These days of the coronavirus crisis call for bold new thinking to end the pandemic. The Church, too, has the responsibility to do all it can to protect as many people as possible from contracting the coronavirus, while simultaneously maintaining and defending the traditions of our Holy Fathers. As a practicing radiologist in the largest health system in Philadelphia, I read innumerable COVID-19 chest x-rays every day and see firsthand how devastating this disease can be and why it is critical that proper safeguards to prevent infectious transmission be maintained. With these goals in mind, I wholeheartedly endorse the use of multiple spoons for Holy Communion, as recommended in this incisive and important article by the Reverend Dr. Alkiviadis C. Calivas, a priest of our Holy Orthodox Church for 64 years.
The Rev. Dr. Calivas explains that the use of the Communion spoon was not part of our Orthodox Faith from the beginning. “Before the eleventh/twelfth century,” he notes, “everyone, clergy and people alike, received the Holy Gifts separately, in the manner the clergy do to this day.” The common spoon did not become the established norm in many places until the middle of the twelfth century.
It is likewise extremely important to recall that “the use of the communion spoon was not enacted by a synod, ecumenical or local….The method by which Communion is administered is purely functional. It serves a practical purpose. Thus, as warranted by needs and circumstances, a local Church in its collective wisdom and authority is free to adapt, modify, and manage the method by which Holy Communion is distributed. Whatever method a Church chooses, the single most important concern is that it does not violate any dogmas and that it is appropriate; that it upholds and maintains the dignity of the sacred act of communing.”
The Rev. Dr. Calivas suggests that “each parish procures a sufficient number of reusable metal spoons, all of the same type and material. The used spoons are collected and properly sterilized after each Liturgy and are reused multiple times.”
He notes that “each of these methods shares a common goal: to administer Communion in the safest, most practical, and most dignified way possible. Whatever the model, the fundamental intent is the same: to mitigate the transmission of dangerous parasitic microbes.”
This methodology follows the traditions of the Church and opens the Church to further evangelize and spread The Word of the Lord. It honors our sacred tradition but also keeps us all safe -- especially the elderly in our parishes.
I make this endorsement not so much as Archon Commander, but as an Orthodox communicant from the pew, a practicing physician in the COVID era, who believes that everyone should come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, our Lord and Savior, with faith, love and the awe of God and without the medically and scientifically justified fear of contracting COVID-19. We thank His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros for his strong leadership and guidance in these matters and throughout the pandemic crisis.
In the Service of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
Anthony J. Limberakis, MD