faster & easier prosphoro .... ?
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Life is busy, so what aspects of preparing prosphora can we make more convenient?
Beloved sisters and brothers in Christ,
If you're looking for ways to make prosphoro quickly and easily...with yeast or using the pan with an impression in its base this website is not what you're after. I pray our Lord blesses your efforts regardless.
The aim of this website, is to guide you through a prayerful, creative experience that symbolises our walk from darkness to light, from chaos to order, and from inert materials to miraculous life.
This is the Orthodox preparation of the prosphoro, the pinnacle of which is the sealing of the dough.
We use a wooden seal - carved with love and preferably by holy monastic hands. As we handle the wood, we ponder the significance of wood - 'the tree'... from the first tree in the garden of Eden, the fruit of which contributed to our fall, to the wood on which our Lord was crucified. When we are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit at our Chrismation, we are transformed into Christians and children of God. Similarly, by the stamp of the seal, we transform this bread dough into a prosphoro, a gift offering which will become the Body of our Lord.
If you're interested in walking this path, then welcome! "Taste and see that the Lord is Good"
I groaned when I first learned that prosphoro should only ever be made with starter and preferably "of the Basil". The thought of all that messing around with sourdough was a deterrent. Then I jumped in. Not only is it easy, it is fun and very rewarding. But these aren't the only reasons I encourage you to make the effort.
Even with my first attempt using a starter, I realised the dough and it's properties were superior for our purposes, compared to when using yeast. The dough is lovely - a pleasure to work with. It smells wonderful and it makes the shaping, stamping and the release of the seal so much easier.
Previously when I had used yeast, the seal impression was often lost during the rise. This rarely happens with dough leavened with a starter.
Everyone who tastes it finds the taste is nicer. The priests tell me they prefer it's properties. This bread lasts much longer before going mouldy. There are other advantages discussed throughout these pages. But it won't take much for you to experience them yourself, once you start with leaven.
Our Orthodox faith involves our whole being. It is not just a mind thing. We (are supposed to) pray constantly, use all our senses, our whole body, the whole world - all from Him and for Him and to His Glory. The preparation and baking of prosphora is part of Orthodox worship. It is a sacrifice. If we can ask that the raising of our hands be accepted as the evening sacrifice (Ps 140: 2), then hours of making and baking prosphoro certainly is. We are told it confers a great blessing on our households.
Cleaned inside, through repentance and the grace of confession, we prayerfully offer our best produce, in our cleanest kitchen, measure and mix it mindfully with precision. We take a formless chaotic mass, and with a contrite heart we knead it into shape, just as our church transforms our chaos into something more Human (more like Christ). Then we take this dough and crown it, prayerfully sealing it with a wooden stamp which bears a cross and the initials of the victorious words ICXC/NIKA. Then we pierce it remembering how our Lord was pierced.
Can we really afford to discard parts of this for the sake of convenience? So much of what we Orthodox do could be made more efficient, right? Think about it. Imagine what we could logically trim off our services without much loss of meaning. Yet, everything about our faith compels us to lovingly devote this time and effort. For Him but ultimately for us. Your gift which is to become the Body of our Lord which He then gifts back to us for the remission of sins and for eternal life!
A prosphoro represents the Theotokos. The all-holy Panayia is humanity's greatest gift to God. It was from her unblemished flesh that our Lord took flesh. It is from our prosphoro that our priests take the flesh of our Lord for the Cup. Therefore we, preparing the prosphoro represent St Anna who produced the Most Holy Theotokos, from whom Christ was born in this world. Can we short-cut such a process without loss?
I promise you... if you commit to preparing prosphora in this time-honoured way, not only will your prosphora improve, but you will soon realize the time and effort you spend will be some of the most profoundly prayerful, rewarding and blessed aspects of your life in Orthodoxy. I also promise you some early frustrations, but success will come sooner than you imagine. Join me in this wonderful journey.
So...in answer to my question "what aspects of this process can we shortcut"? Any you wish, but while gaining some time you might detract from the desired goal.
May God bless you through your prosphora making endeavours.