How to Make Prosphora: The Holy Bread of the Orthodox Church

Hello, Good News! Welcome to our article on how to make prosphora, the holy bread of the Orthodox Church. If you are an Orthodox Christian who wants to learn how to bake this sacred offering for the Divine Liturgy, or if you are simply curious about this ancient tradition, you have come to the right place.

In this article, we will explain what prosphora is, why it is important, and how you can make it at home. We will also share some tips and tricks to help you achieve the best results. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about prosphora and provide a detailed table breakdown of the ingredients and steps involved. So, let’s get started!

What is Prosphora?

Prosphora (Greek for “offering”) is a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox Christian 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 and Byzantine Rite Catholicism it has come to mean specifically the bread offered at the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist).[^5^]

A prosphoron is made from only four ingredients: wheat flour (white), yeast, salt, and water. It is baked in two layers to represent the two natures of Christ: human and divine. It has a square seal on the top side which has inscribed on it a cross and the Greek letters IC (an abbreviation in Greek for “Jesus”) XC (“Christ”) and NIKA (“Conquers”). The portion of the loaf that is cut out along this seal is the Lamb (Host), from which all are communicated, and therefore must be proportionately large for the number of communicants.[^5^]

The Symbolism of Prosphora

The prosphoron is not just a bread, but a symbol of many spiritual realities. Here are some of the meanings behind its shape, seal, and ingredients:

  • The round shape of the loaf represents the eternal God, who has no beginning or end.
  • The two layers of the loaf represent the two natures of Christ: fully human and fully divine.
  • The seal on the top layer bears the image of Christ as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. The letters IC XC NIKA mean “Jesus Christ Conquers”.
  • The cross on the seal represents the sacrifice of Christ on Golgotha, where he died for our salvation.
  • The four corners of the seal represent the four ends of the earth, where Christ’s gospel is preached.
  • The wheat flour represents the pure and undefiled humanity of Christ, who was born of a virgin.
  • The yeast represents the divinity of Christ, who gives life to all things.
  • The salt represents the wisdom and grace of Christ, who preserves us from corruption.
  • The water represents the baptism of Christ, who cleanses us from sin.

The History of Prosphora

The practice of offering bread at the Divine Liturgy dates back to the early days of Christianity, when believers would bring their own loaves to share with each other and with the clergy. The bread was blessed by the priest and distributed among the faithful as a sign of communion and fellowship. This custom was based on the example of Christ, who broke bread with his disciples at the Last Supper.[^6^]

Over time, however, this practice became problematic, as some people would bring inferior or spoiled bread, or even bread made with forbidden ingredients such as honey or oil. To ensure uniformity and quality, the Church began to regulate the making and offering of prosphora. Only certain people were allowed to bake prosphora, and only certain ingredients were allowed. The shape and size of the loaves were also standardized, and special seals were used to imprint them with sacred symbols.[^6^]

The Types of Prosphora

There are different types of prosphora used in different liturgical traditions. The most common ones are:

  • The Greek-style prosphoron, which is one large loaf with a large round seal on it inscribed not only with the square seal mentioned above (from which the Lamb is taken), but also markings indicating where the portions for the Theotokos (Mother of God), the saints, the living and dead are removed.[^5^]
  • The Slavic-style prosphoron, which is five small loaves with a small square seal on each one. These loaves represent the five loaves from which Christ fed the multitude (John 6:5-14).[^5^]
  • The Antiochian-style prosphoron, which is one large loaf with a small square seal on it. This loaf is cut into four parts, each representing one of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.[^7^]
  • The Coptic-style prosphoron, which is one large loaf with a cross-shaped seal on it. This loaf is cut into 13 parts, representing Christ and his 12 apostles.[^8^]

How to Make Prosphora

Now that you know what prosphora is and why it is important, you may be wondering how to make it at home. The good news is that making prosphora is not very difficult, as long as you follow some basic steps and tips. Here is a simple recipe for making one Greek-style prosphoron, adapted from [14](

Ingredients Directions
1/4 cup warm water (105 F or 40 C) 1. In a small bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast in the warm water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes foamy.
2 teaspoons active dry yeast 2. In a large bowl, mix together 6 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon of salt.
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 3. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture and 1 3/4 cups of warm water. Stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.
1 teaspoon salt 4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and elastic. Add more flour or water as needed to achieve the right consistency.
1 3/4 cups warm water 5. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until it doubles in size.
A prosphora seal 6. Punch down the dough and divide it into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball and place them one on top of the other on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Parchment paper 7. Press the prosphora seal firmly on the top layer of the dough, making sure to imprint the seal clearly and deeply.
A sharp knife or razor blade 8. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut along the edges of the seal to remove the excess dough. You can use this dough to make another loaf or discard it.
A fork 9. Prick the top layer of the dough all over with a fork, making sure not to pierce through to the bottom layer. This will prevent air bubbles from forming during baking.
An oven preheated to 375 F (190 C) 10. Bake the prosphoron in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
A cooling rack 11. Remove the prosphoron from the oven and let it cool completely on a cooling rack.
A plastic bag or container 12. Store the prosphoron in a plastic bag or container until you are ready to offer it at the church.

Tips and Tricks for Making Prosphora

Making prosphora is not only a practical skill, but also a spiritual discipline. It requires attention, care, and prayer. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make your prosphora more successfully and meaningfully:

  • Before you start making prosphora, say a prayer to ask God for his blessing and guidance. You can use the Lord’s Prayer or any other prayer that you like.
  • While you are making prosphora, keep your mind focused on God and his love for you and for all people. You can also recite psalms,hymns, or other spiritual songs as you knead, shape, and seal the dough.
  • As you make the prosphora, remember the people for whom you are offering it. You can pray for their health, happiness, and salvation. You can also pray for the departed, the sick, the suffering, and the needy.
  • Make sure to use fresh and high-quality ingredients for your prosphora. Avoid using bleached or enriched flour, as they may contain additives that are not suitable for prosphora. Use unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour instead.
  • Use warm water to activate the yeast, but not too hot, as it may kill the yeast. The ideal temperature is between 105 F and 115 F (40 C and 46 C). You can use a thermometer to check the temperature, or simply test it with your finger. It should feel warm but not scalding.
  • Do not overmix or overknead the dough, as this may make it tough and dense. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, but still soft and slightly sticky. A good test is to poke the dough with your finger. It should spring back slightly, but leave a small indentation.
  • Let the dough rise in a warm and draft-free place, such as an oven with the light on, or a microwave with a cup of hot water. Do not let the dough rise too much, as this may cause it to collapse during baking. The dough should double in size, but not more than that.
  • Use a prosphora seal that is clean and dry. You can buy a prosphora seal online or at an Orthodox bookstore, or you can make your own by carving a wooden block or cutting a cardboard piece. Make sure the seal is large enough to cover the top layer of the loaf, and that it has clear and deep markings.
  • Press the seal firmly and evenly on the dough, making sure to imprint all the details of the seal. Do not twist or move the seal once it is on the dough, as this may distort the image. Cut along the edges of the seal with a sharp knife or razor blade, removing any excess dough.
  • Prick the top layer of the dough with a fork to prevent air bubbles from forming during baking. Do not prick too deep or too close to the seal, as this may damage the image. Prick all over the top layer, leaving no unpricked areas.
  • Bake the prosphoron in a preheated oven at 375 F (190 C) for about 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Do not open the oven door during baking, as this may cause the prosphoron to deflate. If you notice that the prosphoron is browning too quickly, you can cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
  • Let the prosphoron cool completely on a cooling rack before storing it in a plastic bag or container. Do not cut or break the prosphoron before offering it at the church, as this may affect its sanctity. Bring the prosphoron to the church before the Divine Liturgy begins, and give it to the priest along with a list of names of people for whom you are offering it.

FAQs About Prosphora

What does prosphora taste like?

Prosphora tastes like a simple bread made from flour, yeast, salt, and water. It has a soft and fluffy texture and a mild flavor. Some people may find it bland or dry, but others may enjoy its simplicity and purity.

Can I eat prosphora?

Yes, you can eat prosphora after it has been blessed by the priest at the Divine Liturgy. The priest will cut out a portion of the prosphoron (the Lamb) to consecrate as the Body of Christ, and distribute it to the communicants along with wine (the Blood of Christ). The remaining parts ofthe prosphora are distributed to the faithful as antidoron (Greek for “instead of the gifts”), a blessed bread that symbolizes the communion of the people with God and with each other. You can eat the antidoron as a sign of gratitude and reverence, but you should not treat it as a common bread or snack.

How long does prosphora last?

Prosphora can last for several days if stored properly in a plastic bag or container. However, it is best to offer it at the church as soon as possible after baking it, preferably on the same day or the next day. If you cannot offer it right away, you can freeze it and thaw it before bringing it to the church.

Can I make prosphora with other ingredients?

No, you should not make prosphora with other ingredients besides flour, yeast, salt, and water. These are the only ingredients that are allowed by the Orthodox Church for making prosphora. Adding other ingredients such as sugar, honey, oil, eggs, milk, or spices may alter the taste, texture, and symbolism of the prosphora, and may make it unacceptable for offering at the Divine Liturgy.

Can I make prosphora without a seal?

No, you should not make prosphora without a seal. The seal is an essential part of the prosphora, as it bears the image of Christ and his name. Without the seal, the prosphora would not be recognizable as a sacred offering, and would not be suitable for consecration at the Divine Liturgy.

Can I make prosphora in a bread machine?

Yes, you can make prosphora in a bread machine, as long as you follow the same recipe and instructions as above. However, you should be careful not to overmix or overknead the dough in the bread machine, as this may affect its quality and appearance. You should also remove the dough from the bread machine before baking it in the oven, as you need to shape it by hand and imprint it with the seal.

Can I make gluten-free prosphora?

Yes, you can make gluten-free prosphora if you have a gluten intolerance or allergy. However, you should use a gluten-free flour that is approved by your priest or bishop for making prosphora. Some gluten-free flours may contain ingredients that are not suitable for prosphora, such as rice, corn, or potato. You should also check with your priest or bishop if you can receive communion from a gluten-free prosphoron, as some churches may have different rules or practices regarding this issue.

Can I make vegan prosphora?

Yes, you can make vegan prosphora, as the standard recipe for prosphora is already vegan. It does not contain any animal products such as eggs, milk, butter, or honey. However, you should be aware that some churches may use wine that is not vegan for communion, as some wines may contain animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin or isinglass. You should check with your priest or bishop if you can receive communion from a vegan wine, or if you can abstain from wine altogether.

Can I make prosphora for other occasions?

Yes, you can make prosphora for other occasions besides offering it at the Divine Liturgy. You can make prosphora for personal or family prayer, for blessing your home or car, for celebrating feasts or holidays, or for giving as gifts to friends or relatives. However, you should always treat prosphora with respect and reverence, and not use it for profane or frivolous purposes.

Where can I buy prosphora?

If you do not want to make your own prosphora, or if you do not have the time or resources to do so, you can buy ready-made prosphora from some Orthodox churches or monasteries that sell them. You can also order them online from some Orthodox websites or stores that offer them. However,

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