Prosphora, or "offering," is the bread that we use in the Orthodox Church for the Eucharistic offering in the Divine Liturgy. The bread used for the Eucharistic offering in the Orthodox Church is leavened bread, that is - made with yeast (not flatbread). Prosphora is made using a simple recipe, simple meaning that there are not many ingredients: water, yeast, flour, and salt. The prosphora used for the Liturgy (both on Sundays and for other feasts) is made by the parishioners of St. Demetrios and brought either the day of the Liturgy, or in the days before and kept in the freezer until it is needed.
A loaf of prosphora is "sealed" or "stamped" before it is baked. The seal is divided into five portions:
The central three portions are squares with the following Greek letters: "ΙΣ ΧΣ ΝΙΚΑ." "ΙΣ ΧΣ" are the first and last letters of "Jesus" and "Christ" in Greek, and "ΝΙΚΑ" means "victor." The square in the middle is most commonly used as the "lamb," or the part of the prosphora loaf which is consecrated as the Body of Christ. The other two inscribed portions are "spares" in case the central square doesn't turn out right. (Most often because of an air pocket underneath the seal which makes it difficult to use in the Liturgy).
To the left of the central square, or Lamb, is another square containing a large triangle, which is cut out "in honor and memory of" the Mother of God, and to the right of the Lamb is another square with nine small triangles, each of which is cut out "in honor and memory of" nine orders of saints, beginning with the Angels and ending with St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great (depending on which Liturgy is being celebrated). These pieces are placed in the appropriate place on the "paten," or "plate," in preparation for the offering of the Eucharist in the Divine Liturgy. Other portions are taken out of the loaf in honor and memory of the living and the reposed who are commemorated that day, as well as for the local bishop and presiding clergy. Once the service of preparation is complete, the unused parts of the loaf are taken away and cut up to serve as "antidoron," which means "instead of the gifts," as it was originally given to those who attended the service but could not (for various reasons) receive the Eucharist.
This recipe is the one used by Virginia Ulmer, and which is distributed by the Church office upon request. It is not, however, the only recipe available, and you are welcome to use whichever one you find works best. We recommend asking an experienced Prosphora baker to teach you if you've never tried it before. If you need a seal, we have some spares available in the Church office - just call Gabby and ask for one.
One of these sheets should be submitted every time you bring prosphora to the Church, as the priest does not save them. These are specifically designed for the names that are offered along with the Prosphora, but can be used for any occasion or prayer request.
This is a printable guide for baking prosphora in both the Byzantine and Slavic traditions, from our friends at Illumination Learning. It includes tips, tricks, history, and suggestions gleaned from multiple generations of prosphora bakers by the author, Jennifer Hock.
Thank you! If you would like to sign up to bring prosphora for a specific Sunday during the year, you can do that using the link below: