Communion and the Flu

Laura has begun a discussion on her blog about receiving communion during the flu season. I disagree with her that the media is hyping this up. I will admit the media, of which I am part of by the way, did hype up the swine flu thing last winter but by all accounts it could be serious this year. That is not the intent of this post.

For some 2,000 years the Orthodox Church has distributed Communion from a common cup on a common spoon. Now some my think this gross but allow to explain first from a practical position and then a theological one.

Wine is used and the alcohol content is such that germs will not last. We also add hot, almost boiling water, to the chalice at the time of the mingling. These two things will help prevent the spread of the germs. Like I said for some 2,000 years this is the way it has been done even during the plague period in history communion was distributed this way.

Okay now from the theological. As Orthodox and Roman Catholics, we believe that the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us in the Gospel to do this in remembrance of me. So in theological terms transubstantiation takes place and the gifts become holy. So the question I have is why would something that Jesus Himself is telling us to do, and the Holy Spirit comes upon to change, why would it make you sick? The only way you could possibly think this to be the case is if you do not believe it is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! Sorry to be so harsh and in your face but that is the truth! Jesus is not going to command us to do something that will make us sick, plain and simple.

Now we need to take precautions, yes. I wash the chalice, spoon and other communion implements after each Liturgy. We need to wash our hands on a regular basis, and like the little kids do we need to sneeze into our sleeve and not our hands and if we do we need to sanitize them. All good things.

This fall and winter the vaccine will be out for the flu as it is every year. The young and the old will be given fist chance to get the shot. I would recommend getting the shot as I say every year. This is a flu shot just like the flu shot you get every other year but it has the swine flu stuff, sorry for the technical terms there, in it.

Do not be afraid of communion, in fact it is in times like these that we should be receiving communion not staying away from it.


  1. Deacon Charles,

    Very good point. I usually try to spray down all of the Icons in the church than can be reverenced each week but sometimes I do forget. That is a very good point.

    Thoughts anyone?

  2. How about kissing the priest's hand out of respect and in some parishes they shake hands at the time of Peace. Western churches, mostly. I've noticed people with tissues in their hands having just blown their noses. These are all very good ways to spread germs. I never kiss the Icons. Just sort of get close, without making contact.(Maybe we should all wear lipstick).

  3. Two points… I agree with you about not fearing the common chalice. BEtween the Alcohol and the Hot Water (and the gold, I think) *as well as* the faith: nothing to fear.


    The whole spoon thing is rather recent – only 10 centuries or so. In fact there are canons against doing anything other than reception in the hand. *If* contagion ever became an issue, I'd suggest reverting to the ancient practice of reception in the hand with either avoiding the common cup or else wiping the cup after each use (as in RC, Lutheran and Anglican practice).

  4. No one should be afraid to receive Holy Communion during the flu season — or at any other time — because the wine and bread one receives are the Blood and Body of Christ.

    We need to unconditionally accept the fact that Christ would never allow us to become ill by receiving His Body and Blood.

    In fact, it is an anti-Christian thought — even a sin — to think that one could become ill, as a result of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

  5. Ten years ago I worked with my first aids patient.I took all the precautions and came to the understanding what I get I can live in fear of sickness and death or you can live by faith.God will not ask you to do anything that will harm you.I choose to live by faith.linda

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