In an earlier posting, we looked at the Tainaya Vechera type — the “Mystic Supper,” which is the form in which the “Last Supper” is commonly presented in Eastern Orthodox iconography. I also briefly mentioned a related type: the “Communion of the Apostles.” In Greek it is generally called Η ΘΕΙΑ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑ (He Theia Koinonia) “Holy Communion,” and in Slavic Причащения Апостолов — Prichashcheniya Apostolov. the “Communion of the Apostles.” It depicts Christ standing at an altar, giving communion to the Apostles, who approach from left and right. Christ is generally shown twice, at left in the so-called metadosis (imparting) of the bread, and at right in the so-called metalepsis (partaking) of the wine. This represents Christ giving the communion in and to the Church on earth — the Church as one related communion.
Here is a rather basic pattern of the type. instead of the room of the last supper, it is a church; and instead of the table with the Apostles around it, there is an altar (shown twice in this example), often with a canopy above it. In the finished icon, Jesus would be holding bread at left, and a chalice (or sometimes a jug) at right:
When inscriptions are present in this type (which may be found in churches above the “Tsar Doors” to the altar or on the wall of the eastern apse) they are generally these texts from Matthew 28 in Church Slavic (in Slavic regions) or Greek (in Greek-speaking areas):
Slavic, at left:
Прiими́те, яди́те: сié éсть тѣ́ло моé
Priimite, yadite: cie est’ tyelo moe
Greek, at left:
Λάβετε φάγετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.
Labete phagete, touto estin to soma mou.
“Take, eat; this is my body.”
Slavic, at right:
Пíйте от нея́ вси́: сiя́ бо éсть крóвь моя́, нóваго завѣ́та, я́же за мнóгiя изливáема во оставлéнiе грѣхóвъ.
Piite ot neya vxi: siya bo est’ krov’ moya, novago zavyeta, yazhe za mnogiya izlevaema vo ostavlenie gryekhov.
Greek, at right:
Πίετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες, τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν·
Piete ex autou pantes, touto gar estin to haima mou tes diathekes to peri pollon ekkhunnomenon eis aphesin hamartion.
“Drink of it all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
In some examples, one may find an excerpt from the Liturgy of St. Basil:
Нас же всех, от единаго Хлеба и Чаши причащающихся, соедини друг ко другу во единаго Духа Святаго причастие.
“Unite us all, who receive of one bread and chalice, one with another in the communion of one Holy Spirit.”
In the basic pattern shown on this page, the number of apostles included is indistinct. But commonly there are eleven, six at left and five at right. You may recall that in the New Testament, there are twelve until the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. In this icon type, Judas is generally omitted, because this is a liturgical icon showing a scene “in eternity” as the saying goes, and Judas is not considered part of that eternal celebration. Nonetheless, some painters included Judas, who may be shown turning away, or even in some examples with a black halo to distinguish him from the “accepted” apostles.