By Bishop Neofitos on Covid-19 and Holy Communion
Since we were invaded or attacked by the Covid -19 Pandemic (Corona Virus), there has been a great concern amongst the Orthodox faithful on matters of health, on how to receive the Holy Communion. Of course you all know that we commune from the same common cup (chalice) and receive or distribute using one Spoon to the faithful. Since the spread of the virus, the Ministry of Health has advised that such practice pauses a health risk to the faithful because the virus is contagious and communicable. Now the question; what do we do?!
I have learned that the Orthodox Church of Austria has temporarily resolved to go back to the typikon of St. James of receiving the Holy Communion! Is this the way to go? Could be!
In as much as this is a good spiritual remedy, or development worth consideration in terms of its pastoral application from the Orthodox Church of Austria, it therefore demands a theological consensus going into to the future for the sake of the unity of ecclessia and communion of the saints! It was actually brought up at the council in Crete 2016, but it was not exhausted. Therefore, it is time we revisit this issue, not only because of Covid-19 pandemic but being mindful of the now and the future. If a consensus is reached that binds and not divides then a major 21st century theological challenge will have been addressed.
Receiving Communion from one spoon and one chalice (cup) especially in Africa where we are susceptible to various types of communicable diseases is becoming a great concern and a threat to human health because of our geographical setting and seldom advancement in healthcare and disease treatment. The question is; If even shaking hands is being prohibited, how about eating and drinking from the same?
While addressing this spiritual phenomenon about receiving communion from the same spoon and drinking from the same cup (chalice), it must be made clear that; what is contained in the chalice and what is received from the spoon in Faith and the Fear of God is the holy and truly precious blood and body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The question is about the health of those who receive. How healthy are they? Some of them may not be even aware! For example, humanly speaking, do you deny someone who has wounds on his mouth to receive the Holy Communion? If the answer is no, then, aren’t you risking yourself and others at the same time? Because the same spoon will be returned back into the chalice for communing the rest of the faithful.
Am sure if Christ was physically present, he would have given a solution because he is a solution in himself. Well, he has charged us with his responsibility of course.
The Orthodox Church in Africa, and not Africa alone, the whole Orthodox world, I believe, must urgently address this spiritual concern before it becomes a dilemma. As Bishop’s in Africa, these are tough questions we are asked every day and answers are needed because the Church must move forward. Wisdom let us attend!
Source: Orthodox Diocese of Nyeri and Mt Kenya