A paten, or diskos, is a small plate, usually made of silver or gold, used to hold Eucharistic hosts. It is generally used during the service itself, while the reserved hosts are stored in the Tabernacle in a ciborium.
Western UsageWithin the Latin-Rite, the paten is typically either a simple saucer-like plate or a low bowl. The paten is normally quite small, and has a depression in it that allows it to securely sit on top of the chalice.
Altar servers may also use a small paten, usually attached to a short pole, which is placed under the Eucharist as it is distributed on people's tongues, so if the host might accidentally fall, it would fall into the Paten and not onto the floor.
As per the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the paten (like the chalice) must be made from a dignified, opaque material. Universally, metallic patens of silver and gold are the norm, though the Vatican or the local Bishops' Conferences may allow dispensation from this obligation, provided that the materials replacing them are worthy and dignified enough to suit the Liturgy. Though some parishes make use of glass or crystal Patens and Chalices, it is not permissible under the current rules.
Eastern Christian Usage
In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches, the Paten is called a diskos—also spelled (Church Slavonic: дискос; Greek: δισκάριον, diskarion) and is elevated by a stand (or "foot") permanently attached underneath. The diskos is usually more ornate than its Latin-Rite counterpart, and must always be made of gold or at least be gold-plated. The diskos may be engraved with an Icon of Jesus Christ, the Nativity of Christ, a Cross, or more frequently, an Icon of the Theotokos.
When a diskos is made, it is usually accompanied by a matching asterisk (small, folding metal stand used to keep the Aër from disturbing the particles on the Diskos), a spoon (for distributing Holy Communion to the faithful), and a spear (used to cut the Lamb during the Liturgy of Preparation).
The Diskos symbolizes the Virgin Mary, who received Christ into her womb, and gave him birth; and also the Tomb of Christ which received his body after the Crucifixion, and from which he Resurrected.
Divine LiturgyDuring the Divine Liturgy it is not only the Lamb (Host) that is placed on the Diskos, but also particles to commemorate the Theotokos, the Saints, the living and the departed. Thus, on the Diskos is represented the entire Church: the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, arrayed around Christ. At the Great Entrance the deacon carries the Diskos, holding the foot of the Diskos at his forehead. He then kneels at the side of the Holy Table, and the priest takes the Diskos from him and places it on the Antimension. During the Anaphora, only the Lamb is consecrated. At Holy Communion the clergy partake of their portions of the Lamb directly from the Diskos, but for the Communion of the faithful, the remainder of the Lamb is cut into small portions and placed in the Chalice, from which the priest distributes Communion using the spoon. After Communion, the Deacon holds the Diskos above the Chalice and recites hymns of the Resurrection. Then he wipes the remaining particles (for the Saints, living and departed) into the Chaliceas he says the words, "Wash away, O Lord, the sins of all those here commemorated, by Thy precious Blood, through the prayers of all Thy saints."
Sometimes, when a bishop serves the Liturgy, a smaller Diskos is prepared for him with a small prosphoron from which he takes particles to commemorate the living and the departed before the Great Entrance.
Other UsesDuring the Consecration of a Church, a Diskos is used to hold the Relics of the Saints which will be sealed in the Holy Table and Antimension by the bishop.
When a priest is ordained, a portion of the Lamb will be placed on a small Diskos and given to him, as a sign of the Sacred Mysteries which are being entrused to his care.
Blessing and HandlingIn the Russian tradition, there is a special service of blessing used to sanctify a Diskos before its first use at Liturgy. The Diskos may be blessed separately or together in a set with the other Sacred Vessels. The blessing is normally done immediately before beginning of the Liturgy of Preparation, after which the priest carries the Diskos into the Sanctuary and begins the service, using the newly-blessed vessel in that Liturgy.
Up until the first time a Diskos is used in the Divine Liturgy it is considered to be an ordinary vessel, and may be touched by anyone. However, after having been used at Liturgy, a Diskos should not be touched by anyone except a Deacon, Priest or Bishop. A Subdeacon may touch the Sacred Vessels, but only if they are securely wrapped in cloth.
When not in use, the Chalice, Diskos, and all the Sacred Vessels should remain on the Table of Oblation (Prothesis), wrapped in their cloth bags—either sitting on top and covered with a cloth, or stored securely in a cabinet built into the Prothesis.
Oriental Orthodox Usage
In the usage of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Diskos usually has a flat bottom with no foot. Additionally, the Diskos has a raised edge, forming a relatively high rim. This prevents particles of the offered elements from falling off the Diskos.
paten in German: Patene
paten in Spanish: Patena
paten in French: Patène
paten in Italian: Patena
paten in Dutch: Pateen
paten in Polish: Patena
paten in Portuguese: Patena
paten in Russian: Дискос
paten in Slovenian: Patena
paten in Swedish: Paten
paten in Slovak: Paténa