The Bread of Heaven

Orthodox worship and spirituality involves all the senses: touch, sight, taste, smell, hearing…..

I did some re-organization of kitchen shelves this weekend to enable me to display some of my collection of Orthodox bread seals. The kitchen is the obvious place to keep them! “Prosphora” (Greek for “offering”) is bread prepared for use in the Divine Liturgy, and particular seals are used on it prior to baking. Seals are also used for non-Eucharistic bread and even small cakes and biscuits that are distributed outside the Divine Liturgy on particular Feasts (for example, St Michael’s Bread).
DSCF0777
The use of bread seals is an ancient tradition: the seal pictured is a Eucharistic bread mould carved from a single section of wood. Galanaris dates this particular type to the Early Byzantine Period (5th-6th Century AD), and it is most likely from Coptic Egypt.
bread_mold
There is a marvellous web site devoted to the seals and the bread: http://www.prosphora.org/
prosphora
The standard works on the subject are:

(1) E.S. Drower “Water into Wine. A Study of Ritual Idiom in the Middle East” John Murray, London, 1956 – despite the title, the book is essentially about bread, and mostly about Oriental Orthodox use of it. Ethel Stefana Lady Drower née Stevens (1879 1972) was a British anthropologist who studied the Middle East and its cultures.
(2) George Galanaris “Bread and the Liturgy. The Symbolism of Early Christian and Byzantine Bread Stamps” The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1970 235pp 95 illus.
(3) Sergei Sveshnikov “Break the Holy Bread, Master. A Theology of Communion Bread” BookSurge Publishing, 2009
(4) R.M. Woolley “The Bread of the Eucharist” Alcuin Club Tracts XI, A.R. Mowbray, London, 1913.
prosphora 2

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: