The word "prosphora" (in Greek, prosphoron; pl. prosphora) originally meant any giftthat the faithful made to the church. Today it refers to the loaves of bread used inthe Proskomedia. In the Greek tradition, one large prosphora is used; the Russiansand Serbs use five smaller loaves, one of which is prepared as the Lamb. Eachprosphora is made of two joined circles of dough, representing the two natures of Christ. The breads are made from wheat flour (the Lord Himself compared Himself toa grain of wheat-cf. John 12:24), and are stamped with a seal bearing a cross and theletters "IC XC NIKA," an abbreviation from the Greek, meaning "Jesus ChristVictorious" (or "Conqueror"). The prosphora representing the Mother of God may beimprinted with her icon instead of the cross.In ancient times, in Russia, making prosphoras was a special occupation entrustedusually to monastics or the widows of clergy or other particularly pious persons. InGreece and other Eastern countries, one can purchase prosphoras at certain bakeriesand bring them to church. Or, following the ancient custom, the faithful bake theprosphoras themselves. In cathedrals and large parishes, this may not be practical,but in small parishes, it is nice for parishioners to share this labor of love andcontribute by bringing prosphoras, the work of their hands, as a gift to the altar.Like icon painting, however, making prosphoras is an art; the breads should not bespongy, or have big air bubbles, or be hard as rocks; nor is it something to do whilethe television is on or after returning from a party. In order to bake prosphoras, oneshould have the blessing of the parish priest, prayer, and a good recipe!Prayer at the Commencement of Making ProsphorasMaking the Sign of the Cross, say Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercyupon us. Amen. Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.