Welcome back to Church Etiquette 101! In our last post of this series, we talked about proper behavior for children in church. This time, we switch gears and take a look at proper etiquette for receiving blessed bread.
What is blessed bread?
If you ever visited an Orthodox church and witnessed the sacrament of Holy Communion, you probably noticed a basket filled with bread. Parishioners may have taken some, dunked it in some wine, and taken it back to their seats. They might even have taken a piece and handed it to someone else, who didn’t go up to receive Communion.
During every Divine Liturgy, the Orthodox (and Catholics who celebrate the Byzantine Rite) distribute blessed bread after Holy Communion. This blessed bread comes from a loaf called the prosphora (Gr. “offering”), which is stamped with a seal that says, “IC XC NIKA,” (Jesus Christ Conquers). The part with the seal is called the Lamb. The priest cuts out the Lamb during a part of the Liturgy called the Proskomedia. So, the blessed bread, or antidoron (Gr. “instead of the gifts”), is what remains of the loaf after the Lamb is removed and consecrated.
The priest blesses the antidoron during the singing of the hymn to the Theotokos (Mother of God) and distributes it at the end of the Divine Liturgy to all present in the congregation.
Receiving the Blessed Bread
In some Orthodox churches, like ours, the priest distributes the blessed bread to everyone, even those who are non-Orthodox. In others, the antidoron is reserved for the faithful, the same as Holy Communion.
Typically, we receive blessed bread immediately after Holy Communion and/or after venerating the cross and receiving a blessing from the priest at the end of the Divine Liturgy. We consume it to cleanse our pallets after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, to prepare our bodies to once again eat earthly food. Because the antidoron is blessed, we must be mindful when handling it:
- Take care not to allow crumbs to drop to the floor.
If this happens, retrieve them from the floor and gather them together. You can either burn them or scatter them outdoors for the elements and animals to consume.
- Assist children and make sure they only take one or two pieces.
- Consume the bread slowly, mindful of what it is and the benefit you receive from God for partaking of it.
After receiving the blessed bread, return to your place in the church and attentively pray the Prayers of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion (if you received the Eucharist). Afterward, you can proceed to the fellowship hall for a communal meal.
To sum up here, the antidoron is the blessed bread that remains after the priest removes the Lamb from the prosphora. We receive this blessed bread after Holy Communion and at the end of Liturgy. Thus, we must take care when handling it.
In our next Church Etiquette 101 post, we discuss proper etiquette for leaving the church after services. Have any suggestions for our Church Etiquette 101 series? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for a basic run-down of the most common Church Etiquette rules? Check out this article!