How can I answer our youth when they ask why do we offer our specific oblations with a certain shape and symbols? What do these symbols mean? Why can it not be any loaf of bread?
Bread: The oblation bread from which the priest chooses the Lamb must all be circular in shape symbolizing that Christ has no beginning and no end. The Coptic Orthodox Church uses yeast to leaven the bread. Yeast is symbolic of sin (i.e., hypocrisy--the yeast of the Pharisees). Christ Jesus, who without sin bore our sins unto His own holy body. Mixing two portions of unsalted flour with one portion of water, adding yeast, and kneading it make the oblation bread. The dough is then cut into odd numbered fist size balls and flattened it into equal circular size portions.
A specific wooden object of an engraved stamps each disc cross and the inscription in Coptic, reading: "Holy God Holy Mighty Holy Immortal." A special nail-like instrument is used to mark five holes in the oblation bread symbolizing Christ's wounds (hands, feet, and side). The disc size odd numbered loaves are kept for a while to allow the yeast to rise. The loaves are then baked it in an oven. Baking in a hot oven kills the yeast, symbolic of Christ abolishing sins in His holy body.
Only deacons and clergy are allowed to make the oblation bread. All 150 Psalms are to be prayed during the making of the oblation bread. The lights remain on in the area where the oblation bread is baked, which is also referred to as "Bethlehem"--meaning "House of Bread." Utensils used for making the oblation bread may not be used for anything else.
Wine: The wine used for the liturgical services for the blood of Christ is comprised of fermented grapes—the same components used by the Jews for the "cup offering."
Wine and Water: The mixing of wine and water is symbolic of Christ's side that gushed out blood and water when speared upon the cross.
Water: Water used in liturgical services in the sanctuary is symbolic of baptism and cleansing.