Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On the proskomedia
Today I was happy to receive two related works. The first came in the mail: Economia and Eschatology: Liturgical Mystagogy in the Byzantine Prothesis Rite by Fr. Stelyios S. Muksuris. The second was a notification of Fr. Thomas Hopko's (so far) three part podcast series entitled "The Proskomede - Preparing the Bread and the Wine."

The Prothesis Rite (aka Proskomedia, Proskomede, Office of Oblation, Preparation) is something that many people frankly don't know anything about. Some people I've met have absolutely no idea any preparation is done and assume that everything is taken care of inside the Divine Liturgy. Altar boys are not immune to this ignorance as it is not at all uncommon for a priest to perform the ceremony long before other people arrive at the parish. Then again, some parishes have such an exhaustive commemoration configuration that much of an altar boy's early morning might be in ferrying pieces of paper back and forth from the altar to the back of the church.

On the other end of the spectrum are people familiar with the preparatory ritual who have decided opinions on issues related to it. For example, should clergy remember non-Orthodox in the Proskomedia? The issue is certainly not a settled one and my anecdotal experience is that it is a decision left to the individual priest himself (though some pan-Orthodox uniformity in America from the episcopate down would certainly be worthwhile). As a priest, one of the first things you are faced with figuring out is whom to commemorate both living and dead every Sunday.

Some seminaries tackle the Proskomedia in a formal class, others as a last year add-on, and still others leave it to a priest to explain shortly before ordination. Additionally, the Slavic, Greek, and Antiochian practices are not uniform so that what I do might be markedly different in some ways from what my father's priest might do. The framework of the ritual is the same, but noticeable differences become apparent if you read some of the individual prayers or look at how a finished diskos looks when the process is complete.

Back to today's works... Fr. Hopko's podcast are always light affairs. They remind me of buzzing bees flitting from flower to flower softly touching on this topic or that and then eventually returning back to the hive. I never know when he is going to end his foray into his topic and I suspect (after years of listening to him) neither does he. He once went on a tangent about the proper color of sticharia for no fewer than 20 minutes. Fr. Stelyios S. Muksuris' book looks like something I am going to need multiple highlighter colors for and a bit of brown study between chapters. So, whichever is your cup of tea, I do hope you enjoy one of them.


  1. Thank you for recommending these resources. I'm curious about one sentence near the end, "Fr. Stelyios S. Muksuris' book looks like something I am going to need multiple highlighter colors for and a bit of brown study between chapters." What do you mean by "brown study"?

    1. A favored word of mine. :)