From the establishment of the Church. the faithful who would gather on Sunday, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, would participate in the “gifts” which are the life giving Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the life eternal.
As is still the case today, many who may have been sick, unable to attend the Sunday Divine Liturgy or, who were penitent, unbaptized or for many reasons not in communion with the recognized church body, would not receive the ‘gifts’ of the Eucharist. In this way, the gifts and outpouring of love and the collection for the common good is represented in the distribution of mahs. The mahs (antidoron in the Greek) is therefore a great symbol of the church’s outreach and social ministry as well as the care for souls both in and outside the church body.
In preparation, before the Eucharist, the priest or deacons would separate a portion of the unleavened bread from the actual Host which would be offered in the Eucharist. The portion offered to God, in the Armenian Church is called the Host (nushkhark). The other portion which would be blessed but not consecrated is called the mahs or portion. Those who were unable to partake of the Eucharist would receive the mahs in place of the gifts. Today, the priest separates the part for the host ahead of time preparing it, with prayers of the Nocturn (keesherayin jham) and stamping it, most commonly, with the icon of the crucifixion. Today as in the early days, the faithful in attendance at the Divine Liturgy, are invited ‘in fear and faithfulness’ (yergiogiiiv yev havadov) to come and truly commune in the Lord’s Body and Blood offered to us in the Divine Liturgy by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s own Word where He said “Take eat this is my Body, Take drink this is my Blood…”.
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the faithful who are sent “blessed by the Holy Spirit, depart in peace,” take the mahs with them to their homes to give it to those friends and family who were unable to receive the “Holy Things” (srpootiunk) the Eucharist.
How do I receive the mahs?
The one giving it says “May this be a portion from the Holy Sacrifice.
The one receiving it, receives it on the back of their hand, kisses it and says “My portion is God forever”
It is is usually placed in little packages so that it is easier to transport away from church, sort of a “to go” bag!