As every good Orthodox Christian knows, prosphoro (leavened bread given out during Holy Communion) is made with these simple ingredients: water, flour, yeast, and salt. Also what every good Orthodox Christian knows is that this bread is usually made by sweet little old ladies.
But the town of Claremount is very different. In Claremount at St. Theodore’s Greek Orthodox Church, the little old ladies used to bake the bread for Sunday services. For many years now, Yianni Pappas has baked it because everyone including Yianni knows his prosphoro is the best. Yianni is a middle-aged, pious Orthodox Christian who is unmarried. Yianni’s baking talents are well known at St. Theodore’s. He not only bakes bread but he also bakes a mean cupcake.
Fr. James, the parish priest, encourages his parishioners to donate their time and talent and Yianni listens to Fr. James. Since Yianni knows he’s the best, then he’s sure to win favor with Fr. James and the rest of the parish. In order for him to make sure he’s noticed, Yianni never fails to mention his prosphoro baking prowess every single Sunday at coffee hour. He is so proud of himself that his pride blasts like a beacon on a foggy night.
One day, though, Yianni had a heart attack and died (maybe it was all those cupcakes?). Fr. James was saddened because not only did he lose a valued member of his parish but also who was going to bake the prosphoro for next Sunday’s service? And would it be as good as Yianni’s? The old ladies were sad because they’d have to pick up the slack now that Yianni died. They were enjoying their retirement. But on the upside, the parish was happy that they’d never have to listen to Yianni brag about his baking prowess.
But Yianni’s story doesn’t end here. It seems that when he died, he didn’t quite make it to St. Peter’s Pearly Gates but ended up in a beautiful industrialized kitchen with all modern conveniences where he’s the head baker as well as all the assistant bakers. His task is to bake the leavened bread for church every Sunday. But when he removes the bread from the oven, he doesn’t find the perfect golden brown, chewy bread as per the recipe. He finds a flattened, gray blob. He sighs and puts it aside and starts all over again, hoping that the next loaf will be perfect. He never understands what the problem is because no matter what he does, the bread never bakes the right way.
(Author's note: This story was published in Pride 7 Deadly Sins Vol. 7, published by Pure Slush Books: http://bit.ly/PrideBk)