Proskomedia: Preparing the Gifts
By Fr. Anthony Hernandez
The Proskomedia takes place before the public Divine Liturgy begins. The practical purpose of the Proskomedia is to prepare the bread and wine to be offered and sanctified at the Anaphora of the Liturgy. But there are other wonderful layers of meaning that are expressed in the Proskomedia. One major theme is the unity of all things in Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us that the eternal plan of God was “to bring all things in the heavens and on earth under Christ’s headship.” Eph. 1:10. The uniting of all in Christ, is expressed and brought about in the Divine Liturgy. This is clearly shown in how the prosphora (bread for offering) is prepared in the Prothesis Rite. Traditionally, five loaves are prepared.
The first loaf is called the Lamb. At the Epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit), the bread and wine are changed into the true Body and Blood of Christ. From the second loaf a triangle is cut to commemorate and honor the holy Theotokos. It is placed at the “right hand” of the Lamb. The third loaf is for commemorating the nine groups of Heavenly Powers (seraphim, cherubim, archangels, angels, etc), and also various groups of saints. For this purpose nine particles are cut from this loaf. With the fourth loaf different groups of people who are living are called to mind: hierarchs and clergy, our fellow church members, and those who are in special need. A particle of bread is cut for each category and for individuals who are being remembered. Particles from the fifth loaf are to commemorate all the departed: departed clergy, family and parish members, those who died long ago, and those who have recently died. We pray for their blessed repose.
All of these cut particles from the four prosphora are placed around the Lamb, Jesus Christ. They are placed on a raised plate called the diskos.
The diskos’ round shape symbolizes that Christ reconciles “to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross”.
In Christ all are brought into unity: God and all creation, angels and human beings, men and women, people of all ethnicities, rich and poor, those who are alive and even those who have died.