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Holy Bread

Bread has special significance in our life. It is a symbol of food and of the work which is necessary to earn it. God told Adam, "By the sweat of your brow will you eat your bread" (Gen. 3:19).

There is religious symbolism in bread too. Lord Jesus Christ called himself "the bread of life" (Jn. 6:35); he also said, "If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever" (Jn. 6:51). And finally He blessed bread which by its content is very close to a human body to be transcended into His Body during the Great Eucharistic Mystery: "Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, "Take and eat: this is my body" (Mt. 26:26).

Made up of multitude of grains, bread embodies the Church ó One Church made up of multitude of its members. In addition to the eucharistic bread the Orthodox Church has several kinds of holy bread.

Prosphora (Greek for "offering") is the white wheat bread cooked with yeast and blessed water. The name is derived from the first Christian tradition to bring homemade bread for the Eucharistic ceremony. Nowadays prosphoras are made in eparchial bakeries. Prosphora consists of 2 big layers signifying two natures of Christ. The Upper part is stamped with a four-pointed cross (the image of the Theotokos or of a saint is sometimes imprinted on monastery prosphorons).

During the Divine Liturgy a square part is cut out in a special way from one of the prosphora (which is called the Lamb prosphoron), it is called the Lamb and it is that part of the bread, which later in the Liturgy will transform into the Body of Christ. Other prosphoras that are smaller are cut into parts that commemorate members of the Church in Heaven and Earth; those parts are immersed into the Blood of Christ towards the end of the Divine Liturgy. Smaller prosphoras are to be taken by those who submitted the commemoration petitions.

The remaining pieces of the Lamb prosphoron are called antidoron (Greek "instead of a reward"). According to the Church Canon, antidoron is to be distributed among the faithful who have not taken the communion. Yet, usually that bread is taken by those serving at the altar.

Artos (Greek for "kvass bread") is the bread, which is sanctified on the Easter eve. On all of the days of the Bright Week, artos, the symbol of Christís Resurrection, is kept on the lectern across from the Kingís gate of the altar and is taken out daily for the Easter Cross precessions. On the Bright Saturday it is broken while a special prayer is read and distributed among the faithful. People revere artos and blessed Christmas water as a likely substitute for Sanctified Gifts for the dying people who cannot come to take the Communion.

Both prosphoron and antidoron as well as artos are to be taken on an empty stomach and while saying a prayer. The blessed bread is to be kept in a clean container separately from other foods. According to the tradition artos is separated into small parts and eaten during the year from Easter to Easter.

There is another kind of sanctified bread, which is distributed among the faithful during the vigil on the eve of the great holidays. Earlier, the evening services lasted much longer than now, so Christians were given bread to keep their energy up. Even though the services are shorter now, the tradition remained.

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