Artos: Wikis


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Loaves prepared for Artoklasia.

The term Artos (Greek: Áρτος, "leavened loaf") refers to a loaf of leavened bread that is blessed during services in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. A larger Artos is baked especially for use at Pascha (Easter), smaller round loaves (used five at a time) are blessed during the All-Night Vigil in a ritual called Artoklasia.

Artos in the Greek language once referred to any sort of leavened bread, but in Modern Greek now only refers to bread used in church.


Paschal Artos



Near the end of the Paschal Vigil, after the Prayer Before the Ambo, a single large loaf of bread, the Artos, is brought to the priest. Depicted on the top of the Artos are either the symbol of Christ's victory over death—the Cross, surmounted by a crown of thorns—or the Resurrection of Christ. The Artos symbolizes the physical presence of the resurrected Christ among the disciples. The priest blesses the Artos with a special prayer and sprinkles it with Holy Water. The Artos is then placed on a small table before the Iconostasis where it remains throughout Bright Week. It is customary, whenever the faithful enter the Temple, for them to kiss the Artos as a way of greeting the Risen Christ. On every day of Bright Week, after the Paschal Divine Liturgy (or, alternately, after Paschal Matins), the Artos is carried in a solemn Crucession around the outside of the church.

In monasteries, the Artos is carried to the Trapeza every day of Bright Week, where at the end of the festive meal, it is lifted in a ceremony called the Lifting of the Artos.[1] The one performing the ceremony will lift up the Artos (symbolizing Christ's Resurrection) and say, "Christ is Risen!" All will respond, "He is truly Risen!" The celebrant will then make the sign of the Cross with the Artos as he says, "We worship His Resurrection on the third day!" Then two Paschal hymns are sung and everyone comes forward to kiss the Artos and receive the Superior's blessing, as all sing the Paschal troparion many times.

On Bright Saturday, after the Divine Liturgy, the priest says another prayer over the Artos and it is then broken and distributed among the whole congregation along with the Prosphora.[2]


The significance of the Artos is that it serves to remind all Christians of the events connected with the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. While still living on earth, the Lord called Himself the Bread of Life, saying: I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and He who believes in Me shall never thirst (John 6:35). After His Resurrection, more than once Jesus appeared to His disciples, ate before them and blessed their own food. For example, as evening fell on the first day of His Resurrection, He was recognized in Emmaus by two of His disciples as He blessed and broke bread (Luke 24:13-35).

On the 40th day after His Resurrection, the Lord ascended into heaven, and His disciples and followers found comfort in their memories of the Lord: they recalled His every word, His every step and His every action. When they met for common prayer, they would partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, remembering the Last Supper. When they sat down to an ordinary meal, they would leave a place at the head of the table empty for the invisibly present Lord and would lay bread on that place.

Remembering this custom of the Apostles, the Fathers of the Church made it their custom to put out the Artos at the Paschal Feast in memory of the appearances of the Risen Lord to His disciples, and also in memory of the fact that the Lord Who suffered and was resurrected for our justification has made Himself the true Bread of Life and is invisibly present in His church always, to the close of the age (Mattew 28:20).

Whereas special Paschal breads, called kulichi are broken and eaten on the first day of Pascha, the Artos is kept whole throughout the whole of Bright Week as a reminder of the presence of the Risen Savior in the midst of those who believe in Him and is only divided and distributed on Saturday. In this way Bright Week begins and ends with the eating of especially baked and blessed bread.

The Artos may also be compared to the unleavened bread of the Old Testament, of which ancient Israel, delivered from their captivity in the land of Egypt, ate during the week of the Passover (Ex. 12:15-20). As Cyril, Bishop of Turov, who lived during the 12th Century in Russia, said in a sermon for the Sunday after Pascha:

Even as the Jews bore the unleavened bread upon their heads out of Egypt through the desert (Exodus 12:34) until they had crossed the Red Sea, after which they dedicated the bread to God, divided it amongst all their host, and having all eaten thereof, became...terrible to their enemies, even so do we, saved by our Resurrected Lord from the captivity of that Pharaoh of the mind, the Devil, bear forth the blessed bread the Artos from the day of the Resurrection of Christ and, finally, having dedicated this bread to God, we eat of it and preserve it to the health of body and soul.

It is a custom among Russian Orthodox Christians to this day to keep a portion of the Artos throughout the year and with due reverence and faith to eat of it in time of illness or distress. This is eaten, often together with a drink of Holy Water, which had been blessed at the Feast of the Theophany of Our Lord.

Possible Jewish Christian Origins

In the Jewish seder half of the matzoh blessed and broken at the beginning of the meal is preserved and hidden until the end of the meal, when it is eaten at the end of the meal as the last thing eaten immediately before the final formal thanksgiving for the meal. This piece of bread is called the afikoman and both the meaning of this word and the reason for this ritual are unclear. Dr. David Daube, who taught civil law at both Oxford University and the University of California at Berkeley, suggested that the word afikoman was originally a Greek word meaning “the one who is to come/who has arrived” and that it originally represented the awaited Messiah with whose appearance at the end of this present Age the Jewish people would reach their fulfillment. Daube went on to hypothesize that if the ritual of the afikoman originated at or before the time of Christ, this would logically have been the piece of bread which Christ would have identified with his body/flesh during the Last Supper.[3] Basing himself on Daube’s theory Arvid Nybroten suggested that once the Paschal Eucharist came to be celebrated apart from an actual meal, the first blessing, breaking and eating of bread at the beginning of the meal and the breaking and eating of the afikoman at the end of the meal would have combined and would have been blessed together with the cup during the formal thanksgiving at the end of the meal, the Jewish prayer which eventually evolved into the Christian Eucharistic prayer. Among the Jewish Christians the ritual of the afikoman might have survived in a modified form as the paschal Artos. In at least the Sephardic Seder ritual the afikoman has become expressly identified as representing the flesh of the Passover Lamb, which since the destruction of the Second Temple can no longer be offered or eaten. Similarly the blessing of the Artos also states that it represents Christ, the true Paschal Lamb. If one thinks of all celebrations of Bright Week as an extended Paschal supper, then just as the afikoman is blessed at the beginning of the Seder meal, but only eaten at the end of that meal, so also the Artos is blessed at end of the Divine Liturgy at Pascha, but only eaten after the final Divine Liturgy of Bright Week.[4]


The loaves baked for Artoklasia will be similar to the Prosphora used at the Divine Liturgy, except that the stamp used to seal them will be different. It may have an Icon of a saint on it, or it may be a simple cross—perhaps inscribed with a prayer on it, such as "May the Blessing of the Lord be upon us. Amen."

At the Vigil on Sundays and Feast Days throughout the year, near the conclusion of Vespers, all go in procession to the Narthex of the church, where special petitions called the Litia are prayed. Then, during the chanting of the Troparion of the Day (Apolytikon), the deacon censes a tray on which have been placed five leavened loaves,[5] wheat, wine, and oil, which the priest then blesses. After the blessing he breaks one of the loaves (from which action the rite receives its name: Artoklasia, "breaking of bread"). These items are then taken back into the sanctuary where they are prepared for later distribution. After the reading of the Gospel at Matins, the faithful come forward to venerate the Gospel Book (if it is Sunday) or the Icon of the Feast (if it is a weekday). The priest then anoints them on the forehead with some of the oil, and each person receives a piece of the blessed Artos dipped in some of the wine.[6]

Great Saturday

A similar Artoklasia is performed at the end of the Vesperal Divine Liturgy on Great Saturday, except that oil and wheat are not blessed, but only the five loaves and a cup of wine. This Artoklasia is a remnant from the days when the faithful would not leave the church all day on Great Saturday, but wait in prayerful anticipation for the beginning of the Paschal Vigil. Each person would be given bread, dried fruit, and a cup of wine as all listened to the reading of the Acts of the Apostles.


  1. ^ Cf. Lifting of the Panagia.
  2. ^ Alternately, the Artos may be carried to the Trapeza, where the prayer is said and everyone partakes of it before the common meal. Sometimes, in parishes, the priest will wait until after the Liturgy on Thomas Sunday to break and distribute the Artos.
  3. ^ Daube, David, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (University of London, 1956), p.187.
  4. ^ this paragraph is a modification of a hypothesis as to the origins of the ritual of the Elevation of the Panagia in Possible Vestiges of the "Afikoman" in the Elevation of the "Panagia" Nybroten, Arvid. (1998) - In: The Greek orthodox theological review Bd. 43 (1998) S. 105-127.
  5. ^ The five loaves are reminiscent of the miracle of the feeding of the multitude (Matthew 14:17, etc.).
  6. ^ The wheat is traditionally kept for sowing, to be eventually harvested and ground to make Prosphora.

See also

External links


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