THE RECEIVING OF HOLY COMMUNION DURING EPIDEMICS, by Father Michael Bird

The recent spread of the FLU virus has provoked much concern throughout the world and for Orthodox Christians as well. The Orthodox address this question on several levels.

First: The Church always looks upon those who are ill with compassion, and prays for healing. We encourage the medical profession to continue seeking for the appropriate medications to heal those and all viruses, epidemics, diseases, etc.

Second: Some have raised the question of possible contamination through the Communion Spoon and the possible change of the method for administering Holy Communion. True, there have been other methods for the administration of the Sacrament in the Church, in the past. In principle, therefore, the method could change again. Nevertheless, several strong reasons would argue against it:

1) Theologically, the Orthodox Church cannot accept that the Sacrament of Holy Communion would be a source of illness, since it teaches that it is a "medicine of immortality"- it is the very Body and Blood of Christ, our God Himself, which is incapable of harboring any infectious.

2) Further, not one single case of the transmission of any illness has been shown empirically as coming from participation in the Sacrament of Holy Communion - this is a tremendous testimony for the Sacrament, since this documentation spans over 2000 years and countless epidemics.

3) In addition, scientific evidence points to another reason for this as well: it appears that saliva inhibits the transmission of all kinds of microbes (Journal of the American Dental Association, May 1988).