John 6:51: "I am the living Bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
Prosphora means offering or gift. You not only give the bread as an offering, you give of yourself by making it with your own hands.
The bowls, pans and other utensils used to make holy bread should be separated from all the other cooking items in your kitchen and used only for making holy bread.
Because this bread will eventually become the Body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during the Divine Liturgy, preparing this bread is a very special and holy service to God. By reflecting on the bread's use, the baking of it becomes a prayerful and solemn undertaking. You should prepare with a calm state of mind and refrain from doing other things (television, radio, etc.). Making holy bread is not a time for playing. In some monasteries, this task is so important, there is a separate area and oven to prepare the prosphora.
If possible, obtain a blessing from your Priest prior to baking. The entire process is a time for bread-making, prayer and spiritual activities. All family members can be, and should be, involved. You can include the young children by having them make small loaves of holy bread. There are prayers throughout the process and additional time can be spent reading the Psalms, Gospels, other spiritual writings, or listening to church hymns.
You’ll need the following items:
To make approximately five, eight to ten inch diameter loaves, you’ll need the following ingredients
(Credits: Monk Simeon, Fr. Michael Lewis, www.prosphora.org, Phyllis Onest, M.Div., and Fr. Michael Shanbour)
For steps 9 and 11, spread and flatten the dough to level and use a biscuit cutter to cut out as many prosphora as you can. Re-work the dough till you can no longer cut any out. For step 13, the prosphora are too small for that many holes; just poke three holes around the seal forming a triangle shape.
By Subdeacon George Aquaro
Note: this is not meant to point fingers and accuse, but rather to call all of us to follow the Traditions lovingly handed down to us from our Fathers and Mothers in the Church. Sadly, the lack of education and strained bonds to our Mother Churches have allowed some unorthodox practices to take root in certain parishes, but we know the Holy Spirit is correcting these problems even as we speak.
The only ingredients in prosphora are white flour, water, salt and yeast. Simply put, the Holy Traditions mention nothing else! When we begin to add things to the pure bread, what are we saying about it? That it isn't sufficient on it's own? That people won't like it if we don't add something to it? Prosphora becomes the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration. Think about what you are saying about the Bread of Life when you add things "according to taste." Do we add things to our Faith to make it more tasteful? Or, when we partake in the simple bread of prosphora, do we remember that our Lord came as a simple carpenter and endured our poverty out of love for us?
I know many a priest who fears the loaf with oil or lard added to it. This
type of additive is the most insidious, often turning the chalice into a
mini-reenactment of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Fats and oils create a number of
hassles for the priest. I shall list a few everyone should think about:
It Floats - oils and fats added to prosphora negate one of the bread's primary physical missions: to absorb the wine. Oils make the bread "waterproof," thereby causing the bread to rise to the top of the wine.
It Hardens - oils in dough harden when baking, giving the bread a chewy texture. This forces the priest to have to break up the bread forcibly with his spoon after placing the pieces in the chalice. Normally, the wine does this for him (think of a soggy piece of white bread and how it turns to mush. Now think of Italian bread, baked with olive oil, and how it holds together much better even when sopping wet with minestrone soup). This also makes his distribution of the Holy Gifts all the more challenging.
Oil Slick - the oils also leach out of the bread and into the
chalice. This is where the image of the Exxon Valdez comes in. Remember all the
oil that leaked out on the Alaskan coast? Well, oils added to prosphora leak out
of the bread in the chalice, especially with the high alcohol level of the
sacramental wine acting as a solvent. This oil then coats the inside of the
chalice and the spoon. This makes cleaning the chalice harder for the priest.
Not only that, but since soap is not usually used to clean the chalice, oil can
lead to an unhygienic buildup in the chalice and on the spoon, much as you see
Remember what was said earlier about purity? Well, there something else to add to this subject.
Not everybody likes the same spices - Added flavorings are enjoyed by some people but disliked by others. Why add something to prosphora which is guaranteed to offend? Keep it same and leave out the vanilla, mahleb, cinnamon, anise or whatever else you might be tempted to add "for flavoring."
Chemical Reaction - some spices react chemically with the metals. This can accelerate tarnishing and even damage surfaces with time.
Yeast Retardation - spices like cinnamon actually retard yeast
growth, making it the bread rise slower and less evenly.
There is absolutely no good reason to add sugar to prosphora. It often
over-excites the yeast and froths the dough. Not only that, but the sugar in the
crust of the bread crystallizes, causing a flinty texture which your priest
won't appreciate when doing proskomedia.
Some people think that whole wheat flour is somehow "more natural" and therefore more appropriate for prosphora. Nothing can be further from the truth, and whole wheat flour should be avoided unless there is no other option. First, whole wheat flour was never used in the early Church. White flour was always used, since it was more expensive than the brown variety and the loaf was quite literally a sacrifice for those who provided it. Second, whole wheat flour is merely the same grain as the white, except with the outer shell ground in with the kernel. While this has some nutritional value, you would have to eat a LOT of antidoron to get any value from it! Third, whole wheat flour is harder to work with. It takes longer to rise and creates less regular bubbling. Fourth, whole wheat flour makes a harder crust.