Prosphoron is Greek for “that which is offered,” or simply “an offering” (the verb form is literally: to bear or bring toward). It is the term used for the altar bread that is offered and consecrated at the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Churches.
The life and work of a priest is a prosphoron, an offering to God, for his glory and for the salvation of souls. The greatest offering he makes is that of Christ Himself in the Divine Sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist. Here the priest understands that he, like the prosphoron that becomes the Body of Christ, is “offered and consecrated,” he too is broken and sacrificed for the salvation of souls. We say of Christ in the Liturgy that He is the One “who offers and is offered.” He offers, because He Himself is the great High Priest of our salvation, and the Sacrifice is his once-for-all immolation on Golgotha, made sacramentally present during the Liturgy. He is offered, because he allows the priest to offer Him sacramentally for the accomplishment of this Mystery in the daily life of the Church.
But any baptized person can offer and be offered. A life that is one great offering is expressed in many smaller offerings, which may consist of trials, hardships, sufferings of body or soul, even the myriad inconveniences and irritations of daily life. I must choose to make an offering of all that makes up my life, and all that happens to me in my life, knowing that I am at the same time offered by Christ to the Father—hence the fruitfulness of the offering. One benefit of making this offering is growth in patience and in peace, as the awareness grows that nothing is wasted, that God can bring good out of any disaster, that my inevitable sufferings can be transformed into manifold blessings, that lasting contributions are being made toward increasing the population of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Many souls cannot be moved or converted by word or example, usually because they have chosen a path contrary to the Gospel, or because there is some other impediment, perhaps not of their own making. The Lord wishes to save them too. But they can only be touched from within by the hidden dynamism of grace working through the spiritual connections within the Mystical Body of Christ. Thus one soul can influence and positively affect another, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It seems that God expects us to pray and offer sacrifices for the salvation of our brothers and sisters, and that He even waits for this before intervening in another’s life. This is because God is love and wants to teach us to love. Loving is giving, offering oneself for the sake of another. Intercession, therefore, is a commitment of love, an offering of oneself for the good of others, especially for their eternal salvation.
The double dimension of the life of a prosphoron, a person who offers and is offered, is essentially that of the first apostles: to be with Christ and to be given a mission (see Mark 3:13-15). The prosphoron used in the Liturgy is pierced five times in honor of the major wounds of Christ. We should be aware that we will share in the sufferings of Christ if we desire to be united with Him, offered with Him. St Paul said his sufferings were for the sake of the Church, so obviously he believed there was benefit to be gained by the members of the Church through his own sufferings in union with Jesus.
Of course, one person can only do so much in the face of all the sin and suffering in the world. An awareness of even a tiny fraction of this is overwhelming. Only Christ is able to bear it all, but He still invites us to share in his mission, a mission that will not be completed until the end of time. So I pray and make my offerings for “those whom the Lord has given me” (see John 17:9), whether I know who they are or not. He will assign others to intercede for the rest.
What is the meaning of life? What do we want from life, and for whom do we live? What do we want to see when we look back on our lives? How is one to make a contribution in this world that will cross the threshold into the next? In the end, what matters but the salvation of souls unto eternal happiness and the glory of God?
Let us offer and be offered, allowing ourselves to be “brought toward” the Lord in a sacrifice of love and joy and spiritual fruitfulness. Someday in Heaven we shall meet the fruits of our offering, souls rescued by grace through prayer and self-giving. All will be borne up by the Risen Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us, and who stands eternally before the Father, bearing the shining wounds of his pure sacrifice. Then we will know fully the meaning of our lives, offered and consecrated to God for the eternal salvation of souls. And we shall rejoice.