Two Views of the Proskomedia

The bread and wine offered and changed into the Eucharist at the Divine Liturgy are prepared beforehand in the Proskomedia Service

Prior to the Divine Liturgy, the bread and wine used for the service are prepared in what is known as the Proskomedia (Proskomide) or the Liturgy of Preparation. Because this service takes place behind the iconostas, its rich symbolism is sometimes not appreciated by the people who attend. There are a few ways to learn more about this service.  Much is available online in articles at various sources but there are also some excellent videos on the Proskomedia service that have been produced worth watching. Thus, it is possible to see the service as it is traditionally performed at the altar of prothesis behind the iconostas as well as watch explanations of the service.

For example, here is a video recording of the service from St George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Greenville, South Carolina:

Another way to learn more about the proskomedia is from catechetical presentations by clergy. Here Fr. John Peck of St George Greek Orthodox Church in Prescott, Arizona presents an instructional proskomedia to members of his parish explaining some of its spiritual significance:

For further reading and viewing:

Prosphora Catechetical Video by Archbishop Lazar of All Saints Monastery in Dewdney, British Columbia, Canada

A Pictorial Description of the Divine Liturgy (including the Proskomidi Service) by Archmandrite Ephrem

Text of the Proskomidi Service (pdf)

Of Prosphoras and Pre-Cut Pieces (contrasts the traditional Orthodox proskomedia service with the latinized shortcut service done in many Eastern Catholic parishes)

2 Responses to Two Views of the Proskomedia

  1. Matthew the Penitent says:

    Thank you very much for this. I never knew this about the ‘preparation’. As a Byzantine Catholic and OCA Orthodox, I never knew the difference. Since this part of the liturgy is never seen what does it matter? Perhaps everyone should study the whole of it for spiritual benefit but as it is not a part of ‘active participation’ who would know? Living in a church wasteland, I may return to the Byzantine Catholic Church just to have a spiritual home. I know, I read and studied all the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism but I’ll be honest, I don’t think it matters to most people as long as they are being fed spiritual food and the Holy Mysteries. Do most people care if the creed has the filioque or not? Do most people even understand the different jurisdictions in the Roman and Byzantine Churches? Most people will never pick up a theology book or want to know what’s in it. When the only decent Church around me is a Byzantine Catholic Church then I’m sure God understands. Keep up the interesting posts for people like me.

    • orthocath says:

      Thanks for the comment and questions. What does it matter? Well, I think as Fr. John’s video demonstrates it’s a tradition that makes a lot of sense. First, the regular prosphora traditions allow for participation by the parish by volunteer bakers and for prayer requests that the faithful can request be put on the altar (using the commemorative particles). Using pre-cuts usually makes the preparation clericalized with little involvement from the faithful. To be honest, I’ve been amazed at the antipathy to the traditional prosphora traditions among many Eastern Catholics that I’ve talked to about this. Why the reticence to restore a beautiful tradition and remove the latinization? Using pre-cuts guts the spiritual symbolism of the received tradition in favor of convenience. Restoring the tradition could involve more of the congregation in the preparation as prosphora bakers and in prayer requests at each Liturgy. As to your second series of questions: I’m sorry you are living in a “church wasteland.” I understand about such troubles myself and will keep your situation in prayer. Still, I would also say that the issues involved that you mention are not minimal nor unimportant. Feel free to write me at the email that’s given on the “About” page, if you’d like.

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