Tag Archives: Febe Armanios

Coptic Orthodox Communion in the Age of COVID-19

by Febe Armanios | ελληνικά

Long handled Byzantine spoon

The Eucharist or communion is one of seven sacraments at the heart of the Coptic Orthodox faith. The sacrament takes place during the Liturgy of the Faithful—the “Anaphora,” which concludes with receiving communion. Copts consider communion as a “mystery.” They favor the older verbiage of “change,” meaning that the elements of communion literally turn into the body and blood of Christ, and avoid terms more commonly used in Western traditions such as “transubstantiation” (Catholicism) and “consubstantiation” (Lutheranism). But like many other Christians, Copts believe in the doctrine of the “Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

Communion wine in the Coptic Church today, as in most Orthodox churches, is distributed by a long-handled spoon which scoops the wine from the chalice into the mouth. Not too long ago, a Coptic parishioner expressed concern about this shared spoon that might be placed inside the mouths of dozens, if not hundreds, of parishioners during a single liturgy. In response, the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Southern United States stated that “[t]he holy body and holy blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is a burning fire that purges and cleanses us from all sin. There is no documented evidence of any communicable diseases anywhere in the world stemming from partaking of the Holy Eucharist in this manner.” The Coptic Church is certainly not alone in this position: on the common spoon, the Orthodox Research Institute has also indicated that “from a purely microbiological perspective, the sweet red wine used in communion is typically high in alcoholic content” and therefore “invisible microbes that may enter our mouths from the previous communicant are harmless.”

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