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Why Do We Only Receive a Tiny Piece of the Holy Eucharist?

V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian

Holy Eucharist - (photo by V. Rev. Fr. Avedik Der-Garabedian)
Holy Eucharist - (photo by V. Rev. Fr. Avedik Der-Garabedian)

We receive a small portion of the Holy Communion during Divine Liturgy. This is not a coincidence. What is the meaning behind receiving such a small piece of the Holy Communion? Is there any spiritual meaning behind this?

Early Eucharistic gatherings centered around the Agape meal in the early church. St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians gives us some insight:

“Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of another; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.” (1 Corinthians 11:20-22)

Putting aside St. Paul’s criticism toward the church in Corinth, we can see that the gathering consisted of more than receiving a small sliver of bread and a sip of wine. Rather, it is about the communicants sharing a meal. The agape meal was shared equally between believers, and consisted of a communal gatherings, along with thanksgiving (εὐχαριστία, eucharistia) prayers. In contrast, the modern Holy Eucharist that we receive during the Divine Liturgy is a small piece of a Nu’shkhar (Նշխար, unleavened bread) mixed with wine, consecrated as the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. How did we get from a fellowship meal to a tiny piece of Holy Communion?

One of Christ’s important parables is the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9, and Luke 8:4-8). Jesus used the image of a seed to symbolize God’s Word and God’s Kingdom. Those who receive the “seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” In order to fully understand this parable, we must look at other passages in the Holy Bible that illustrate how God revealed Himself to human beings. The following examples illustrate God’s image in the Bible:

1. In the creation story, God’s presence on earth is symbolized by the “Tree of Life,” which was the source of life in the center of creation. Human beings were taken away from it because of their sin.

2. In Exodus, God spoke to Moses through the “Burning Bush.” During their desert wandering, the Israelites survived with manna from heaven.

3. Jesus taught that “[t]he Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

4. Jesus taught the following parable about God’s kingdom: “a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die to make many seeds. But if it never dies, it remains only a single seed.” (John 12:24-36)

5. Jesus states in the Gospel of John that He is the bread of life, and also the wine.

6. In his Epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul the Apostle described the works of the Holy Spirit as “fruit.”

7. In the Book of Revelation, John describes Heaven as follows: “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2)

God is the tree of life. The tree starts as a tiny seed that must fall in the ground and die. The Holy Eucharist is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It falls into our hearts and in the depth of our souls, to die there for our sins and give us new life. The Holy Eucharist is planted in our hearts, and our Lord’s presence grows into the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life bears fruit through the actions of the Holy Spirit. That is how we become branches of the giant tree which grow from our Lord Jesus Christ. When we receive the tiny piece of the Holy Eucharist during the Divine Liturgy, we should remember that the seed of life, Christ, is planted in our heart. He dies once again, in our sinful body, so we can live in Him. New life is planted in our hearts, but we must work to protect the seed from the evil one and water it through God’s Words and prayers. Thanksgiving and glory to Him now and always and forever, amen.


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