Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Don't take communion or you could get the flu!

It's flu season and the CDC and the press are already saying that the sheer amount of flu cases this year has reached epidemic proportions.  Now, I'm no pathologist nor epidemiologist so I'm willing to listen to their suggestions as to how to reduce my exposure to the flu for the sake of my own health and that of my family.  However, one thing I will not do is abstain from the life giving body and blood of our Lord!

Now, I don't believe the CDC has actually made any suggestion for Christians communing during the flu season to stay away from receiving the Eucharist, but that's not stopping congregations and even Archdioceses from implementing policies to remove the blood of Christ from the lips of the faithful! 

First of all, metallic surfaces do not transmit viruses or bacteria and particular metals like copper are well documented for their antimicrobial properties. 

Secondly, those people who abstain from the Eucharist (and those who withdraw it) show what little faith they have in the sacraments.  Such people, I'm assuming,  regard the sacraments as something to be honored and done but that there is no real power behind them.  I wonder why they receive the Eucharist at all!  Is not the Eucharist for the healing of body and soul?  I'm not suggesting that the Eucharist will cure you immediately of your ailment; you still need rest and fluids.  But to stay away from the Eucharist for fear that you may contract or spread the flu shows a real distrust in God and His power as it is contained in the Eucharist. 

It's also incredibly egocentric.  The thought that one person (or even two or three or more) could somehow contaminate the body and blood of Christ for others is absolutely rooted in anthropocentrism--that man is the center of all things, that man affects God's will.

From the news reports, it seems that the Roman Catholics are the one who are leading the charge on this.  Considering that the Roman Catholics for many years withheld the life-giving blood of the Lord from her faithful, this is just another reason for them to reinstitute that flawed Medieval practice.  I'm sure some Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and other denominations are also withholding out of the same (irrational) health fears. 

However, I have never noticed any Orthodox Church every sanctioning such a move.  It could possibly be that there was no press (only the Catholics and Episcopalians and liberal Lutherans get attention from the media, it seems), but I have never seen any directive from any Metropolitan or Bishop in any Orthodox jurisdiction in this country telling parishioners to abstain from the Eucharist.

If you attend a church (I'm only speaking to Orthodox here) where the priest says that sick people should abstain, then you should report that priest immediately to the bishop.  Unless you are under penance and/or excommunication or you have not observed the prayer and fasting prior to receiving, the Eucharist is to be given to you for the sake of the healing of both soul and body.  Because the faithful receive the Body and Blood from the spoon (which is metallic), you will not transmit nor receive the flu.  I'm so sick of these stories and the seemingly faithless people who propagate them.


  1. I haven't read any news reports, but I would venture to guess that these churches are not telling their parishioners to abstain from the Eucharist at all, but they are offering the consecrated host in lieu of the chalice. I don't know that I agree with the move with the cup, but since they are saying Mass, they are most definitely offering the Blessed Sacrament.

    I think if the CDC did want to comment on the infection risks of certain religious practices, it probably would violate the First Amendment. ;-) But, common sense would tell you that if you have been symptomatic, you should not needlessly expose other communicants, especially those with compromised immune systems. Of course, the ill need the Eucharist, and if they are very, very ill, they require anointing from their priest. I know in the Catholic church, we have Eucharistic ministers who take Communion to the home-bound sick and elderly. Is there not a similar setup in Orthodox churches?

    1. Trish, as I made very clear, the transmission of bacterial microbes cannot occur from the spoon or from metal based cups for the wine. The only time this can be dangerous is when congregants intinct their bread into wine using the hand. That is when germs are spread. This is, frankly, a ridiculous issue perpetuated by people who do not believe what the Eucharist is--the very body of Christ. For them, it doesn't matter whether you get it or not because it's mere symbolism.

      As for the Catholics providing only the host, the ORthodox have consistently said, for centuries, that the Catholic practice of offering only one species in lieu of the two is an aberration of Christ's very command to "do this." He didn't say "Do one or the other; it's all good." I'll refer you to the Photian schism for the repudiation of Latin errors.

      Priests may administer communion to the sick outside of the church, but no layperson. The Catholic Church needs to recognize so-called "Eucaharistic ministers" for what they are--conferring sacerdotal orders on someone outside of the pratice--an innovation outside of tradition.

  2. It's entirely rational to withhold the sacred wine, and the safe, wise, and prudent thing to do - unless you are Orthodox.

    1. Well, I'm willing to give the non-Orthodox the benefit of the doubt on this one.