Category Archives: Canons and Liturgical Practices

The Church without the Eucharist Is No Longer the Church
A (telephone) conversation with Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas (March 23, 2020)

ελληνικά | српски

We wish to hear your views on the current situation, since your theology plays a great role in the present circumstances.

Metropolitan John: My theology, unfortunately, cannot be applied. In Greece they have already closed the churches, and the Divine Liturgy is not being served. Is it served in Serbia?

Taking into consideration the decision of the government that the number of people in one place be limited, as well as the issue of getting around and social distancing, the Patriarch Irinej’s newest decision is that services be held in churches but without more than five people.

Metropolitan John: That’s acceptable.

In America it was decided that the priest, chanter and altar server be present, in order for the Liturgy to be served, so that they might have the holy mysteries in order to commune the people. What do you think about that?

Metropolitan John: For me, the Church without the holy Eucharist is no longer the Church. On the other hand, the danger of transmitting this virus to others imposes on us the need of doing whatever is necessary, even if that means closing the Church. The Greek government has taken drastic measures due to the very serious matter at play.

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COVID-19 and Christian (?) Dualism

by Cyril Hovorun | ελληνικά |  ру́сский  |  српски

Translations of this essay are also available in Arabic (pdf) and Georgian.

Virus

In this brief editorial, I try to explain what underpins the widely spread belief that the coronavirus cannot be transmitted through the communion of the holy Gifts.

This belief is based on the assumption that the Body and Blood of Christ constitute an absolute good, while the virus is an evil infection. Good, therefore, cannot transmit evil.

However, the virus is an infection only for us, and even not for all of us, because most people will get over it without even noticing it. Per se, this virus, as any micro- or macro-organism, is a part of God’s creation. As a physical reality and a part of nature, the virus is ontologically “good”, like any creature (see Gen 1:21). We consider floods, volcanoes, typhoons to be evil, but they are natural processes, and as such are not ontologically evil. The snakes and spiders that bite us are also deadly to us, but by their nature they are good.

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Shame or Love in the Age of Pandemic

by Fr. Elias Villis

Jesus washing his disciples' feet

When Archbishop Elpidophoros submitted an encyclical regarding COVID-19 to his faithful on behalf of the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, what I found more scandalous and tragic than the pandemic itself was the judgmental and self-righteous voice from so many “faithful” (both clergy/hierarchs and laity) who spoke against those who were afraid to approach the chalice because of fear of catching a disease or spreading it.

Among the most troubling comments I’ve seen are: “If you believe that you will get sick by partaking of Holy Communion, you are in sin and should not approach.” And another: “How can you believe that the Body and Blood of Christ can make you sick?” 

Are these really the kinds of comments that lead us to God? Is the pandemic some sort of spiritual contest where we need are going to prove to the social-media world just how much more faith we have than others?

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Do the Sacraments Prevent Illness?
A Survey of Liturgical Sources

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko | ελληνικά | српски

Icon of the Holy Eucharist

The global COVID-19 crisis has ignited a number of difficult discussions among Christians. The method used to distribute Holy Communion is fiercely debated. In the Churches that remain open, many Protestants and Catholics are withholding the cup, so faithful are receiving in one kind only, the body of Christ. In Orthodox communities, clergy and laity are discussing the possibility of trying new methods for distributing Holy Communion that prevents the spread of disease through a common spoon. This issue has generated emotional statements claiming that it is impossible for the Eucharist to make anyone sick because of the true presence of the Incarnate Christ. Most Orthodox synods have issued guidelines on how to maximize prevention of infection in church, and the Churches are in agreement on communion: it is impossible for the body and blood of Christ to make anyone sick. The corollary to this defense of the faith is that no changes to the method of distributing communion are permitted, with two exceptions. The Romanian Church permits faithful to bring their own spoons from home, and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine allows clergy to administer communion to laity via intinction, hand-to-hand.

In the remainder of this essay, I will test both assertions by pointing to a selection of historical antecedents. My investigation will demonstrate that the Church has used numerous methods for distributing Holy Communion, and that her steadfast belief in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements does not come with the promise of guaranteed protection from illness.

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