Why Does the Orthodox Church Use Leavened Bread?

There has been a flourishing number of individuals from different backgrounds, who have started to become more interested in the Orthodox Church recently. These blessed people are quickly discovering the royal traditions and strong faith of the classic Orthodox Church as time goes on.

Many have been truly inspired by the Churches’ powerful vision of God and His heavenly Kingdom, the purity of the worship, the beauty of the faith, and the persistent continuity of the past. Of course, these are only some of the many treasures regarding the Orthodox Church, which has a past going way back to the days of the God-fearing Apostles.

When it comes to Eastern Christianity, the Orthodox Church truly personifies and encompasses the rich spiritual royalties of the Church. As we think about this, we also should not forget that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ was initially preached in the areas surrounding the great Mediterranean Sea.

It was in these specified areas of the old Roman Empire that the wonderful Christian faith first grew in its daily fight against paganism and heresy. It was in the Eastern cities that the basic foundations and essentials of our faith in God were declared publicly at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

The actual spirit of Christianity was cultivated and nurtured in the East, and was distinct in its message. It was specific, although not really opposed to that which came into being in the Western area of the Roman Empire and surrounding Medieval Kingdoms.

Even though Western Christianity grew in lands which were familiar with the legal and moral philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern Christianity flourished in areas which knew more of the Hellenistic and Semitic cultures. While the East had more of an emphasis on the Resurrection of Christ and that of the deification of man, the West became more concerned with the sin of man and the Passion of Christ.

When it came to the West, they looked more towards a legalistic viewpoint of religion, while the East leaned more towards a mystical theology. Being that the Early Church was not at all monolithic, the two traditions seemed to exist happily together for over a thousand years until the Great Schism would eventually divide the Church. Now, many Protestants and Roman Catholics both are heirs to the Western tradition, while the Orthodox are more heirs to the Eastern tradition.

An interesting fact to know is, the Orthodox Christians of the Eastern Churches go by simply Orthodox. This amazing description is derived from the fifth century and has two distinct definitions which are somewhat closely related. The first description is known as “true teaching.”

In this, the Orthodox Church believes that the Church has carefully handed down the Christian faith, free from distortion and error, clear back from the time of the Apostles. The second, more preferred definition is known as “true praise.” The basic purpose of the Church is to praise, bless, and glorify God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Every one of the Church’s activities and doctrinal systems are actually directed toward this one mission.

From time to time, the word Catholic is sometimes also used to define the Orthodox Church. This specific description is incorporated in the Nicene Creed, which simply recognizes One, Catholic, Holy, and Apostolic Church. From the Orthodox point of view, Catholic is simply defined as the Church being universal and that she accepts person’s of every race and culture.

In this, it also shows us that the Church has carefully preserved the fullness of the Christian faith. It is not weird for certain titles like that of Russian, Greek, or Antiochian to be utilized in defining Orthodox Churches. These appellations describe the cultural roots of a specific diocese, parish, or archdiocese.

 WHY DOES THE ORTHODOX CHURCH USE LEAVENED BREAD?

Many Orthodox Christian believers use leavened bread simply because this is an ancient apostolic tradition. Some people debate on whether Christ really used unleavened or leavened bread at the official institution of the Holy Eucharist, being that various conclusions could be drawn. For instance, on the one hand it could be from the gospel of St. John and on the other hand from the synoptic Gospels.

According to history, it does not really conclude exactly what the practice of the Apostles was, although it very well could be asserted with the probability that simply made use of whatever bread seemed to be convenient, whether leavened or unleavened. Today, many Orthodox researchers would debate that St. John’s chronology should be viewed as a clarification and followed carefully.

This fact, along with the idea that the word ‘artos’ refers to regular bread, give reference to the idea that the Lord used leavened bread. It is a true fact that yeast is most oftentimes seen in Holy Scripture as a symbol of iniquity and sin, however as general bread was utilized throughout the year for the official Eucharist in many of the Apostolic Churches, the leavened bread was soon acknowledged as symbolic to life and the risen and living body of Christ Jesus.

Excluding the Churches of the Maronite and Armenian Rite, many Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches most oftentimes use leavened bread for the Eucharist. Therefore, the holy sacramental bread symbolizes the powerful Resurrected Christ.

This sacramental bread, also called hostia sometimes, may be prepared out of four special ingredients: fine white or wheat flour, yeast, pure water, and salt. Sometimes, even holy water can be either carefully sprinkled directly into the dough or put in on the kneading trough at the initial beginning of the operation.

 LEAVENED BREAD IN THE BIBLE

In the Bible, it mentions leaven or yeast, in many contexts. In many instances, the references to leaven are very literal, while in other references, leaven simply has symbolic connotations to it. To put it plainly, leaven makes dough rise, although the whole process takes time and patience.

After the Israelites were successfully freed from captivity by God, they had next to no time to spare, and in their swiftness, they decided to bake and eat flat or unleavened bread for their journey ahead. With the fresh dough the Israelites brought in with them from the land of Egypt, they decided to bake various loaves of unleavened bread.

The special dough was without any yeast given the fact that the Israelites had been pushed out of Egypt and did not really have the time enough to carefully prepare food for themselves, according to Exodus 12:39. In order to celebrate and observe the Israelite’s deliverance from Egypt by God, He carefully instructed the Israelites to commemorate a whole week of feasting directly following the Passover Day.

This special feast was known simply as the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.” It was also during this time that the Israelites were then commanded to quickly remove all forms of leaven from their houses and to consume no bread that had leaven in it, according to Exodus 12:15 and Exodus 13:6-7.

THE THEOLOGY OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST

The Christian theology of the Eucharist is a branch of theology that concerns certain doctrines pertaining to the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is sometimes also known as the Lord’s Supper and exists specifically in Christianity and other religions that are closely related.

In the Holy Gospels of Jesus’s ministry on earth, a group of individuals actually challenged Jesus about the rain of manna from Heaven before He then gives the very famous Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:22-59). In His passage, Jesus describes himself as the “True Bread from Heaven”.

The phenomenal Bread of Life Discourse happens in the Gospel of John, 6:30-59, and Jesus promises to offer His Blood and Flesh, which will essentially give eternal life to all who humbly receive it in life. In the Book of John 6:53, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

He continues in verses 54-55 of John, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed.” Each and every year, Jews in Israel’s land commemorated the Passover Meal, carefully remembering their joyful liberation from captivity in the land of Egypt. Jesus then celebrated the Last Supper with his Apostles at the Passover.

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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