May 18, 2020

The Secularization of the Mystery of the Eucharist Due to Covid-19

By Kostas Nousis

The situation has begun to escalate. The focus, unfortunately, is in the way the Holy Eucharist is transmitted.

The images circulating on the internet and in the news have become, mainly from Orthodox bishops and priests, absolutely heartbreaking.

You may be increasingly wondering where Orthodoxy will be a few years from now.

We know very well that the boundaries between fundamentalism and healthy zeal are easily shifting these days because of the unpredictable pandemic, due to our sins.

However, we cannot help but feel that the red lines are being violated in dogmatic matters, essential matters of the Christian faith, the transgression of which is gradually deconstructing the whole structure of the Church.

Let's illustrate. When the contemporary plague broke out, various local Churches were arbitrarily involved in the issue of the transmission of Holy Communion.

We saw plastic spoons, disinfectants and other things. At first most of us were scared.

We see now, in the post-covid age which we have festively entered, that these concessions were ridiculous.

In Austria, the Archbishop declared that the Liturgy of Saint James the Brother of God will be celebrated, with the Bread and Wine given separately.

But I ask: even though the bread is indeed given separately, is not the wine given through the common chalice? And didn't the priest previously commune from it? Hence, there is no reason to do this.

Also, the Archbishop of Germany has "subordinated" itself to state orders and has ordered for a Liturgy to be done without Communion, which is unprecedented in ecclesiastical chronicles, and it is anti-dogmatic, since the very nature of the communion of the Eucharist is abolished.

In another case, a Serbian Bishop leaves the immersed Bread on a cloth, so that every believer can receive it on their own!

And all this, lest we be contaminated by the immaculate and uncontaminated Mysteries of our Christ.

They are submitting to atheist and antichrist mindsets that do not believe in anything outside of their ego.

I left the most tragic for last: a Ukrainian priest celebrated the Divine Liturgy through the internet!

While connected to the faithful through skype, each of them had a glass of wine and a little bread in front of the screens of their computers and the priest read the prayers of transformation, and in this way they all, supposedly, communed!

What does all this show and why should it be rejected? The first is the chaos that prevails and the disagreements between the Orthodox.

If there was more respect in the synodal system and in the center, which is today the Phanar, we would not have all these unpleasant to impermissible things.

Instead of celebrating Liturgies via the internet and approaching in many ways - a worrying phenomena - the practices of the Roman Catholics (ex. immersing Holy Communion and giving it in the hand), we should be using technology for better coordination and understanding, something which the ancient Church lacked due to the lack of relevant technological knowledge and technology.

Instead, we see an Orthodox "circus" on a global scale, each doing what they want without any particular consequences.

The most important thing now: what does it matter if there is flexibility in liturgical practices? The answer is that they already exist.

And theologically it is defined as "oikonomia". But it also has its limits. As the great Paul says: "Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial."

And this secular cataclysm is not beneficial to anyone in our Church, in which we see a common denominator: the lack of Orthodox reverence and the erosion of the Orthodox tradition.

These, after all, are, together with its mystical hesychastic character, the special features of the Orthodox Church, and that is exactly why we must protect them as the apple of our eye.

With these characteristics, in contrast to the heterodox Christian communities, the Church preserved the truth of Christianity from demonic and secular alterations.

It seems, however, that many clergy and laity today have unfortunately lost what we call a timeless Orthodox conscience.

And in my opinion, the deepest problem is not the Church's adaptation to the new status quo, but the worrying finding that all of the above seems compatible with the emerging "new Orthodox consciousness of the new age."

In other words, we seem to enjoy all this, not just accept it out of necessity and oikonomia.

And this is the most dangerous thing about the issue: the introduction of these new conventions, which are sometimes blasphemous.

Saint Paisios always emphasized the difference between Orthodox reverence and Western piety.

The late Archbishop of Greece Seraphim once said to a careless deacon: “Be careful, deacon. We are sinners, but not irreverent."

And unfortunately, this irreverence and Western piety-puritanism, we can see them implemented in all of the above and in a bunch of statements of the day: individual prayer, study at home, services through the media, home church, etc.

What, in fact, is our noticeable difference from Catholics and Protestants, with all that we do and support these days? What is the new testimony of Orthodoxy in a world of a postmodern God?

If we look at the course of the Orthodox Tradition, we will see exactly this: the enrichment of its liturgical dimensions, with the aim of preserving our reverence; the Spirit-fearing, albeit loving, attitude towards the Holy of Holies, which runs throughout our liturgical cycle; the leading of inspired and blessed fear, to the love of God, to divine eros.

The humiliation of reverence is also an automatic undermining of the spiritual life. The type guards and leads to the essence.

And only the decoration of the Holy Chalice and Diskos and our attitude before it, proves all the above without a bunch of logical arguments.

After all, what logic can fit into the Mystery of  Mysteries, the Divine Liturgy and the Communion?

Saint Nicholas Cabasilas, in fact, identifies them as being what the Church is!

So we then accept any innovation. Can we then preserve this two-thousand-year-old wealth of Orthodoxy and reverence? I wish. But I don't see it.

We see the just reaction of God's people against it, their displeasure.

And let us not hasten to baptize all of them as fundamentalists, light-heartedly and with ease of the tongue.

Whatever is to be innovated must be done with reverent attention - the slogan of the day.

And without leaving any doubt about the issue of infection through the Holy Mysteries.

We are even looking for evidence, naive that we are, at a time when we already have infinite historical examples, old and recent, that testify to the opposite (ex. the leper societies, etc.).

Our Church is a community. It is a gathering. It takes place for the communion of the true Body and real Blood of Christ.

The life-giving and grace-gushing Mysteries, abolish decay and death.

We are co-communicants of the same Chalice, the same Altar. That means a total brotherhood.

With the touch and the kiss between us and with Christ. With the taste of the fragrant Body and Blood from the common and new Cup of Life.

And so we become members of one another and one body in Christ. This is and is called the Church.

Whoever does not understand or cannot bear it, let them abstain. It is preferable and more honorable. The world must become a Church, not the Church the world. The latter leads to death, the first to Resurrection, to God.

Orthodoxy is the future of the universe. Holy Communion is the medicine of medicines.

Let us defend the truth, not for itself, but for ourselves.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.