On Receiving the Holy Mysteries

Should we be concerned about infections or germs when receiving from a common spoon?

A recent poll among Orthodox Christians reported that many voiced concern regarding the safety of receiving the Holy Gifts from a common spoon, worried it might expose them to germs, infections, or some disease. They were worried that another person’s saliva or lipstick might come off the spoon when receiving Holy Communion.

It is important to note that from a purely microbiological perspective, the sweet red wine used in Communion is typically high in alcoholic content, meaning that the chances of bacteria or germs surviving in it are virtually non-existent. The invisible microbes that may enter our mouths from the previous communicant are harmless. Furthermore, the contents of every chalice are consumed at the end of the Divine Liturgy, and no priest has ever become ill or incapacitated after consuming the Holy Gifts.

More importantly, the Holy Gifts are sacred, in that they have become imbued with the fullness of God’s presence and grace, and they are divine (not human) gifts, “for every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from [You] the Father of lights” (Prayer behind the Amvon in the Divine Liturgy). If we truly believe in God, we know quite well that God would never allow harm to come to us, most especially in the reception of Holy Communion.

While there is no fear then of disease, it is important for us to wipe our mouths well after receiving Holy Communion, in order to prevent the elements from accidentally dripping onto the ground. It is also important for women who wear lipstick to wipe it off before receiving Communion or not to wear any lipstick at all when attending church. This not only shows respect to the Body and Blood of Christ, but it also shows respect to other communicants who wish to commune the Holy Bread and Cup. It also spares the priest from the taste of the residue of lipstick, when consuming the remains of the Holy Mysteries at the end of the Divine Liturgy. Finally, some individuals may wish to simply open their mouths wide and allow the priest to ‘drop’ the Communion into their mouths, thus not allowing the spoon to make contact with their mouths.

The practice of distributing the Eucharist to the laity with a spoon became the norm because of the practical issue of laity accidentally dropping particles of the Eucharist when communing. At the end of the service, when people come up to kiss the cross at the end of the liturgy, and receive the antidoron, it is common for crumbs to drop on the floor. It is therefore important that we make every effort to avoid antidoron falling on the floor, but when it comes to the Eucharist, this is an infinitely more serious problem.

When the bishops and priests receive Communion in the hand, and drink directly from the chalice, they have the benefit of having the Holy Table to do this over, so if something falls, it falls on the Holy Table, and can easily be consumed. However, even in the Altar, and despite the usual care that is exercised, accidents sometimes happen. All the more chance this can happen outside the altar.

Finally, it is imperative the we never forget that the Holy Mysteries are for the healing of both body and soul. As a priest, I have never worried about taking the holy spoon into my mouth following the last communicant, even if the person receiving is suffering from a disease such as AIDS. The Holy Gifts are truly the Body and Blood of Christ, and it is therefore impossible for some germs or infections to be passed on to me from either the holy spoon, or from the chalice.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Saturday July 14, 2018 / July 1, 2018
7th Week after Pentecost. Tone five.

Holy and Wonderworking Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, martyrs at Rome.
New Hieromartyr Arcadius priest (1918).
New Hieromartyr Alexis deacon (1942).
Martyr Potitus at Naples (2nd c.).
Venerable Peter the Patrician, monk, of Constantinople (854).
St. Angelina, despotina of Serbia (16th c.).
Venerable Nicodemus of Svyatogorsk (1809).
Translation of the relics of Venerable John of Rila (946) from Turnovo to Rila (1470) (Bulgaria).
Holy Julius and Aaron, protomartyrs of Wales (ca. 304) (Celtic & British).
St. Servanus, Apostle of Western Fife of East Scotland (6th c.) (Celtic & British).
St. Leontius, bishop of Radauti in Moldavia (15th c.) (Romania).
Venerable Gallus, bishop of Clermont (551) (Gaul).
25 Martyrs in Nicomedia (Greek).
Venerable Basil, founder of the Monastery of the Deep Stream in Cappadocia (10th c.) (Greek).
Martyr Constantine the Wonderworker and those with him, of Cyprus (Greek).
St. Leo the Hermit (Greek).
St. Serf, bishop of Kinross.
St. Eparchius the Recluse of Gaul (581).

The Scripture Readings

Romans 12:1-3

Living Sacrifices to God

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Serve God with Spiritual Gifts

3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Matthew 10:37-11:1

37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

A Cup of Cold Water

40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

John the Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus

11 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

3 comments:

  1. It’s a lack of faith. Even in Roman churches where the chalice is shared, it never bothered me. The Byz Cath churches here drop the communion into the mouth and the people don’t close their mouth on the spoon.

    About ten years ago a New York paper (the Times?) did an article and sent a guy around to swab public places like pay phones, taxi cabs, subway cars. There were no germs on the door handle of St Patrick’s Cathedral, which is open to the public all day.

  2. Thank you for this subject! I had a double lung transplant 10 years ago and am immunosupressed. Many people have told me that I should be the first in line to communion so I don’t get sick. I say, I won’t get sick, I’ve never been afraid of that! God bless you and these daily messages!

  3. I was a germ-o-phobe before I converted. Before my first communion, I was worried about this very issue. Could I allow myself to commune, knowing my fear of germs?
    When I was Chrismated, my worries disappeared due to the grace of God. I have never had a worry since then, even if I hear someone coughing and sniffling, I’ve never given it a second thought.
    In every other area of my life, I am still concerned about germs. If I feel I’ve touched something dirty, I must wash my hands ASAP.
    When it comes to the Eucharist, it is simply not an issue, by the grace of God and I know it is the grace of God because without the grace of God, I wouldn’t be able to take communion for fear of germs and illness. Not even partaking of the antidoron concerns me, due to such grace.

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