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Question 121

Dear Father. How about we start with last night's question about sharing the communion spoon being unhygienic and that people avoid communion for this reason?      

 

Answer to Question 121

 

I followed last night’s post and was saddened by the outcome, but I do not wish to comment more on the disagreements which I see is still continuing today in at least two posts.  But I will answer your question as though it’s the first time it has been mentioned. 

From the beginning the church administers the Holy Gifts separately, people would first receive the body of Christ in the palm of their hands and then they were given the Blood from the chalice. At times people abused this and would take the Body home with them to commune on another day or for some other reason. To put a stop to this abuse of the Holy Gifts the Church decided to add the Body into the chalice and administered both together with the use of a spoon.  For centuries this was and is the accepted form for receiving Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church and the question of whether it was unhygienic never arose. It is only now in our age and specifically with the Aids virus that people have questioned if they could become contaminated with the virus. 

Theologically, the Orthodox Church cannot accept that the Sacrament would be a source of illness, since it teaches that it is a “medicine of immortality.” But also, not one single case of the transmission of any illness has been reported as coming from participation in the Sacrament. There is also scientific evidence that saliva inhibits the transmission of all kinds of microbes, including the AIDS virus. This scientific evidence is rather old and dated to 1988. Let’s just hope it is still valid. Nevertheless we should not fear to have Holy Communion. It is the very Body and Blood of our Lord which cannot be contaminated. It should also be reassuring that we priests are called to give communion to the terminally ill including those who suffer from AIDS, thus we are exposed to this virus on the frontline so to speak, yet no Orthodox Priest has caught AIDS or any other illness in this way. If I remember correctly you mentioned that a certain monastery gives Holy Communion by dropping it in the mouth of the recipient and then removes the spoon without it coming into contact with the persons mouth or lips. The monastery in question is the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex and for our times, with all the fears concerning germs, it is an excellent practice, but it would mean re-educating our people and for all the Churches to follow suit.