“We were created to live on earth unlike animals who die and disappear with time, but with the high purpose to live with God —not for a hundred years or so—but for eternity!”
—St. Innocent of Alaska1
Before every Divine Liturgy, the priest prepares gifts of bread and wine to be used during the Eucharist. The preparation ritual is called the Liturgy of Preparation, or proskomedia. The meaning in Greek is “offering”, indicating that it is our offering to God. God has blessed us with wheat and grapes, and we transform it into bread and wine, offering it back to God in thanksgiving. God then consecrates the bread and wine during the Divine Liturgy, returning it to us transformed.
The bread that is offered in the Eucharist is called prosphora, a special loaf whose preparation itself is filled with meaning. It is created using only wheat, yeast, water, and salt and is composed of two layers, representing the two natures of Christ, divine and human. It has a square seal on the top with the Greek letters IC XC (an abbreviation in Greek for Jesus Christ) and NIKA (meaning “conquers”).
During the proskomedia, a portion of the loaf is cut out into a cube, and it is this inner part of the loaf, called the lamb, that is consecrated during the Divine Liturgy, and together with the red wine, will become the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Liturgy of Preparation includes blessing the prosphoron, cutting it on four sides to form a cube, piercing it with a spear, and reciting two verses from St. John’s Gospel (John 19:34-35). The wine is mixed with water in a chalice and blessed by the priest. The priest then cuts triangular particles from a second prosphoron in commemoration of the Theotokos, from a third prosphoron to commemorate the ranks of saints, from a fourth prosphoron for the living, and from a fifth prosphoron for the departed. Finally, the censer is blessed, the cover for the gifts is blessed, and then the gifts are covered.
Read more: Prothesis (opens in a new tab)
St. Innocent of Alaska, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven: An Introduction to Christian Life (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Publications, 2013), Introduction. ↩