Making Prosphora/Holy Bread

John 6:51: "I am the living Bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

Prosphora means offering or gift. You not only give the bread as an offering, you give of yourself by making it with your own hands.

The bowls, pans and other utensils used to make holy bread should be separated from all the other cooking items in your kitchen and used only for making holy bread.

Because this bread will eventually become the Body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during the Divine Liturgy, preparing this bread is a very special and holy service to God. By reflecting on the bread's use, the baking of it becomes a prayerful and solemn undertaking. You should prepare with a calm state of mind and refrain from doing other things (television, radio, etc.). Making holy bread is not a time for playing. In some monasteries, this task is so important, there is a separate area and oven to prepare the prosphora.

If possible, obtain a blessing from your Priest prior to baking. The entire process is a time for bread-making, prayer and spiritual activities. All family members can be, and should be, involved. You can include the young children by having them make small loaves of holy bread. There are prayers throughout the process and additional time can be spent reading the Psalms, Gospels, other spiritual writings, or listening to church hymns.

You’ll need the following items:

To make approximately five, eight to ten inch diameter loaves, you’ll need the following ingredients

  1. At the Icon of Christ, say the Jesus Prayer with a Metania (three times).
  2. Then say this prayer:
    "O Lord Jesus Christ, only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who has said: Without me you can do nothing! O Lord, My God, with faith I accept your words. Help me, a sinner, to prepare the bread of offering, that the works of my hands may be acceptable at the Holy Table and may become through the works of Thy Holy Spirit, the communion of '`Thy Most Pure Body for me and all Thy people. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
  3. Bless the ingredients three times with the sign of the cross, saying "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
  4. Say this prayer:
    "O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, through the prayers of Thy Most Pure Mother, by the power of the precious and life-giving Cross, by the intercessions of blessed Michael the Archangel, of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, of [your patron saint and the patron saint of the church], of my holy Guardian Angel, and of all the saints, have mercy upon me and save me. Amen."
  5. Dissolve both packages of yeast into 4-1/2 cups warm water. Water cannot be boiling hot, just warm to the touch.
  6. Mix in a pinch of salt, saying "Lord Jesus Christ, you are the salt that seasons the heart of mankind."
  7. Add approximately half of the 5lbs of flour to the warm water and mix with hands to make the dough-sponge. You’ll then continue adding the rest of the 5lbs of flour and kneading to get it just right. Add a bit more water or flour as needed. The dough is ready when it is not sticky and not too dry. A well-prepared dough will make a good finished product: not moist and doughy, minimal air bubbles, no large bubbles under the seal, the seal will be deep, and the details clearly visible.
  8. Once the dough is complete, let it sit and rise for one (1) hour.
  9. After one hour, cut it into five equal size pieces and carefully shape them into balls (not forming air pockets in the center).
  10. Lightly flour the pans. This will prevent the loaves from sticking during the baking.
  11. Flatten the balls into 8-10 inch round loaves about ˝ thick and place on the floured pans.
  12. Lightly flour the top side of each piece and press the seal into the center of each. Press hard (hold for 30 seconds) to get a good imprint! With each seal, say "Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen."
  13. At each of the four sides of the seal, poke three holes with a skewer in the shape of a triangle, saying (for each side), "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us."
  14. Cover the bread with towels and let set for one hour. Soak or clean your bowl as soon as possible before the dough hardens and makes it harder to clean. Now is a good time to read the Psalms, Gospels or other spiritual writings of the Church.
  15. After 45 minutes, turn on the oven to 375 degrees.
  16. After one hour, bless the bread three times with the sign of the cross and place into oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. Check on the bread after 20 minutes. It should be turning golden brown. Continue baking until the bread is a deep golden brown to brown. Do not under-cook the bread. Undercooked bread is almost impossible to use for Holy Communion.
  17. While the bread is baking, pray the "Supplicatory Canon to Our Lord Jesus Christ." (available on the Web at You may also add your own prayers, praying especially for members of the church community or for those with special needs. You may also pray for those on your commemoration list.
  18. When the bread is done, (golden brown to brown) lightly wet the top of each loaf with one of the towels, let cool for about 30 minutes, place into plastic bags and put in freezer.
  19. Put a list of the departed and living (indicating who are Orthodox and who are not) you’d like commemorated at the Divine Liturgy.
  20. Take the bread to the church next time you go and put it in the freezer with the other bread.

(Credits: Monk Simeon, Fr. Michael Lewis,, Phyllis Onest, M.Div., and Fr. Michael Shanbour)

Small Prosphora for Proskomedia Commemorations


For steps 9 and 11, spread and flatten the dough to level and use a biscuit cutter to cut out as many prosphora as you can. Re-work the dough till you can no longer cut any out. For step 13, the prosphora are too small for that many holes; just poke three holes around the seal forming a triangle shape.

Why Prosphora Must Be Pure

By Subdeacon George Aquaro

Note: this is not meant to point fingers and accuse, but rather to call all of us to follow the Traditions lovingly handed down to us from our Fathers and Mothers in the Church. Sadly, the lack of education and strained bonds to our Mother Churches have allowed some unorthodox practices to take root in certain parishes, but we know the Holy Spirit is correcting these problems even as we speak.


The only ingredients in prosphora are white flour, water, salt and yeast. Simply put, the Holy Traditions mention nothing else! When we begin to add things to the pure bread, what are we saying about it? That it isn't sufficient on it's own? That people won't like it if we don't add something to it? Prosphora becomes the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration. Think about what you are saying about the Bread of Life when you add things "according to taste." Do we add things to our Faith to make it more tasteful? Or, when we partake in the simple bread of prosphora, do we remember that our Lord came as a simple carpenter and endured our poverty out of love for us?

No Oils

I know many a priest who fears the loaf with oil or lard added to it. This type of additive is the most insidious, often turning the chalice into a mini-reenactment of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Fats and oils create a number of hassles for the priest. I shall list a few everyone should think about:

It Floats - oils and fats added to prosphora negate one of the bread's primary physical missions: to absorb the wine. Oils make the bread "waterproof," thereby causing the bread to rise to the top of the wine.

It Hardens - oils in dough harden when baking, giving the bread a chewy texture. This forces the priest to have to break up the bread forcibly with his spoon after placing the pieces in the chalice. Normally, the wine does this for him (think of a soggy piece of white bread and how it turns to mush. Now think of Italian bread, baked with olive oil, and how it holds together much better even when sopping wet with minestrone soup). This also makes his distribution of the Holy Gifts all the more challenging.

Oil Slick - the oils also leach out of the bread and into the chalice. This is where the image of the Exxon Valdez comes in. Remember all the oil that leaked out on the Alaskan coast? Well, oils added to prosphora leak out of the bread in the chalice, especially with the high alcohol level of the sacramental wine acting as a solvent. This oil then coats the inside of the chalice and the spoon. This makes cleaning the chalice harder for the priest. Not only that, but since soap is not usually used to clean the chalice, oil can lead to an unhygienic buildup in the chalice and on the spoon, much as you see with lipstick.

No Spices

Remember what was said earlier about purity? Well, there something else to add to this subject.

Not everybody likes the same spices - Added flavorings are enjoyed by some people but disliked by others. Why add something to prosphora which is guaranteed to offend? Keep it same and leave out the vanilla, mahleb, cinnamon, anise or whatever else you might be tempted to add "for flavoring."

Chemical Reaction - some spices react chemically with the metals. This can accelerate tarnishing and even damage surfaces with time.

Yeast Retardation - spices like cinnamon actually retard yeast growth, making it the bread rise slower and less evenly.

No Sugar

There is absolutely no good reason to add sugar to prosphora. It often over-excites the yeast and froths the dough. Not only that, but the sugar in the crust of the bread crystallizes, causing a flinty texture which your priest won't appreciate when doing proskomedia.

No Whole Wheat Flour

Some people think that whole wheat flour is somehow "more natural" and therefore more appropriate for prosphora. Nothing can be further from the truth, and whole wheat flour should be avoided unless there is no other option. First, whole wheat flour was never used in the early Church. White flour was always used, since it was more expensive than the brown variety and the loaf was quite literally a sacrifice for those who provided it. Second, whole wheat flour is merely the same grain as the white, except with the outer shell ground in with the kernel. While this has some nutritional value, you would have to eat a LOT of antidoron to get any value from it! Third, whole wheat flour is harder to work with. It takes longer to rise and creates less regular bubbling. Fourth, whole wheat flour makes a harder crust.