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As my brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope that those who read this will understand that my words are motivated by love and not pleasure. I take my commitment to this website very seriously, because it a service to Christ and to all of you who read it. My prayer is that all of you will continue to grow in your faith and love for Christ, ardently struggling to improve and become better servants. I know that many of you are restless in your combat against the devil's sloth, and God has seen to it to entrust our beloved Archdiocese with greater and greater ministerial responsibilities as a result.
And so, I ask you, my fellow Antiochians, to accept a challenge: in the coming years, let's all work together to improve our baking skills. Some of our clergy really struggle in their parishes to meet the ever increasing demands of communing all the people with a very small piece of bread. Our clergy need our help to get a larger, thicker centers from our loaves.
The old way, which many of us are still doing, is to make a wide, flat loaf and to press the seal down deep into the center. This leaves only 1/4" to 1/2" thickness under the seal after baking. If a bubble forms under the seal, this might only leave the priest with 1/8" thick piece of bread to commune the entire parish! This was sufficient 50 years ago when people did not receive communion every Sunday as they do now. These days, as our parishes are growing and more people are receiving each Sunday, priests are having a harder time getting the bread to stretch out through communion.
How can we, as prosphora bakers, change this? Simple, by making our loaves thicker. It is *NOT* untraditional to make a thick loaf. In many places in the Orthodox world, including the Byzantine churches, thick loaves have always been used. This is done by not rolling the loaf as thin, and then attaching the stamped loaf to the top of a second loaf the same size, like two pancakes stacked on top of each other. You can set these in a high-sided cake pan to keep the edges even. It makes a wonderfully thick loaf Abouna will be able to get a nice size Lamb out of.
Remember to wet the top of the bottom loaf before you set the stamped loaf on top. This will keep them together. This should be done rihgt away, before they have had time to rise, so that they can grow together. The baking time will increase because the dough is thick. If you run into trouble a harder crust than you care for, read my article on steam baking.
We can also help our priests by buying larger seals. You can purchase a large seal that has only the center portion of the Byzantine seal (the part that reads IC/XC/NI/KA) and use it to make a loaf that, with another loaf with the standard Byzantine seal, will give Abouna a large Lamb from the first loaf and all the commemorations from the second with the Byzantine seal.
I really hope that all of you out there who are baking will try to give your priest a thicker loaf to work with. Sometimes it is hard to change, especially if we have doen something for so long. But change is also an opportunity to improve. We are never perfect, but are constantly struggling towards the goal of perfection in Christ. Let our bread be a sign of our continuous progress.