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The Proper Understanding and Use of Antidoron

 

Traditional View and Practice According to Akrivia (Strictness)

Please help me to understand the significance of antidoron. How should one receive it and handle it? If one takes it home during the week for daily "communion" is this wrong? Is there a proper way of doing it—before a prayer, before a meal, etc.? When can you or should you take propsphora to Church? Should you also take wine and oil? Do you bring the names of people to be commemorated with these gifts? (G.M., IL)

This is a subject of great importance which we have several times addressed in the pages of Orthodox Tradition. When we do not commune at Liturgy, we receive antidoron (an-dee-tho-ron, with a hard "d" and a soft "d," as in "the") at the end of Liturgy (that is, blessed bread which substitutes for the Gifts; thus, antidoron, "instead of the Gifts"). Those who commune during the Liturgy receive antidoron or antidoron and wine immediately after communing and should not take it again at the end of Liturgy. Since it is blessed, the antidoron should be carefully handled and no particles of it should be allowed to fall on the ground. This means that children must be carefully watched while consuming antidoron and taught to treat it with pious reverence. It should be received from the Priest at the end of Liturgy and immediately consumed. Since antidoron is given in place of the Gifts, it is also received on an empty stomach, for which reason Orthodox Christians do not eat or drink anything from the midnight before the Divine Liturgy, whether communing or not.

Antidoron may also be taken home for use during the week. It is a pious custom for Orthodox Christians to begin the day, after their morning prayers and before eating, by consuming a particle of antidoron and drinking agiasmos, or blessed water.

Prosforo(n), the word for the bread which we offer at the Divine Liturgy, comes from the Greek word for an offering, prosfora. It is customarily baked in the home with prayers and taken to Church, where it is offered for the Divine Liturgy. (Incidentally, women, out of piety, should not prepare prosforon during their monthly periods.) One may also give oil and wine along with prosforon—other "offerings"—so as to provide for the oil lamps and the remaining element of the Eucharist, though this is not mandatory. This can be done for any Liturgy. It is also customary to offer the names of Orthodox Christian family members, of friends, and of relatives with the prosforon, so that the Priest may commemorate them at the Service of Preparation (Proskomide).

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. IX, No. 4, p. 18.

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My brother and I visited your monastery. The services were beautiful. But you gave antidoron [the blessed bread distributed at the end of the Divine Liturgy —Editor] to my brother, who, as I told you, is not Orthodox. You also gave him a blessing. Father [name deleted] said that you cannot give antidoron and blessings to heretics....Can you help me through this? I trust your views. (J.F., CA)

Answer: Non-Orthodox should be called "non-Orthodox" or "heterodox," not heretics. Gentlemanly behavior and the success of Orthodox missions within a religiously pluralistic society dictate this.

Your Priest is correct in his opinion that antidoron should not be given to non-Orthodox. It represents the Holy Gifts. (Thus the custom—now sadly ignored in most Churches—of fasting from the midnight before Liturgy, even when not communing.) So as not to embarrass non-Orthodox visiting our services, we place portions of an unblessed loaf of bread at one side of the antidoron tray and give these to non-Orthodox with the customary blessing: "May the blessing of the Lord...."

With regard to blessing non-Orthodox, how can we not bless other Christians, or even non-Christians? Not to do so is to violate the Christian commandment of love. Moreover, in the Divine Liturgy we pray for all men and women, Orthodox or not, blessing them and hoping to bring them to the truth of Orthodoxy.

If, in maintaining fidelity to the true Faith and avoiding the betrayals of ecumenism, we fail to pray for those in error, then we cannot possibly belong to the Church of Christ. Love is the most dominant feature of Christ's Church, and in that love we are brothers even of our enemies.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. V, No. 3, p. 62.

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Most Orthodox Christians are aware that one should keep a strict and complete fast from midnight before receiving the Holy Mysteries, but one should also receive holy water and the antidoron (the blessed bread given out at the end of the Liturgy) fasting. If, as many do, you keep a supply at home, use a little each day to break your fast, when you have said your morning prayers and before eating anything else. If you are attending the Divine Liturgy, then keep a fast until the service is over (as in any case one should) and you receive your antidoron from the priest. If for some reason, you have eaten when you attend the Liturgy, then take the antidoron home as a blessing and consume it on another day, thus showing reverence for the things of God and the blessing which this bread has received.

From The Shepherd.

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It is a pious custom to keep some holy bread and holy water in one's icon corner—to consume, breaking the night's fast, with one's morning prayers.

“O Lord my God, may Thy holy gift and Thy Holy Water be unto forgiveness of my sins, unto enlightenment of my mind, unto strengthening of my spiritual and bodily powers, unto health of my soul and body, unto vanquishing of my passions and weaknesses, by Thy boundless merciful kindness, through the prayers of Thy Most-pure Mother and all Thy Saints. Amen.”

Taken from the Parish Newsletter of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist (May 2011).

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SPECIAL NOTE ON ANTIDORON: We are always growing in our Orthodox understanding of what we are doing in worship. Before the Divine Liturgy begins there is a service of preparation, the Proskomide, in which the priest prepares the gifts for the Eucharist. The prosphora, or loaf of bread from which the Lamb is taken, is called the Antidoron which means "instead of the gift (Holy Communion)". According to Tradition this is received after the dismissal by those who were not prepared for or could not receive Holy Communion. It is a symbol of the Theotokos from which Christ (the Lamb) came and is reserved for Orthodox Christians. This Antidoron will be set by the Holy Water near the solea. It should only be received by Orthodox Christians while fasting. It can also be taken home for use after morning prayer before eating or drinking anything. After the dismissal everyone may venerate the Cross and receive the blessed bread* that will be held by Acolytes or others on each side.

From the parish newsletter of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church, Yakima, WA.

 

Examples of the Pastoral Application of Oikonomia

A few words from the OCIC Editor: In our times most Priests think it's enough merely to guard the Chalice, i.e., not to give Holy Communion accidentally to non-Orthodox. For this and other pastoral reasons, free distribution of Antidoron to all who come up to venerate the Cross after the Divine Liturgy appears to be common practice today in most parishes. This is (hopefully) done by oikonomia, out of love and respect for non-Orthodox visitors, so as not to embarrass them, and with the hope of attracting them to the Orthodox Faith.

Orthodox Christians should, however, keep in mind the traditional teaching concerning Antidoron, treating the blessed bread with respect, partaking only after fasting, etc.

For those who still think it's wrong freely to give out Antidoron, some examples follow that support the use of oikonomia. It's also worth keeping in mind that there are other traditions (e.g., that catechumens should depart at the end of the Liturgy of the Word, i.e., before the Cherubic Hymn) that one could defend using copious quotes from the Holy Fathers. Yet I have never heard of a Priest telling his catechumens to depart. The pastoral reasons why this tradition is no longer practiced are likely similar to those justifying oikonomia in the distribution of Antidoron.

Clinging rigidly to the practice of traditions that do not touch on dogma (e.g., the Baptism of converts is not in view because the reasons given today for reception by Chrismation alone touch on dogmatic issues related to ecclesiology, and are heavily influenced by Ecumenism) can lead one down the path of the Old Believers, who could not accept (among other things) a change in the way that Russian Orthodox make the Sign of the Cross. We must endeavor to "hold fast to the traditions," as St. Paul wrote, but also not to fall into the error of "super-correctness".

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I remember when a novice from Monastery Josanice, as a soldier from Valjevo, came to Monastery Celije for Liturgy and brought with him a soldier, a Roman Catholic seminarian from Slovenia, who was in awe of the Orthodox service of Fr. Justin and the sisters and the people, and so this Serb, the novice, asked the Abba: Should the Slovenian approach for the antidoron?, and Fr. Justin allowed him and personally gave it to him, saying: “He’s a child.”

Bishop Atanasije Jevtic **

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The Patriarchs of Constantinople Gennadios Scholarios, Dositheos of Jerusalem and the Archbishop of Ochrid (Bulgaria) Demetrios Chomatianos when referring to those heretics who come respectfully to attend our Orthodox Worship and ask for our blessing, all recommend that we do not send them away, but on the contrary even offer them antidoron*** and our holy water. It is characteristic that while Gennadios allows the Orthodox to bless the heretics, he discourages them from asking for the blessing and holy water of the heretics! “It is therefore enough, that you do not ask for their blessing, for they are heterodox, and separate”. Demetrios of Ochrid feels the need to justify this suggestion of his, saying that “this custom has the power to gradually attract them fully towards our holy ethos and dogmas”.

Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos, "One Must Not Pray Together with Heretics or Schismatics, Part 2"

Endnotes

* This "blessed bread" is not Antidoron. It is prosphora that was not used during the Proskomedia service, but was simply blessed by the Priest in the Altar. As it was not used for the preparation of the Gifts, it may be consumed by non-Orthodox. This is how some especially traditional Priests try to handle the pastoral challenge of Antidoron distribution.

** The fact that a novice felt compelled to ask St. Justin about the appropriateness of giving Antidoron to a Roman Catholic shows that he was aware of the traditional practice, that their Monastery did not have the local custom of distributing Antidoron to non-Orthodox except under special circumstances, and that a blessing from the Priest was needed for his friend to get in line. This example is, however, from a Monastery, where a more strict adherence to Holy Tradition would normally be maintained (as an Mount Athos, and elsewhere).

*** This article footnotes a pertinent event in the life of the Holy New Martyr Ahmed the Calligrapher (May 3/16). He was a Muslim who had an Orthodox Christian slave (under Turkish domination) as a concubine (according to Muslim law). After she ate some Antidoron he noticed a heavenly fragrance emanating from her mouth, and inquired as to its origin. She explained that she had eaten nothing but the Antidoron given to her by a pious woman in church. Saint Ahmed earnestly desired to learn more about this, so he put on Christian clothing and snuck into the church of the Patriarchate to observe. While watching the Patriarch serving Divine Liturgy his eyes were opened to see divine rays of light emanating from the Patriarch, and he was converted. He was soon baptized in his own blood after publicly confessing Christ and renouncing Islam.