The Proskomedia (sometimes referred to as prothesis or proskomide) is the Office of Oblation celebrated by the priest prior to the Divine Liturgy during which the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist. The Proskomedia is a prerequisite for the Divine Liturgy. The priest conducts the Office of Oblation behind the Iconostasis at the Table of Oblation or Table of Preparation (also Prothesis, or sometime Proskomide) that is located to the left of the Altar Table. Proskomedia, when translated to English, means "preparation."
The Prothesis (Table of Oblation) represents the cave of Bethlehem where our Lord and Savior was born. Originally, the Prothesis was located in the same room as the altar table, being simply a smaller table placed against the eastern wall to the north of the altar table. During the reign of the Emperor Justin II, the Prothesis came to occupy its own separate chamber to the north of the altar, in a separate apse, and joined to the altar by a door way. Another apse was added on the south side for the Diaconicon. From this time on many large Orthodox churches were built with three apses on the eastern end of the church building. However, most smaller churches continued to be built having only one aspe containing the altar, the Prothesis and the Diaconicon.
The bread and wine are prepared for the liturgy on the Prothesis. The chalice, a cup that contains pure sweet grape wine, and a round plate on a stand called the diskos or paten, that holds the bread that is made of pure wheat flour, are kept on this table. Usually, there are five loaves representing our Lord’s miracle of feeding the five thousand men besides women and children with only five loaves of bread (Matt. 14:17-21). These vessels are normally decorated with iconographic engravings, Christian symbols, and the sign of the cross. The top of each loaf is impressed with a seal bearing the sign of the cross.
Also on this table is a special liturgical knife, symbolically called the spear, that is used for cutting the eucharistic bread (prosphora) and a liturgical spoon for administering holy communion to the people. There are also special covers for the chalice and diskos and a cruciform piece of metal called the asterisk or star that holds the cover over the eucharistic bread on the diskos. A sponge and cloths for drying the chalice after the liturgy are also usually kept here. The Prothesis is decorated in a manner similar to that of the altar table. Above the Prothesis may be found various icons, often one of Christ praying in Gethsemene: "Let this cup pass..."
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