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. ); he also said, "If a man eats of
this bread, he will live forever" (Jn. ).
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 OneChurch
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.