Artos in the Greek language once referred to any sort of leavened bread, but in Modern Greek now only refers to bread used in church.
In monasteries, the Artos is carried to the Trapeza every day of Bright Week, where at the end of the festive meal, it is lifted in a ceremony called the Lifting of the Artos. The one performing the ceremony will lift up the Artos (symbolizing Christ's Resurrection) and say, "Christ is Risen!" All will respond, "He is truly Riesn!" The celebrant will then make the sign of the Cross with the Artos as he says, "We worship His Resurrection on the third day!" Then two Paschal hymns are sung and everyone comes forward to kiss the Artos and receive the Superior's blessing, as all sing the Paschal troparion many times.
On Bright Saturday, after the Divine Liturgy, the priest says another prayer over the Artos and it is then broken and distributed among the whole congregation along with the Prosphora.
On the 40th day after His Resurrection, the Lord ascended into heaven, and His disciples and followers found comfort in their memories of the Lord: they recalled His every word, His every step and His every action. When they met for common prayer, they would partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, remembering the Last Supper. When they sat down to an ordinary meal, they would leave a place at the head of the table empty for the invisibly present Lord and would lay bread on that place.
Remembering this custom of the Apostles, the Fathers of the Church made it their custom to put out the Artos at the Paschal Feast in memory of the appearances of the Risen Lord to His disciples, and also in memory of the fact that the Lord Who suffered and was resurrected for our justification has made Himself the true Bread of Life and is invisibly present in His church always, to the close of the age ().
Whereas special Paschal breads, called kulichi are broken and eaten on the first day of Pascha, the Artos is kept whole throughout the whole of Bright Week as a reminder of the presence of the Risen Savior in the midst of those who believe in Him and is only divided and distributed on Saturday. In this way Bright Week begins and ends with the eating of especially baked and blessed bread.
The Artos may also be compared to the unleavened bread of the Old Testament, of which ancient Israel, delivered from their captivity in the land of Egypt, ate during the week of the Passover (Ex. 12:15-20). As Cyril, Bishop of Turov, who lived during the 12th Century in Russia, said in a sermon for the Sunday after Pascha:
Even as the Jews bore the unleavened bread upon their heads out of Egypt through the desert until they had crossed the Red Sea, after which they dedicated the bread to God, divided it amongst all their host, and having all eaten thereof, became...terrible to their enemies, even so do we, saved by our Resurrected Lord from the captivity of that Pharaoh of the mind, the Devil, bear forth the blessed bread the Artos from the day of the Resurrection of Christ and, finally, having dedicated this bread to God, we eat of it and preserve it to the health of body and soul.
It is a custom among Russian Orthodox Christians to this day to keep a portion of the Artos throughout the year and with due reverence and faith to eat of it in time of illness or distress. This is eaten, often together with a drink of Holy Water, which had been blessed at the Feast of the Theophany of Our Lord.
At the Vigil on Sundays and Feast Days throughout the year, near the conclusion of Vespers, all go in procession to the Narthex of the church, where special petitions called the Litia are prayed. Then, during the chanting of the Troparion of the Day (Apolytikon), the deacon censes a tray on which have been placed five leavened loaves, wheat, wine, and oil, which the priest then blesses. After the blessing he breaks one of the loaves (from which action the rite receives its name: Artoklasia, "breaking of bread"). These items are then taken back into the sanctuary where they are prepared for later distribution. After the reading of the Gospel at Matins, the faithful come forward to venerate the Gospel Book (if it is Sunday) or the Icon of the Feast (if it is a weekday). The priest then anoints them on the forehead with some of the oil, and each person receives a piece of the blessed Artos dipped in some of the wine.