Eastern Orthodox Church: Shared-Spoon Ritual Provides “Medicine of Immortality” May 31, 2020

Eastern Orthodox Church: Shared-Spoon Ritual Provides “Medicine of Immortality”

Normally when I share press reports of religious matters on this blog, I select just a few paragraphs that seem especially worthy of comment. Not to put too fine a point on it: I usually quote the crazy shit.

In this AP article, it’s almost all crazy shit. Eleven hundred words of unadulterated WTF.

The piece begins with a church scene in Athens, Greece.

The priest dips a spoon into the chalice of bread and wine, which the faithful believe is the body and blood of Christ, and puts it into the mouth of the first person in line. Then, with a move that would alarm an epidemiologist, he dips the spoon back into the chalice and then into the next person’s mouth. Again and again, through the entire congregation.

Contrary to what science says, the Greek Orthodox Church insists it is impossible for any disease — including the coronavirus — to be transmitted through Communion. “In the holy chalice, it isn’t bread and wine. It is the body and blood of Christ,” said the Rev. Georgios Milkas, a theologian in the northern city of Thessaloniki. “And there is not a shred of suspicion of transmitting this virus, this disease, as in the holy chalice there is the Son and the Word of God.” This is proven, he said, through “the experience of centuries.”

From there, the reporters do a little hopscotch across the map. First Cyprus, where the Church authorities have turned the bluster up to 11.

“Regarding the issue that is unjustifiably raised from time to time about the supposed dangers, which in these blasphemous views are said to lurk in the life-giving Mystery of Holy Communion, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece expresses its bitterness, deep sorrow and diametrical opposition,” [the Church of Cyprus]  said in a May 13 circular on social distancing measures in churches.

The Synod “underlines one more time to all those who, either due to ignorance or conscious faithlessness, brutally insult all that is holy and sacred, the dogmas and the sacred rules of our faith, that Holy Communion is ‘the medicine of immortality, antidote to not dying, but to living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ forever.’”

Taking the “antidote to not dying” means you’re, um, dying. The priests’ grammar is about as good as their science knowledge.

Next stop, Russia:

In mid-March, the Russian Orthodox Church released instructions on adjusting the sacrament during the pandemic. Priests were told to wear gloves when handing out the bread, to disinfect the spoon and to use disposable cups for the wine.

Oh. OK. Better.

But in Ethiopia, which has the biggest Orthodox-Christian faith body outside Europe,

the ritual is unchanged,

… and the same is true for the Orthodox Church in Georgia.

In response to public pressure against using a common spoon, the Georgian church noted the tradition is thousands of years old.

Ancient custom good. Modern science bad.

“Throughout these years, there have been many cases of life-threatening infections, during which Orthodox believers did not fear but strived even harder to get Communion through a common chalice and a common spoon,” [the Church] said in a statement.

Back in Greece, Dr. Gkikas Magiorkinis, assistant professor of hygiene and epidemiology at the University of Athens, appears to be struggling to stay polite.

Changing the minds of the faithful is “very difficult,” he said. “It’s a matter that can only be solved through discussion, and theological discussion rather than scientific discussion. Scientific discussion never helped, and it might have even worse results.”

Next time Christians try to tell you that religion and science are “compatible” or “complementary,” send ’em the link to the AP piece.

(Screenshot via YouTube)


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