The Proskomidi

Part 2

“he took bread”

The loaf used for the Liturgy is known as the Prosphora, which is Greek for ‘offering’. The top is marked out with a ‘seal’, or sphragida, consisting of various letters and symbols.

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In the centre is a square divided by a cross, with the letters IΣ ΧΣ NI KA, which stand for the words JESUS CHRIST CONQUERS. Above and below are two similar squares. To the left of the central square is a triangle with the letters MΘ, which stand for MOTHER OF GOD. To the right are nine small triangles in three rows of three.

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With the Lance the priest cuts from the loaf a cube, with the central square marked on it, and places it on the paten, or diskos.  This is the Lamb, which will be consecrated and distributed in Communion. He pierces the right side of the Lamb, saying the words from the Gospel, ‘One of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water’.  He then pours wine and water into the cup, or chalice.

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Next he cuts out the triangle that represents the Mother of God and places it to the left of the Lamb and then the nine small triangles, which he places on the right. These represent various categories of Saint: Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Ascetics, Unmercenary Saints, the Saint of the day and the Saint of the Liturgy.

There are nine triangles to represent the Nine Choirs of Angels. He then cuts a triangle from the prosphora to commemorate the Bishop and places it below the Lamb. Below this he places small pieces, also cut from the prosphora, to commemorate all those people, living and dead, whom he wants to remember, including himself and the Bishop who ordained him, and those whose names he has been asked to remember by other people. These names should be given to the priest as early as possible, preferably during Matins, but at the latest before the Great Entrance after the Gospel. This includes names for Memorial Services and Feasts, Eortes.

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The priest now covers the paten and chalice with three veils, one for each of the vessels and one large one, called the Aer, to cover the other two. Before this, to keep the arrangement on the paten from being upset by the veil, he places a metal ‘frame’, formed like a cross with bent arms, called the Star, on the paten. Each of these objects is blessed with incense before being set in place. Originally the Star represented the vault of the sky above the round world, represented by the paten. At the centre of the world stands Christ, the Lamb, surrounded by all humankind, from the creation to the present day. Every Liturgy is a cosmic event, celebrating the world’s salvation through the death and resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour.

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The priest now senses the gifts and says a Prayer of Offering. The deacon, if there is one, or the priest himself then censes the Holy Table, the whole Sanctuary and the church. Everything is now ready for the Divine Liturgy. With the Holy Doors open, the priest takes his place in front of the Holy Table, says the prayer to the Holy Spirit, ‘Heavenly King’, the hymn of the Angels, ‘Glory to God in the highest’ and, from King David’s psalm of repentance, ‘Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise’. The Liturgy can now begin.

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