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Leavened bread for Communion


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#1 Dimitris

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 10:23 PM

Hallo!

Why do we use leaven bread (sourdough bread) for the Communion bread in the Orthodox Church? Do all autocephaleous churches follow this practice? I know that leaven is regarded as simile for the Kingdom of God (Lk 13, 20-21). But on the other hand, Apostle Paul clearly tells us "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1Cor 5, 8). Isn't the word "feast" referring to the Eucharist?

Dimitris

#2 Kris

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 11:14 AM

Why do we use leaven bread (sourdough bread) for the Communion bread in the Orthodox Church? Do all autocephaleous churches follow this practice? I know that leaven is regarded as simile for the Kingdom of God (Lk 13, 20-21). But on the other hand, Apostle Paul clearly tells us "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1Cor 5, 8). Isn't the word "feast" referring to the Eucharist?


Leaven often symbolises sin, which is how St. Paul is using the term in the passage you quoted.

The leaven used in the Holy Communion symbolises Christ's carrying the sins of the world.

It also has other meanings, such as the resurrection (leaven makes the bread rise).

All of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches use leavened bread as far as I'm aware. Even the Latin Church used leavened bread until the 6th century.

I know that in the OO, the Armenian Church uses unleavened bread. I'm not sure if this is an ancient practice or one of the many Latin influences found in their Liturgy.

#3 Peter Farrington

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 11:16 AM

Hi

It is an ancient practice, and relates to the imagery of sin as leaven, and therefore that Christ is without sin. I would not be surprised to find that the Georgian Church also used unleavened bread before coming under Byzantine influence.

Peter

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 03:26 PM

While the imagery of connecting leaven with sin (or conversely with grace in the Kingdom of God) is indeed powerful and prevalent, the practice of using leavened vs unleavened bread in the Eucharist goes to the Orthodox teaching regarding the "Last Supper" and the chronology of the events of Holy Week. Proponents of the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist point to the Gospel of Matthew and maintain the that Last Supper was a Passover Seder and thus the bread would be unleavened, while Orthodoxy, in accordance with the other Gospels and the chronology that indicates that our Lord died on the Cross on the eve of the Passover feast maintains that the Last Supper was not the Seder, but rather a meal during the preparatory period of Passover and thus the bread would have been leavened.

Thus we use leavened bread because we follow the example of our Lord when He instituted the Eucharist. The use of unleavened bread was itself a later deviation (admittedly a widely accepted one) from the original use of leavened bread.

Fr David Moser

#5 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 04:56 PM

It is likely worth noting that this issue was much disputed in the ninth-eleventh centuries, as a differing practice between the eastern and western churches prior to the 'great schism' c. 1054.

The symbolism of the unleavened bread (promulgated widely in the western parts of the church in, e.g., the ninth century) was taken primarily to be the sinlessness of that without admixture; while the symbolism of the leavened bread was that of the resurrection -- literally of rising, seen in the dough.

Those were the primary symbolic interpretations. The historical question was largely as it has already been described by Fr David.

Interestingly, this was far more central an issue in many parts of the empire than the Filioque.

INXC, Matthew

#6 Antonios

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 05:05 PM

Hi everyone,

The following are two quotes from another board which have discussed this topic and which I have found extremely helpful.

==========================================

In the Bible, unleavened bread is called "unleavened bread," whereas leavened bread is simply called "bread." The Jews would have understood this as would have the early Christians. It says that "He took bread," meaning leavened bread; and the Christians, being first instructed by the Apostles and then reading in the Gospels some time later, implemented this. At the Mystical Supper, it is obvious that our Lord was changing things, to tie the Passover meal with its fulfillment, the Eucharist. One of those changes, obviously, was using leavened bread instead of unleavened, or at least leavened in addition to unleavened. The world was empty and devoid of grace before Christ, as is symbolized by the flatness of the unleavened bread, but later filled with the glory of His Resurrection, as is symbolized by the leavened bread. Christ made the change, and the Church followed through on it.

==========================================

The word for unleavened bread in Greek is AZYMOS it is used in the Greek New Testament nine times: Mt.26:17; Mk.14:1,12; Lk.22:1,7;Ac.12:3; 20:6; 1Cor.5:7,8.
The word for leavened bread is ARTOS it is used 97 times in the Greek New Testament.
The passages where they are relevent for the Mystical Supper are
Mt. 26:26; Mk.14:22; Lk.22:19;24:30,35; 1 Cor.10:16,17(twice);11:26,27,28.
In all these places, the writers never say Jesus took AZYMOS and blessed it, they write that Jesus took ARTOS, common ordinary leavened bread. I hope this helps. Christ is risen.

#7 Dimitris

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 12:26 AM

Thank you all for your explanations, they are indeed very helpful. However, for me the question remains, how the quoted passage from 1 Cor is to be interpreted then. Also, does the Orthodox Church regard the question of unleavened vs leavened bread as essential, relevant for our salvation? For example, would the question constitute a serious problem for a possible re-unification with a church using unleavened bread? (Matthew Steenberg already pointed out that it was regarded as a problem in the past, but how is it nowadays?)

Dimitris

#8 Adrian Matthews

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 07:55 AM

This is most helpful.

In Christ,

Adrian.

#9 Father Serafim

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 06:00 PM

As Fr David pointed out that the yeast in the bread symbolizes the resurrection. When I make the altar prophoras, I use yeast to represent the Resurrection of Our Lord.

For Orthodox Christians our Tradition is not viewed as a collection of ancient and therefore debatable customs. It is the action of the Holy Trinity working within the Mystical Body of Christ. To use or even think of unleaven bread does not make any sense.

#10 Peter Farrington

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 06:48 PM

Dear Father

This does not make sense based on the facts of history.

The Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Georgian Orthodox Church following in her tradition for centuries, the first national Church in the world, and undoubtedly led by the Holy Spirit, has always used unleavened bread in the Eucharist.

Therefore it does make sense to ask the questions because the Holy Spirit has inspired Orthodox Christians to use unleavened bread.

Peter

#11 Father David Moser

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 07:10 PM

As Fr David pointed out that the yeast in the bread symbolizes the resurrection.


That was actually Matthew who made that comment - kind of tagging onto my historical synopsis of the events of Holy Week. But the point is worth mentioning again. We use leavened ("living" due to the yeast) bread and wine (again a "living" beverage due to the yeast used in fermentation). We do not used "dead" (without the living element of yeast) bread, nor do we use simple grape juice (without the living element of yeast) I doubt that this is a major point in any of the fathers, but it does make a very important and real part of the iconic presentation of Bread and Wine as the living and Life-giving Body and Blood of Christ.

Fr David Moser

#12 Dimitris

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 09:50 PM

I clearly understand the reasons why EO use leavened bread. But I am still curious what St. Paul is referring to.

Dimitris

#13 Olga

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Posted 08 May 2007 - 04:24 AM

Thank you all for your explanations, they are indeed very helpful. However, for me the question remains, how the quoted passage from 1 Cor is to be interpreted then. Also, does the Orthodox Church regard the question of unleavened vs leavened bread as essential, relevant for our salvation? For example, would the question constitute a serious problem for a possible re-unification with a church using unleavened bread? (Matthew Steenberg already pointed out that it was regarded as a problem in the past, but how is it nowadays?)

Dimitris


Dare I say that reconciliation with the Orthodox Church of a church which uses unleavened bread for the Eucharist would involve more than a simple change in the type of bread used. The non-Orthodox denominations which use unleavened bread have many other significant points of doctrinal difference, of which the choice of Eucharistic bread is but one. All these differences would need to be acknowledged and corrected before the Orthodox Church would accept such a church under its wing.

#14 Father Serafim

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Posted 08 May 2007 - 06:23 PM

1 Cor 5: 8 - Here the Holy Apostle Paul is speaking about unleaved bread allegorically. The unleaven bread means a new life free from spiritul pollutants such as evil and malice. In modern terms this could be presented as bread without any additives such as yeast, salt, honey etc... It has nothing to do with actual bread but is purely symbolic of the new life (unleavened bread) in the Risen Christ. "Not with the old leaven of Adam that is, not a life filled with evil or malice" St Theophylact.

#15 Dimitris

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Posted 11 May 2007 - 10:26 PM

Thank you Father Serafim for your explanations.

Interestingly enough, I was told today in a Georgian Orthodox discussion community that this church is using unleavened bread in the Eucharist until today.

Dimitris

#16 Father Serafim

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Posted 12 May 2007 - 07:47 PM

Our Georgian parishioners have never seen unleaved bread used in Georgia. May be the unleaved is that used by the Georgian Byzantine Catholics. Many non-Orthodox Churches, in particular Oriental Churches refer to themselves as Orthodox .

#17 Archbishop Lazar

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Posted 26 May 2007 - 04:05 AM

Levened bread is called, in the East, "Living bread". Unleavened bread is referred to as "dead." The fact is that, at His Mystical supper, even though it was the feast of unleavened bread (azymos) Christ took leavened bread (artos) and broke it and distributed it to His disciples. There is a type of this in the shew bread that was kept in the temple -- the type of the tribes of Israel gathered before the Mercy Seat. When Christ refers to Himself as "the bread of Life," the Living Bread, it is certainly a play on leavened bread. This is true also of the reference to the "leaven of the pharisees." The leaven is what gives life to the loaf, and if the leaven if hyposcrisy and sham, then the whole loaf, that is, one's whole life is also hypocrisy and sham.

#18 Dimitris

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:49 AM

To give you some news, according to another Georgian, they never used unleavened bread. Strange....

While the imagery of connecting leaven with sin (or conversely with grace in the Kingdom of God) is indeed powerful and prevalent, the practice of using leavened vs unleavened bread in the Eucharist goes to the Orthodox teaching regarding the "Last Supper" and the chronology of the events of Holy Week. Proponents of the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist point to the Gospel of Matthew and maintain the that Last Supper was a Passover Seder and thus the bread would be unleavened, while Orthodoxy, in accordance with the other Gospels and the chronology that indicates that our Lord died on the Cross on the eve of the Passover feast maintains that the Last Supper was not the Seder, but rather a meal during the preparatory period of Passover and thus the bread would have been leavened.

Dear Father David!

Could you please clarify on this? Because in Mk 14:12 and Lk 22:7 it is also said that the Last Supper was on Passover day. Only John says the crucification was on the Preparation Day of the Passover (John 19:14), thus the Last Supper was on the day before, meaning there was no need on that day to eat unleavened bread.

Thank you,
Dimitris

#19 Father David Moser

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 07:54 PM

Because in Mk 14:12 and Lk 22:7 it is also said that the Last Supper was on Passover day.


According to the commentary of Blessed Theophylact on Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7

The first day of unleavened bread means Thursday the day before the feast of unleavened bread, for the unleavened bread was eaten on Friday

and then a footnote to the text of the commentary on St Luke explains further,

St Matthew and St Mark all this Thursday the first day of unleavened bread, that is the day before the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover, which began on Friday, the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan. the Lord and His disciples made preparations for the Passover meal one day before the time appointed by the because on Friday Christ Himself would be slain as the true Paschal Lamb, fulfilling in His own Person the types and foreshadowings of the Old Testament



#20 Dimitris

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:04 PM

Dear Father David!

I think I am confused by the Jewish traditions regarding Passover, Pascha, Feast of the Unleavened Bread,.... As far as I understood the Passover (which is a synonym for the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, isn't it?) starts at the 15th day of Nisan. On the evening of this day the Passover Seder is eaten. But on the day before, on the 14th day of Nisan, the Pascha lamb is to be killed. The two mentioned passages from Mark and Luke indicate that it was this day when the Last Supper took place. But according to Ex 12:8 also on this day, the day before the actual starting of Passover, one should eat unleavened bread.

Maybe I am also confused by the Jewish way of counting days. As far as I know the day last from sunset to sunset. So does that mean that the killing of the Pascha lamb (during day of the 14th day) and the Passover Seder (following the sunset of the 14th day, thus being on the 15th day) are taking place at the same day when speaking in our terms? But this wouldn't help either, because it means that the Last Supper of our Lord actually was a Passover Seder.

I hope you don't mind me still probing, but I want to completely understand this issue. Thank you,

Dimitris




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