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Question 107

Have you ever had the communion spilt on the floor and you had to sip it up? It's happened a couple of times to our priest here.   


Answer to Question 107


Certainly a priest must be extremely cautious when administering Holy Communion not to spill any of the precious Gifts. Having said this, accidents do happen especially with young children and the elderly, but with experience the priest should recognize the "danger groups" and be extra cautious as they approach.

But what does a priest do if the Holy Gifts are spilt. In most places, the red cloth known as the "Maktron" is used to wipe the lips of the communicants after communion, but this is its secondary use and not always necessary. I have seen helpers wipe the lips of the communicants with such force that they actually pulled out the Gifts from their mouths. The priest places the Holy Gifts in the person's mouth and not on his/her lips so no wiping should be necessary unless the person is handicapped and drools. The main use of the maktron is to act as a net to catch the Holy Gifts if by chance they spill from the spoon. Preferably it should be held by the helper and the person communing making sure that it is placed under the chin and opened wide enough to be a net. Many people hold the maktron at a distance and only bring it to their mouth to wipe their lips after communion. The priest is obliged to teach his helpers and his congregation how to hold the maktron properly. If it is not held under their chin and opened as a net then he should wait until everything is in "safe-mode". If the priest accidentally spills the Gifts from the spoon then they should fall safely onto the maktron. From there he can pick up with the spoon or his mouth any parts of the Precious Body, but the Blood will have been absorbed by the cloth which as already said is its main purpose.

If the Precious Blood should accidentally spill on someone's clothing, then there isn't much a priest can do. He can't insist the person undress himself and burn the clothing and he certainly can't suck at the person's clothing in the hope that the Blood will be removed. What he should do is instruct the person that when he returns home to wash the garment in a bowl until all the Blood has been removed and to dispose the water in a corner of his garden, in flower pots or on a wall similarly to as what many people do with the water after the baby's first bath after baptism to wash away the Holy Myron. The bowl should then be rinsed several times disposing of the water in the same way. 

But what can a priest do if the Holy Gifts fall to the floor? Again he can pick up any parts of the Body, but I do not agree with the view held by some that he should get on his knees and lick up the floor with his tongue. The priest should remember that he is an image of Christ and act accordingly and not as a dog. As an immediate solution and not to disrupt the Liturgy, he should wipe the area with the maktron and place a chair over the area so that people don't walk over. After the service he can then take another clean maktron or sponge that can be destroyed and wash the area with soap many times. If the floor is of marble or something similar, he can then pour some alcohol on the spot and light it. The fire from the alcohol should not stain the floor. There are some who would say that the area where the Gifts fell should be removed and destroyed, but this is an extreme, costly and unnecessary option. The important thing is that we do everything possible to remove the Holy Gifts from the floor. If we are satisfied in our heart that we have done everything in our power then the rest we leave to God.

Let us not also forget that when Christ was crucified and his side pieced with a spear, his blood poured forth onto the ground. Should we then not visit the site of Golgotha lest we should be stepping on Christ's Blood? Has not the whole earth been sanctified with the Blood of Christ? As for the maktron it should be washed and pressed regularly. A dirty and stained maktron is very unsightly and reflects that the priest is unconcerned with cleanliness. If fact, a look to see how clean and tidy the Sanctuary is tells us a great deal about the priest and how devoted he is to his vocation.

But where maktrons should be washed depends on the Church. In Greece and Cyprus and other Orthodox countries, the churches are built with a special pit under or beside the church where the drainage from the piscina (niptira) flows. The maktron and other things like the chalice are washed in the Sanctury's piscina.

 In the west many churches used by the Orthodox Church were old Church of England or Roman Catholic churches. The priest needs to know if the church where he serves has an isolated drainage pit. If the church does not have its own pit, but its drainage is linked to the main sewage system then the maktron should be washed in a bowl and the water poured as explained for the after baptism bath waters.