A Holy Tradition for Litia Service - The Baking of Artoklasia
Litia is a prayer service consisting of hymns and prayers. It is prescribed for all of the Great Feasts and most of the major Feasts and also at other select times. This service is most commonly held at the end of Great Vespers, although it can be done at the end of Orthros or Liturgy.
Litia means supplication or fervent prayer and artoklasia means the breaking of bread. Five loaves of artoklasia are required for the Litia service. The 5 loaves are reminiscent of the 5 loaves that Jesus blessed and multiplied in the desert to feed the five-thousand. Although five loaves are required, anyone can bake and bring loaves of artoklasia and their prayer list to the Litia service. It is normal for a priest to pray over many, many loaves at the service.
During the service the bread is broken in the sign of the cross, the priest says a prayer and a Troparion is sung. After the service wine is poured over the bread and the bread is divided among the faithful of the congregation with the hope that God’s blessing will be shared and multiplied. The blessed artoklasia is believed to effect personal sanctification and to help the individual against bodily infirmities and illness if taken in faith. Artoklasia also symbolizes and brings into practice today the Agape meals of the very early Christian communities. In those days after receiving the Eucharist they would gather in a common meal, signifying the brotherly association established between them through their common faith and by their receiving the same Holy Eucharist.
At St. Andrew we try to make sure there are five loaves of artoklasia at a Litia service by scheduling volunteers to bring it with their prayer list. New volunteers are always welcome—just contact the office to sign up. But we also welcome and encourage other families to simply prepare and bring artoklasia to add to the five loaves at the litia table. It is traditional for us to do this. All who bring artoklasia should bring a list of people for prayer, as we do when we bake prosphora for Liturgy.
Prayer Before Preparing the Artoklasia Bread
Lord, please help me prepare this artoklasia which I am about to begin and bring it to completion according to Thy will so that we can pray for the well-being of our loved ones whose names we are about to offer and so that we can share the blessing of these five loaves with the faithful who join us in asking for Thy great mercy and divine grace. Amen
2 pkgs. yeast (4 ½ teaspoons)
1 tsp salt
5 ½ cups flour
½ cup water
1 ½ cups warm water
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve yeast in 1 ½ cups of warm water (100-110 degrees). Add sugar, salt, remaining water and oil. Mix in 3 cups of flour until the dough is smooth. Add the cinnamon. Add the remaining flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is firm. Divide into 5 parts and place in floured round pans. Let the bread rise in a draft free area until doubled in size (approx 45 minutes to 1 hour). Bake for 20 minutes at 350 or until bread is golden brown. Remove bread and cool on racks for 10 minutes. Wrap bread in bread cloth to maintain freshness. If using dark pans the bake time may need to be less than if using glass or ceramic pans.