The Purpose of Prosphora
A prosphoron is a loaf of leavened bread used in the Orthodox Church. It is the bread offered at the Divine Liturgy. Prosphora - plural of prosphoron - means “offering” and is made of four ingredients: white flour, yeast, water and salt. The bread is leavened (made with yeast) because yeast is a symbol of life and the risen dough of the Resurrection. It is made of two separate round loaves which are then baked together - one on top of the other - to form one loaf. The two loaves represent the dual nature of Christ - the Divine and the human. The Prosphora is pierced with a toothpick 5 times representing the 5 piercings of Christ during his Crucifixion.
The Prosphora Seal: The Prosphora seal is used on the top of the loaf. The seal contains a cross and the letters IC XC (Jesus Christ) and NIKA (Conquers). The seal stamps the bread and is a guide for the priest on how to cut the bread.
The Lamb (Center) of the Prosphora Seal: The center portion is known as the Lamb. This portion of the bread is used as the Eucharist - the Communion bread - during the Divine Liturgy. Other small pieces are removed in honor of the Virgin Mary, of Saints, and of Christians for whom we pray. The remainder of the bread is called the antidoron.
Antidoron from the Prosphora: Antidoron is the rest of the Prosphoron that is not used for Communion. The name means “instead of gifts (Holy Communion)”. It is the blessed but not consecrated bread. It is distributed at the end of the Divine Liturgy to the congregation. As the antidoron is blessed, it should be treated with reverence and not be allowed to fall on the ground. It is to be eaten on an empty stomach and is the reason that Orthodox Christians fast before the Divine Liturgy.
Prosphora Fun Fact: It’s best to store antidoron in something that is not air-tight, i.e, plastic bags are not ideal. If there is no air flow, the Prosphora can mold. Cloth bags or a cloth napkin is ideal for covering the bread for transport or storage. Some folks have special cloth bags made for transporting prosphora. While it is a nice custom, most of us just use plastic bags.
Greek: πρόσφορον, πρόσφορα