prosphora. Often in a parish church the women will take turns baking the prosphora; in monasteries, the task is often assigned by the Hegumen (abbot or abbess) to one or several monastics of virtuous life.

Parish church church which acts as the religious centre of a parish

A parish church in Christianity is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish. In many parts of the world, especially in rural areas, the parish church may play a significant role in community activities, often allowing its premises to be used for non-religious community events. The church building reflects this status, and there is considerable variety in the size and style of parish churches. Many villages in Europe have churches that date back to the Middle Ages, but all periods of architecture are represented.

Monastery complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplace(s) of monks or nuns

A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in communities or alone (hermits). A monastery generally includes a place reserved for prayer which may be a chapel, church, or temple, and may also serve as an oratory, or in the case of communities anything from a single building housing only one senior and two or three junior monks or nuns, to vast complexes and estates housing tens or hundreds. A monastery complex typically comprises a number of buildings which include a church, dormitory, cloister, refectory, library, balneary and infirmary. Depending on the location, the monastic order and the occupation of its inhabitants, the complex may also include a wide range of buildings that facilitate self-sufficiency and service to the community. These may include a hospice, a school, and a range of agricultural and manufacturing buildings such as a barn, a forge, or a brewery.

Hegumen profession

Hegumen, hegumenos, or igumen is the title for the head of a monastery in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, similar to the title of abbot. The head of a convent of nuns is called a hegumenia or ihumenia. The term means "the one who is in charge", "the leader" in Greek.

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. There may be special prayers said before commencing, and the baker tries to maintain a religious state of mind throughout, often saying the Jesus Prayer. Usually enough prosphora for a number of services are baked at the same time.

Confession (religion) acknowledgment of ones sins

Confession, in many religions, is the acknowledgment of one's sins (sinfulness) or wrongs.

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period. Other fasts may be partially restrictive, limiting only particular foods or substances, or be intermittent.

Jesus Prayer A short formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated especially within the Eastern churches

The Jesus Prayer, also known as The Prayer, is a short formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated especially within the Eastern churches: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." The prayer has been widely taught and discussed throughout the history of the Orthodox Church. The ancient and original form did not include the words "a sinner", which were added later. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use being an integral part of the eremitic tradition of prayer known as Hesychasm. The prayer is particularly esteemed by the spiritual fathers of this tradition as a method of opening up the heart (kardia) and bringing about the Prayer of the Heart. The Prayer of the Heart is considered to be the Unceasing Prayer that the Apostle Paul advocates in the New Testament. Theophan the Recluse regarded the Jesus Prayer stronger than all other prayers by virtue of the power of the Holy Name of Jesus.

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 or Panagiari, usually bearing, among other things, 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. [2]

Christology Study of Jesus Christ in Christian theology

Christology, literally "the understanding of Christ," is the study of the nature (person) and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus Christ's humanity and divinity, and the relation between these two aspects; and the role he plays in salvation.

Cross geometrical figure

A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two intersecting lines or bars, usually perpendicular to each other. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally. A cross of oblique lines, in the shape of the Latin letter X, is also termed a saltire in heraldic terminology.

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" 1 Cor 10:16-17).

Feeding the multitude miracle attributed to Jesus in the Bible

Feeding the multitude is a term used to refer to two separate miracles of Jesus reported in the Gospels.

Divine liturgy

The Lamb and particles placed on the diskos during the Divine Liturgy. Patene-byzantine.jpg
The Lamb and particles placed on the diskos during the Divine Liturgy.
Greek-style prosphora seal, for one large loaf: in the center is the Lamb (symbol: IC XC NI KA Christogram), to the viewer's right is the Panagia (symbol: MTh
(Meter Theou
)), to the left are the Nine Angelic Ranks (symbol: nine triangles), and on the top and bottom are extra Lambs for Presanctified (symbol: said Christogram). The positions of the Panagia and Nine Ranks will be reversed when the impression is made. 21-prosphore.jpg
Greek-style prosphora seal, for one large loaf: in the center is the Lamb (symbol: IC XC NI KA Christogram), to the viewer's right is the Panagia (symbol: ΜΘ ( Μήτηρ Θεοῦ )), to the left are the Nine Angelic Ranks (symbol: nine triangles), and on the top and bottom are extra Lambs for Presanctified (symbol: said Christogram). The positions of the Panagia and Nine Ranks will be reversed when the impression is made.

In the part of the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist) known as the Liturgy of Preparation (Proskomedia), a cube is cut from the center of the prosphoron, and is referred to as the Lamb (Greek : Ἀμνός, translit.  Amnos). 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, while the remainder of the prosphora is cut up for the antidoron , the blessed bread which is distributed at the end of the Liturgy.

The motto "the loaf of Nature's kitchen table," a common metaphor for returning thanks and agape (unconditional love) back to nature, is derived from prosphora.

Prosphora can vary in size and imprinted design in different liturgical traditions. Generally, the Slavic traditions use five small prosphora with a simpler stamp, while the Greek-Byzantine tradition uses one large prosphoron with a more complex stamp, indicating the place from which the Lamb is to be taken and the places from which particles are removed for each of the remaining commemorations.

In addition to the Lamb, particles are removed from the prosphoron to commemorate the following: [2]

The Slavic tradition uses a separate prosphoron for each of these, sometimes with a different seal for each prosphoron—or at least a distinctive one for the Panagia. 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.

Panagia

The Prosphoron from which a particle is removed in honor of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) is called Panagia (ἄρτος τῆς Παναγίας) and is solemnly blessed in her honour during the Divine Liturgy. This prosphoron is often stamped with an icon of the Theotokos. Before cutting this prosphoron, the priest makes the Sign of the Cross over it three times with the liturgical spear, saying:

In honour and commemoration of our most blessed Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary; through whose intercessions accept, O Lord, this sacrifice upon Thy most heavenly Altar.

He then removes a large, triangular particle and places it to the side of the Lamb, as he says:

"At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in vesture wrought of gold and diverse colours."

The remainder of the prosphoron is blessed over the holy table, before the blessing of the antidoron, with the phrase

"Great is the name of the Holy Trinity."

Today, this practice is usually performed only in some monasteries. After the Liturgy, a triangular portion is cut from the prosphoron by the refectorian (monk in charge of the refectory). The Panagia is then cut in half and laid crust downwards on a dish in a small table in the refectory. After the meal, the refectorian takes off his epanokamelavkion and kamilavkion, saying,

"Bless me, holy Fathers, and pardon me a sinner,"

to which the brotherhood replies,

"May God pardon and have mercy on you."

Then, taking the Panagia in his fingertips, he lifts it up while saying,

"Great is the Name,"

and then the community continues with

"of the Holy Trinity."

The rite then continues with

"All-holy Mother of God, help us"

with the reply

"At her prayers, O God, have mercy and save us."

Two hymns are then sung while the refectorian, accompanied by a cleric with a hand censer, offers the Panagia to those assembled. Each takes a piece between his finger and thumb, passes it through the incense, and then eats it.

Artoklasia

There are also loaves which are baked for blessing and distribution to the faithful outside of the Divine Liturgy. These are generally called artos ("loaves") and are usually made from a single round of dough rather than two. They may be stamped with the same seal used at the Liturgy, though usually they have only a simple cross or an icon such as the patron saint of the local church or monastery. Five loaves are usually made, and they are blessed at a service called the Artoklasia ("breaking of bread"). These loaves, together with wheat, wine, and oil, are blessed and distributed to the faithful during the All-Night Vigil.

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 Parpouna, Christina; Lazarou, Stalo. "Πρόσφορο". foodmuseum.cs.ucy.ac.cy (in Greek). Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Το πρόσφορο". apostoliki-diakonia.gr (in Greek). Apostoliki Diakonia. Retrieved 30 November 2015.

Bibliography