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Communion Spoons & Covid

J Michael

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I'm curious to know what y'all's parishes do for the serving and reception of Holy Communion during the pandemic. Do you use a common spoon as was....common... prior to Covid? Or do you use individual spoons for each communicant? If the latter, what are they made of and how are they disposed of?

An OCA parish some 20+ miles from me uses individual spoons (and they still require masking and "distancing" everywhere inside the church premises), but more than that I don't know. An Orthodox poster on a different forum has said that using individual spoons is an abuse. I would tend to agree.

I look forward to your comments! And apologies if this has already been discussed elsewhere...if so, I failed to find it.
 
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My OCA parish sanitized the spoon for each person or family, but it was the same spoon. In May we got rid of social distancing requirements/masking/sanitizing/prohibition on kissing holy things and are basically back to normal. We've had no issues. If you're sick or been around sick people stay home.
 

Bizzlebin

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An Orthodox poster on a different forum has said that using individual spoons is an abuse.
Just to touch on this point, the use of a spoon at all is innovation (I think only dating to about the Great Schism) and this doesn't seem to be primarily a so-called "theological issue" but rather a practical one. There is no canon mandating 1 spoon, or many spoons, or 0 spoons, thus it is up to the local bishop, the rubrics, etc. So it is not only not an abuse, but the people who want to start fights over this issue—and many other random issues—are likely warring against their hierarchs without a cause—now that is liturgical abuse.
 

Ainnir

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Common spoon and never did anything different.
 

Dominika

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All parishes of the Polish Orthodox Church, also the parishes of the Antiochian Patriarchate in Lebanon I visited last summer, so already during pandemy (plus when it was starting, there were special statements): common spoon like before, no sanitization after etc.

Just that at my parish after Eucharist are not used special common cups for the water with wine (as we drink them with prosphora) like before, but plastic ones.

Also there is normal kissing of icons, the same cross etc. Also in Poland masks much less often, in Lebanon it depends (or e.g people withotu asmks go to balcony). Rather no social distancing in Polish Orthodox parishes. We have also coffee hours (even at one parish that is pro-masks and have gels for desinfection). But, of course, those are separate topics.
 

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Or do you use individual spoons for each communicant? If the latter, what are they made of and how are they disposed of?
Individual. Made of wood and IIRC burned after use.
 

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Common spoon. No masking or social distancing. No fear of Covid at our church. I would find another church if they were still masking, distancing, and using plastic spoons.
 

JTLoganville

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Common spoon never was suspended. Masks ended in May/June with the CDC vaccination guidance and the dropping of state mandates. Very few had ever maintained (anti)"social distance".

Parish life is pretty much back to normal but there are still too many abstaining from Communion.
 

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We were shut down for a while when the pandemic first appeared. After we opened, a former priest for a while used a common spoon but would drop it in our mouth if we preferred. We just do it the old way with our new priest. We mask, social distance, and encourage anyone who is sick to stay home. If someone has Covid-19, that person will spread it long before Eucharist time.
 

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One local church used one spoon. Another church used multiple spoons.
Both churches offered Eucharist for our healing.

The spoon(s) can become an idol(s) and distract us from Eucharist. Focusing on the vessels and utensils was never part of Our Lord Jesus Last Supper instructions. Remember Jesus and His death until He comes. Stop fighting over setting the table little children.
 

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My parish has never changed the way they distributed communion. But our sister parish about ten miles away (a GOARCH parish) had each individual take a napkin before communion, have them and the priest hold it while they take communion, and then the individual would dispose of it in a bin (and the bin's contents would be burned after Liturgy).
 

hurrrah

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No changes. An ordinary spoon from the Eucharistic set, an ordinary plat (a piece of cloth), ordinary drinking mugs.
 
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Hello everyone! I think this is a very interesting topic. This is my first time using a forum, and I don’t know if this is suitable for this page, (maybe an admin can give me an induction :) ). I was debating once with a priest this problem, and I remembered that during lockdown I saw a video of a bishop distributing communion through the use of tongs. This seemed very interesting to him as he did a parallel to a prophecy or story? from Isaiah, where God is assimilated to heated coal.


Has anyone seen a similar video? If you know how to find the video, I would love to share it and discuss it with you and the priest.


Christ is being born, Glorify!
Pilgrim of Athos.

P.S. If this message was not right for here, I am ever so sorry.
 

LizaSymonenko

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Pilgrim_of_Athos, your post is fine where it is.

I personally, have not seen tongs used, and would have an issue with it. What was the reason for the tongs?

My hierarchs forbad changing the practice of distributing the Eucharist via single spoon, and I wholeheartedly agree with them on this.

No illness can ever be transmitted through Christ. Ever.

I am saddened to realize that many people who come to church on Sunday, are completely abstaining from partaking of Communion because of their fear of the single spoon.

Let us hope for a quick end to this pandemic, so people's fears may be calmed, and they too can partake of the Holy Sacraments.
 

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hurrrah

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Because someone is afraid of being infected through Christ, the Conqueror of death and the Source of our life?
 

Alpo2

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Not through Christ. Eucharist is Christ but a spoon is just a spoon.

Also if that someone would be particularly afraid he/she would probably not be at a church at all.
 

Arachne

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Precedent, I guess.

Yes, but we know even Saints are fallible. How can we sure St. Nikodemos' advice was indeed the correct action to take in times of plague?

"We learn from St. Nikodemos that during plagues priests were known to use arbitrary methods to administer communion to the sick and dying. In a comment on canon 28 of the Penthekte Synod, he chides the clergy for using unsuitable methods to deliver Communion to the sick. He recommends a more appropriate method. He writes: “Hence, both priests and prelates must employ some shift in time of a plague to enable them to administer communion to the sick without violating this canon; not, however, by placing the holy Bread in currants, but in some sacred vessel, so that the dying and the sick may take it thence with tongs or the like. The vessel and the tongs are to be placed in vinegar, and the vinegar is to be poured into a funnel, or in any other manner that they can that is safer and canonical.” Pedalion/Rudder, 322 (note)
 

LizaSymonenko

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So, having quickly red over that article, it seems St. Nicodemus was referring to communing people who are already on death's door.

I am assuming that such individuals will not be in line at our local parishes for Communion, and therefore, this is a false comparison. We do not know that even a single person in line is sick. They might all be healthy... but, we are simply scared of becoming ill... and are allowing our fear to govern our thoughts and actions.
 

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So, having quickly red over that article, it seems St. Nicodemus was referring to communing people who are already on death's door.

I am assuming that such individuals will not be in line at our local parishes for Communion, and therefore, this is a false comparison. We do not know that even a single person in line is sick. They might all be healthy... but, we are simply scared of becoming ill... and are allowing our fear to govern our thoughts and actions.
St Nikodemos can get a little "off the rails" on some topics, but his recollection of this historical practice is accurate. As I noted numerous posts above, the spoon is the innovation (though I think it is a theologically-ok innovation, to be sure). What is a more apt analogy is that people are afraid of traditional Orthodox practices, like receiving in the hands or via tongs, because they're so attached to a recent innovation like using a spoon—you could say, they are more afraid of losing the innovations than they are of losing the Eucharist! That's the distortion. That's the fear.

It is well known that the Gifts can be affected by mold, so the idea that they are somehow always "incorrupt" is magical thinking. Here's a PDF of a study conducted to address various "accidents" that can happen in connection with the Divine Liturgy: https://nynjoca.org/files/2007/Clergy Retreat/The-practical-instructions-03-12-2007.pdf . Note that the original source material was composed during the time of Pat Joachim Of Moscow (17th century), well before St Nikodemos (d 19th century) was even born. There are plenty of tidbits there, but check out page 12, which deals with moldy *consecrated* Gifts. There are other sources online where you can read about the preparation of the reserve Host, which must be carefully dried, and special vented tabernacles which are needed in certain climates, widely sold by liturgical supply vendors.

More generally, we need to make an Orthodox distinction between faith and fear, not merely a worldly one. We put one leg in front of the other when we walk. It is not because we fear gravity, nor is it because we don't have faith—having a magical "faith" that God will just come and prevent every fall is not just a sign of delusion, but the very temptation that Satan gave to Jesus Christ in the desert (Matthew: 4.5–7). It is rather faith that accepts God created the world, that the world has inherent God-given consequences built in, and that those consequences are themselves good; in other words, we cannot fall into Marcionism. And (rightly condemned) fear is rejection of that simple faith, of natural revelation (ie, science), for it cannot accept what God has created and rather fears it, calls it evil, and thinks it all impure.

In the case of the Eucharist and disease (including molds), there are differing theories on how this plays out "behind the scenes", none of which I want to get into or endorse specifically. We know that God only wills us good, but we also know He allows all sorts of things to befall us. So we should should not think that those truths do not extend in between the 4 walls of a temple—if that was the case, we would just all live like monks holed up in parish temples and never get sick! Yet clearly, that doesn't happen. I would instead consider how God deals (in this life or the next) with people who want to come into a temple, harm the brethren, and try to defile the Eucharist. What should God do to those people who have such malice, such hardness of heart, and such selfish intentions? Now consider that is exactly what is happening when someone goes into a temple with symptoms of a communicable disease, an "It's all about *me* and *my* salvation!" attitude, and takes no precautions to protect (ie, to love) their brothers and sisters. So be aware—Eucharistic participation certainly *can* kill (1 Corinthians: 11.27–30), and someone who is in such a spiritual state would do well to repent before they harm their fellow parishioners and then God steps in and deals with *them*.
 
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LizaSymonenko

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The Eucharist is only dangerous if taken by one who does not believe, does not repent, and does not have faith.

Mold. The Eucharist is much like the Manna that God sent the Israelites in the desert. It is meant to be consumed in due course, and not squirreled away and hidden for a rainy day.

The "modern" use of the spoon... is only "modern", in that it is newer than other methods. If we came up with the use of some new instrument today, the spoon would no longer me a modern innovation.

The spoon was put into practice because people began stealing the Eucharist, instead of putting it directly in their mouths. They would take it home as if it were some magic talisman... and that action in itself was detrimental to their salvation. Therefore, by use of the spoon, the priest can be assured that the communicant actually partakes of the Eucharist.

I have communed for the last two years, standing last in line, and using the same spoon everyone before me used. I do fear approaching... because of my own unworthiness.... but, not out of fear I will contract Covid from through receiving the Eucharist.
 

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Let's keep our eyes on Jesus, our Eucharist, and not as Peter gazing on the waves ( divisions, spoons, utensils, tablecloths, sickness, our brother or sister ). If we find ourselves distracted and sinking we can call upon the Lord Jesus to save us. He loves us so much and is full of tender mercy. Lets stop shaming the "other" and biting and devouring each other. We have been invited to the Master's table. Lets not disgrace that table with a food fight, stabbing each other with forks and spoons
 

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Why is the use of multiple spoons so controversial? IIRC, it is a specific response to a specific condition, such as communing the sick last (or out of a different chalice). In olden times, there were multiple practices for giving people the Eucharist under both species, including the use of a straw (fistula). Granted, fistulae were used in the Western rite, not the Eastern rite, but still the adoption of spoons for communion in the East was a relatively recent phenomenon.

I may be a traditionalist on many issues (Litany of the Catechumens always, read troparia at the Beatitudes, marriage is between a man and a woman, other lifestyles are not acceptable in the Orthodox Church), but I see no reason why not to use multiple spoons in the Eucharist. After all, the Body and Blood of Christ still retain the physical properties of bread and wine, and as such, can still become unsafe for consumption.
 

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Why is the use of multiple spoons so controversial? IIRC, it is a specific response to a specific condition, such as communing the sick last (or out of a different chalice). In olden times, there were multiple practices for giving people the Eucharist under both species, including the use of a straw (fistula). Granted, fistulae were used in the Western rite, not the Eastern rite, but still the adoption of spoons for communion in the East was a relatively recent phenomenon.

I may be a traditionalist on many issues (Litany of the Catechumens always, read troparia at the Beatitudes, marriage is between a man and a woman, other lifestyles are not acceptable in the Orthodox Church), but I see no reason why not to use multiple spoons in the Eucharist. After all, the Body and Blood of Christ still retain the physical properties of bread and wine, and as such, can still become unsafe for consumption.
The Holy Gifts cannot become unsafe for consumption as they are defied. That is, the danger to a communicant does not come from anything created, but from an unworthy reception of God.
 

Deacon Lance

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The Holy Gifts cannot become unsafe for consumption as they are defied. That is, the danger to a communicant does not come from anything created, but from an unworthy reception of God.
The Holy Gifts, yes. The spoon, chalice and lention, no.
 

ilyazhito

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Interesting. The spoon could become infected if a sick person communes followed by a healthy one. Maybe that is what those who introduced multiple spoons, as a temporary measure, were trying to combat.
 

J Michael

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Interesting. The spoon could become infected if a sick person communes followed by a healthy one. Maybe that is what those who introduced multiple spoons, as a temporary measure, were trying to combat.
And if a sick person communed, “infecting” the spoon, what happens to the spoon once it is again put in the chalice with the uninfected and uninfectible (sp.?) Holy Gifts?
 

LizaSymonenko

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I am honestly shocked at all this.

Christ never infected anyone... ever.... He did not blind them, give them leprosy, cripple them, etc.

Therefore, the Eucharist, which is Him... will not harm us physically... only spiritually if we do not truly believe.

As for the Chalice and the spoon... both of which come in contact with the Body and Blood of Christ... neither can they infect you. Fear not.

Remember the woman with the issue of blood... who was healed by merely touching the hem of the Lord's robes.... the hem... the edge of His clothing... and she was healed.

Consider the spoon and Chalice as the robe upon His Body... it will not hurt you...

Have faith!!!!
 

J Michael

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I am honestly shocked at all this.

Christ never infected anyone... ever.... He did not blind them, give them leprosy, cripple them, etc.

Therefore, the Eucharist, which is Him... will not harm us physically... only spiritually if we do not truly believe.

As for the Chalice and the spoon... both of which come in contact with the Body and Blood of Christ... neither can they infect you. Fear not.

Remember the woman with the issue of blood... who was healed by merely touching the hem of the Lord's robes.... the hem... the edge of His clothing... and she was healed.

Consider the spoon and Chalice as the robe upon His Body... it will not hurt you...

Have faith!!!!
I'm not sure what or to whom your post is in reply to. What are you shocked at? For my part I see no problem whatsoever with a single common spoon, and never have, and agree whole-heartedly with the rest of your post.

Hopefully, parishes are done with Covid panic and are returning to the common (albeit "innovative" according to Bizzlebin) method of distributing Holy Communion if they ceased doing so at one point.
 

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I am honestly shocked at all this.

Christ never infected anyone... ever.... He did not blind them, give them leprosy, cripple them, etc.
How does mold grow on the consecrated Gifts?

Therefore, the Eucharist, which is Him... will not harm us physically... only spiritually if we do not truly believe.
Which person here would be so bold as to claim true belief, perfect faith, and total worthiness? Even with this caveat, the statement doesn't change the practical effect: we are still in danger. Though, to be clear, I do not agree with your assessment since it contradicts the Fathers.

As for the Chalice and the spoon... both of which come in contact with the Body and Blood of Christ... neither can they infect you. Fear not.
This is not supported by the Patristic sources that were already provided. Nor is disease limited to sin (cf, the man born blind). Nor is Christ completely unable to truly take such things upon Himself: that might be Docetism or another early heresy, depending on the theology behind it—be very careful!

Remember the woman with the issue of blood... who was healed by merely touching the hem of the Lord's robes.... the hem... the edge of His clothing... and she was healed.
And what of all the people who weren't healed? Was St Lazarus, who died, not just faithful but also Jesus's friend? Mental and emotional zeal will not spare us from suffering.

Consider the spoon and Chalice as the robe upon His Body... it will not hurt you...

Have faith!!!!
This seems to me like it supposes that Christ became man to make us feel good, not to make us gods. Christianity will definitely hurt you. In fact, it'll kill you!
 
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This seems to me like it supposes that Christ became man to make us feel good, not to make us gods. Christianity will definitely hurt you. In fact, it'll kill you!
You've read the Gospel of John, yes? Chapter 6?
 

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@Bizzlebin "This is not supported by the Patristic sources that were already provided. Nor is disease limited to sin (cf, the man born blind). Nor is Christ completely unable to truly take such things upon Himself: that might be Docetism or another early heresy, depending on the theology behind it—be very careful!"

Can you flesh this out a bit? I'm confused by this statement. And what were the Patristic statements provided?
 

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@Bizzlebin "This is not supported by the Patristic sources that were already provided. Nor is disease limited to sin (cf, the man born blind). Nor is Christ completely unable to truly take such things upon Himself: that might be Docetism or another early heresy, depending on the theology behind it—be very careful!"

Can you flesh this out a bit? I'm confused by this statement. And what were the Patristic statements provided?
The idea of a not-quite-human Christ was not just an early heresy, but a big part of the middle Ecumenical Councils, popping up in later guises such as Eutychianism, which (in)famously likened the human nature of Christ to a drop of vinegar being swallowed by the ocean (compare that with the idea that Jesus's divinity swallows up and dissolves all human "conditions"). Whatever the guise, the chief problem with Christological heresies is that they all fundamentally deny that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. And these heresies specifically target the human side, claiming that Jesus was unable to take upon things as diverse as hunger and death. If we adhere to the 8 Ecumenical Councils, then we obviously know those positions to all be false: Jesus Is fully a human, and fully able to experience the totality of human nature, although He never did so in a such a way that His human will was opposed to His divine will (eg, His hunger was truly *voluntary*, in an ultimate sense). A difficult passage from St Athansios is actually helpful here:

"
How could He fall sick, Who had healed others? Or how could that body weaken and fail by means of which others are made strong? Here, again, you may say, "Why did He not prevent death, as He did sickness?". Because it was precisely in order to be able to die that He had taken a body, and to prevent the death would have been to impede the resurrection. And as to the unsuitability of sickness for His body, as arguing weakness, you may say, "Did He then not hunger?". Yes, He hungered, because that was the property of His body, but He did not die of hunger because He Whose body hungered was the Lord. Similarly, though He died to ransom all, He did not see corruption. His body rose in perfect soundness, for it was the body of none other than the Life Himself.
"

—St Athanasios (On The Incarnation: 4 (21))

This passage can seem confusing at first because we tend to look at just the surface of things. He hungered and died, that should be clear. But was He ever sick? St Athanasios seems to disagree. Why the seeming difference here? Various heresies would like to read St Athanasios as saying Jesus could not have viruses or bacteria (they are seen as "bad", whereas hunger is just "neutral"), but this is not warranted: He's fully human, and St Athanasios makes this clear in his words "the property of His body"—and the fact that He took on not just suffering but death! So what is the key? It is Jesus Christ's mission: He did precisely what He was supposed to do, which is a simple way of saying (again) that His human and divine wills were totally synergized. Thus, if He did not manifest certain parts of the human experience, it was not because He wasn't fully human but because they were not part of His specific mission on earth. This is the orthodox meaning of St Athanasios.

As to the man born blind, St John Chrysostom preaches something very instructive here:

"
But I assert that he even received benefit from his blindness: since he recovered the sight of the eyes within. What were the Jews profited by their eyes? They incurred the heavier punishment, being blinded even while they saw. And what injury had this man by his blindness? For by means of it he recovered sight. As then the evils of the present life are not evils, so neither are the good things good; sin alone is an evil, but blindness is not an evil.
"

—St John Chrysostom (Homilies On St John: 56)

Leaving aside what this means for everything from neurodiversity to sexuality, this sermon very much agrees with the *orthodox* interpretation of St Athanasios: there is nothing sinful about creation, no "sacred vs profane" division, and no silly "prosperity gospel" where we avoid viruses and change—Jesus Christ is *fully* man (and fully God), and all creation is sanctified! The question for us is therefore this: are we also living with our human wills in complete synergy with the divine, or are we disrespecting God's good creation and solid science which reveals it? God has established the world, He took upon that world, and it does us no good to deny (in an almost Marcionite fashion) that natural law is *His*—to paraphrase from Matthew: 5.17, Christ came not to destroy viruses but to *fulfill* them.
 

Irened

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Ok. Some great quotes you gave, thanks. But you lost me on viruses being fulfilled by Christ vs. Him destroying them. Are not sicknesses, blindness, viruses that kill, etc. not a result of the fall of mankind and how that corrupted everything in this world? Our actions brought death into the world. Could not St. John Chrysostom have really meant that his being born blind had nothing to do with his or his parents personal sins not "sin" in the bigger picture?
 

Shanghaiski

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And if a sick person communed, “infecting” the spoon, what happens to the spoon once it is again put in the chalice with the uninfected and uninfectible (sp.?) Holy Gifts?
It's pretty shortsighted of God to give power to the Church to turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood, but somehow when the Holy Utensils are both consecrated by the Church and come into contact with the Flesh and Blood of God - oh boy! - they can somehow get physically or, worse, spiritually dirty. Perhaps demons also come into the chalice if viruses survive. What blasphemy!
 
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