Artoklasia (Gr. artos = bread, klao = to break, the breaking of bread). A peculiar service in the Greek Church performed as the concluding part of Vespers. Five loaves of ordinary bread, a measure of wine, and a measure of oil are set upon the analogion before the iconostasis in front of the altar. These are first incensed, and then the priest taking one of the loaves into his hands blesses them as follows: “O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who didst bless the five loaves in the desert and satisfy therewith five thousand men, do Thyself bless these loaves also, the wheat, the wine and the oil; multiply them in this holy abode unto all the world; and sanctify the faithful servants of Thine who may partake of them. For Thou art He who blesseth and halloweth and nourisheth all good things, O Christ our God, and to Thee we send up glory with Thine unoriginate Father and Thine all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, world without end”. Afterwards the xxxiii Psalm is said, ending with the chanting of the eleventh verse: “The rich have become poor and have suffered hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good things”, and then the people are blessed. This office was introduced in monasteries where the monks kept an all-night vigil and the food was necessary for them, but gradually it became a Church office for the whole Eastern Rite. Originally there was a breaking of the bread and a distribution of the bread and wine, but that has been discontinued, although the Greek rubric still says, “Note that the blessed bread is a preventive of all manner of evils if it is received with faith”. The ceremony of artoklasia is now seldom used in the Greek Catholic Church, since, in imitation of the Roman Rite, the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament according to a Greek form has taken its place.
ANDREW J. SHIPMAN