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Question 179

Please explain the bread that is taken to church? Also what is the best way to put names of family for prayer? What is prosphora?

 

Answer to Question 179

 

Basically prosforon means our offering to God. It is the bread that will be used for the Bloodless Sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy. Before the Liturgy begins there is a preparation rite where the priest will cut from the prosphoron the piece that will be used for the Body of Christ.  Three elements are needed for the preparation: bread, sweet wine and water. Before he begins the priest will select from the offerings that people have made the best breads and wine which he will use for the preparation. These offerings are in a sense a sacrifice to God.

From the beginning of human history we see that man has made sacrifices to God mainly as a atonement for sins. The first sacrifice we know of was from Adam and Eve’s sons – Cain and Abel. Cain was a tiller of the ground and brought to the Lord an offering of the fruits that he grew. Abel was a keeper of sheep and brought to the Lord an offering of the firstlings of his flock.

The Law of the Old Testament is full of ordinances of various blood sacrifices which were to be observed by the Jewish people for different occasions. In Christian times our offerings of bread and wine can be likened to the old Jewish sacrifices except for one great difference: we do not offer them in atonement for our sins. Our atonement has already been made by Christ himself when he offered himself as the perfect sacrifice on the Cross. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. It was a sacrifice of love. Christ united in himself the whole world and as the life of all life he offered it to God the Father. In his sacrifice is forgiveness of all sins and the fullness of salvation and sanctification. Any other new sacrifices are therefore unnecessary and in fact impossible.

Thus if our offering is not for our sins then it must have some other meaning. Our offering is a thanksgiving to God for having saved us. It is a thanksgiving for sending his only-begotten Son to be sacrificed that we might become co-heirs with him in the kingdom of Heaven. But our offering is even more than thanksgiving because it represents our whole life and thus is it an offering of ourselves, of each other and the whole world to God.  It was not by chance that Christ used bread for his Body and wine for His Blood. He could have used anything and as himself the sacrificial Lamb of God he could have used a lamb. Can you imagine if he did! The churches would be full of people lining up to have communion of souvla lamb every Sunday.

But the lamb would not really be ours because everything on earth belongs to God: He is the creator of all things and we would only be offering God what is already his. The truth of the matter is that the only thing we can offer God that we can truly call ours is our love and our life. This is where the bread and wine come into the picture so to speak. They are offerings that represent our whole life because they are two basic foods that are peculiar only to man. The Jewish offerings were offerings of the earth and of livestock, but they were only offering to God what was already his and apart from this they were not foods that belonged exclusively to man because they were foods eaten also by animals.

 Bread and wine are exclusively foods for man. Granted that God gives as the wheat and the water, but we take the wheat, clean it and grind it into flour, then with the water we knead it into dough and then bake it to become bread. The prosphoron we use in the Divine Liturgy is even more peculiar and special because it is prepared separately from common bread. When making a prosphoron, we have in mind that it will to be used for the offering, so we prepare ourselves for this sacred work and make it with prayer and love.

The wine again is mans peculiar offering because God gives us the vine and the grapes but it is man who looks after the vineyard making sure to prune it and dust it to protect it from the scorching sun, it is man who will harvest the fruit and crush the grapes to produce the wine. We have put labour, prayer, love and our life into our offering. 

Today these offerings are made by a few devout women, but in older times it was offered by all the congregation. Each person who came to the gathering of the Church brought with him everything he could spare for the needs of the Church and these were then separated by the Deacons who selected the best of the breads and wine to be used for the Liturgy and the rest was distributed for the sustenance of the clergy, widows and orphans and in general for helping the poor. In this way the Church was indeed a gathering of love which gave assistance to those in need. Everyone participated in this sacrifice of love and even the orphans who lived at the expense of the Church and had nothing to bring participated by bringing water. 

When we make an offering of a prosphoron to be used for the Divine Liturgy, we usually write on a piece of paper the names of our loves one, both the living and the dead so that the priest can remember them during the preparation rite. The best way to do this is to draw a dividing line down the paper to make two lists one for the living and one for the dead. So that the priest knows which list is for the dead, people usually place a cross at the top of the list or you can write at the beginning of each list “Living ΖΩΝΤΑΣ” and “Dead ΤΕΘΝΕΩΤΑΣ”