THE LITURGY OF PREPARATION OR PROSKOMEDIA
The Liturgy of Preparation or Proskomedia
This service consists of the preparation of the bread and wine that is to be used in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It is performed before the Divine Liturgy before people have entered the church. The priest himself must prepare for this service by meditation, prayer and fasting, just as we prepare ourselves for Holy Communion.
A custom that is still performed to this day is the bringing of the bread and wine to be used for the Divine Liturgy. Families will bake the bread at home and bring it as an offering to God as a gift from ALL THE PEOPLE of the parish. The Liturgy of Preparation is made up of specific prayers and acts that must be performed by the priest. The Liturgy tells of the life of Jesus Christ from birth to the end. The preparation represents the birth of the Lord. Just as no one witnessed the birth of Jesus, the preparation is done behind the Iconostasis. The star is used to keep the bread on the discos, (a star led the people to Bethlehem). the coverings over the Offerings are for the swaddling clothes which the baby Jesus was wrapped and incense is to remind us of the gifts brought by the wise men.
First the priest will bow three times before the Table of Preparation or Table of Oblation and recite silently:
“Oh God cleanse me, a sinner, and have mercy on me.”
The First Loaf of Prosphora:
The priest will take the first of five loaves of prosphora in his left hand and the spear in his right, makes the sign of the cross over the seal three times, each time saying:
“In remembrance of our Lord and God Savior Jesus Christ.”
The priest then pierces the prosphora with the spear on the right side of the seal and cutting the right side he says:
“As a sheep led to the slaughter.”Isaiah 53:7
While cutting the left side, he says:
“or as blameless lamb before its shearers is dumb so He opens not his mouth.”
While cutting the upper side of the bread, he says:
"In His humiliation His judgment was taken away."
While cutting the lower side, he says:
“Who shall declare His generation.”
The priest will then pierce the bottom right side of the bread and lift the center portion out, and say:
“For His life is taken up from the earth.”
The priest inverts the bread and places it on the paten or discos (paten = Latin; discos - Greek).
This center portion of the first loaf of prosphora is called the Lamb and represents Jesus Christ.
The Lamb is then cut cross-wise taking care not to cut through the seal, and the priest says:
“Sacrificed is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world for the life of the world and for its salvation.
The priest again inverts the bread so the seal is now facing up. He again pierces the bread on the right side under the letters IC and says:
“One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness, and his witness is true.”
The Second Loaf of Prosphora
The priest will then bless the wine and water and pour it into the chalice. The priest will then take the prosphora in his hand and say:
“In honor and memory of our most blessed Lady Theotokos and ever Virgin Mary. Through her prayers, 0 Lord accept this sacrifice upon Thy heavenly altar.”
The priest will cut a triangular piece and place it on the right side of the Holy Bread and say:
“The Queen stood on Thy right side, arrayed in golden robes, all glorious.
From the second loaf of prosphora only one piece is cut and this triangular piece represents Mary, Mother of God.
The Third Loaf of Prosphora
The priest will take the third loaf of prosphora in hand and say:
“Of the honorable and glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John.”
The priest will then cut a small triangle of bread and place it on the left side of the Holy Bread. This triangle will be the first of three for row one.
The second triangle is cut and placed below the first piece, and the priest says:
“Of the holy and glorious prophets: Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha, David and Jesse, and the three holy children, Daniel the prophet, and all the holy prophets.’
The third triangle is cut and placed below the second piece. (This completes row one). The priest will say:
“Of the glorious, and all-laudable apostles Peter and Paul, of the Twelve and of the Seventy, and all the holy apostles.”
A fourth triangle is cut and placed next to the very first, ( this starts a second row), and the priest says:
“Of our fathers among the saints and hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom; Athanasius and Cyril; Nicholas of Myra in Lycia; (Peter, Alexis, Jonah, and Philip of Moscow, Nicetas, Bishop Novgorod; and Leontius. Bishop of Rostov; and of all the holy hierarchs.’
The fifth triangle is cut and placed below the fourth and the priest will say:
“Of the holy apostle and archdeacon, the first Martyr Stephen; of the holy Great Martyrs; Demetrius, George, Theodore of lyre, and Theodore Stratelates. and of the Women Martyrs: Thecla. Barbara. Kyriake, Euphemia, Paraskeve, and Catherine. and of all the Holy Martyrs.”
The sixth triangle is cut (this completes row two), and placed below the fifth, and the priest says:
“Of the venerable and God—bearing Fathers: Anthony, Euthymius, Sabbas. Onuphrius; Athanasius of Athos, (Anthony and Theodo-sius of the Caves in Kiev; Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov, and Barlaam of Khutinsk). Of the venerable Mothers: Pelagia, Theodia, Anastasia, Eupraxia, Fevronia, Theodulia, Euphrosyne, and Mary of Egypt. And of all the holy and venerable Fathers and Mothers.”
The seventh triangle is cut and is placed next to the fourth. (this begins the third and final row of this series), and the priest says:
“Of the holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries: Cosmos and Damian, Cyrus and John, Panteleimon and Hermolaus, and of all the holy unmercenary saints.”
The eight triangle is cut and placed under the seventh and the priest says:
“Of the holy and righteous Ancestors of God Joachirn and Anna; and of Saint ____________ and Saint ______________ whom we commemorate today; of the holy Methodius and Cyril, Equals to the Apostles and Teachers of the Slavs; of the holy Great Prince Vladimir. Equal to the Apostles. And of all the Saints; by their prayers visit us, O God.”
The ninth triangle is cut (this completes the last row), and the priest says:
“Of our fathers among the saints John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople.”
A total of nine cuts have been made from the Third Loaf of prosphora representing:
1. St. John the Baptist
The Fourth Loaf of Prosphora
The priest takes a triangle from the fourth loaf and places it at the foot of the holy Bread by the letters NI KA and says:
“Remember, 0 Master, who loves mankind the whole Episcopate of the Orthodox Church, Our Metropolitan ________ _________, our Bishop ___________________ the honorable priesthood, the diaconate in Christ, the whole priestly and monastic order; all of our brotherhood, which You have called into Your communion through Your compassion, 0 gracious Master.
For each living faithful person to be remembered, the priest will cut a piece of bread placing it next to the first and after each name will say:
“Remember. 0 Lord, Your servant (handmaid) __________ (persons name to be remembered).
So the fourth loaf of prosphora represents the living to be remembered.
The Fifth Loaf of Prosphora
From the fifth loaf a triangle is cut and placed below the row for the living. This piece will he for the departed, and the priest will say:
“In blessed memory and for the remission of sins of the most holy patriarchs, bishops. priests, deacons, and all monastics; and of all blessed founders of this holy church.”
For each departed person that is to be remembered, the priest will remove one triangle of bread and place it next to the first. After each name he will say:
“Remember 0 Lord, Your servant (handmaid) _______________ (Person’s name to be remembered).
The Fifth Loaf is in remembrance of the departed.
The priest will then remember the bishop who ordained him and recite a prayer:
“Remember 0 Lord my unworthiness also, and forgive me all my sins, both voluntary and involuntary.”
Next the priest recites the prayer of incense:
“We offer You incense, 0 Christ our God for an odor of spiritual fragrance. Receive it upon your heavenly altar, and send down upon us in return the grace of Your all Holy Spirit.”
He then censes the star and places it over the Holy Bread and says:
“And the star came and stood over the place where the young child was.”
The priest censes the veil and places it over the paten and will say:
“The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed. Ne is girded with strength. The world is established; it shall never be moved. Thy throne is established from of old; Thou art from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, 0 God. The floods have lifted up their roaring. Mightier than the thunder of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty. Thy decrees are very sure; holiness befits Your house, 0 Lord, for evermore.”
A second veil will be censed and placed over the chalice and the priest will say:
‘Your virtue has covered the heavens 0 Christ, and the earth is full of Your praise.”
The priest censes a larger veil and places it over both the paten and the chalice saying:
“Cover us with the shelter of Thy wings, and drive away from us every foe and adversary. Give peace to our lives, 0 Lord, have mercy on us and on Your world, and save our souls, for You are good and love mankind.”
The priest censes the Offerings, saying three times:
“Blessed is our God, who is well pleased: Glory to You.”
The priest will then bow three times before the Offering and will recite a prayer:
“0 God, our God, who sent the Heavenly Bread, the food of the whole world, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, to be our Savior, Redeemer, and Benefactor, blessing and sanctifying us: Bless this Offering, and accept it upon your heavenly altar. Remember those who offered it and those for whom it was offered, for you are good and love mankind. Preserve us blameless in the celebration of Your divine mysteries. For sanctified and glorified is Your most honorable and majestic name: of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
The priest concludes the Liturgy of Preparation with the Dismissal: