Role of Bread in the Orthodox Church

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Jesus gives bread and fishWhile in church, Orthodox Christians can get bread on two separate occasions – after they receive communion and after the dismissal. At first glance, it may seem as if the parishioners are getting bread to eat on while in church. However, there is a lot more to it than that. Here’s an overview of the role bread plays in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Jesus is the “Bread of Life”

In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the “Bread of Life.” He said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:51). The bread that is offered during church services represents Jesus. In fact, it is Jesus who instructed us to do so. During the Last Supper, He broke apart pieces of bread and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:23). This is a practice that has been done since the early days of the church.

We Give God Our Lives

When we accept the offering of bread while at church, it’s a symbolic act because it indicates that we offer our lives to God. In Greek, the world for altar bread is Prosfora. This literally means, “an offering to God.” When we accept the bread and eat it, it becomes part of our lives. Our digestive system breaks down the nutrients and distributes them throughout our bodies. In doing so, this bread is now a part of who we are. However, this would have been possible if we hadn’t offered the bread in the first place. That is why it is the parishioners who usually bake the bread.

When the Bread is Offered

In your church, do you know who breaks the bread for the church service? If you do, you should thank them for their hard work! Each week, they’re responsible for baking the bread and bringing the offering to church. When the priest accepts this offering, he places it on the Holy Altar, which means that the bread is now in God’s care. This process occurs during every Divine Liturgy service.

Baking Bread for the Church

Did you know that anyone could bake bread for the church? All that’s required is the special stamp that is imprinted in the loaf before it goes into the oven and the right recipe. If you decide that you want to help make the bread for one of the church services, you should ask your priest for information. He’ll let you know where to find the stamp and give you insight as to which recipe to use. There should be only four ingredients – flour, yeast, salt, and water.

Here’s a recipe you can follow – it was adapted from this website:

Ingredients:

2 cups water, heated to 108-112 Degrees Fahrenheit

1 packet dry yeast

Flour (about 7 cups)

Pinch of salt

Instructions:

Add water to a large mixing bowl. Whisk in yeast. Add half the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended. Slowly add remaining flour until a good bread consistency is achieved. You’ll know it’s ready when the dough loses its stickiness. You should need around 7 cups of flour. Knead dough for about 5 minutes while still in the bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down dough and form into two loaves. Let rise until doubled. Stamp with official stamp and bake in an oven that has been preheated to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit until cooked all the way through. If the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it that means it’s finished.

If you decide to bake this special Altar bread as an offering for your church, you’ll want to check with your priest for more information.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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