May 31, 2020 – Sunday of the Holy Fathers
To our beloved Hierarchs and Clergy of the Orthodox Churches of America and everywhere:
In May of 1848, The Eastern Patriarchs wrote a profound encyclical to the Pope in response to his flawed papal primacy claims. Toward the end of this most significant and profound work, the holy Patriarchs relayed to the Pope that, unlike the totalitarian mode of governance in his church, in Orthodoxy “neither Patriarchs nor Councils could then have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves, who desire their religious worship to be ever unchanged and of the same kind as that of their fathers.”
Holy Fathers, we are faithful Orthodox Christians who desire to do just that, being ever cognizant of the Lord’s admonition, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16). Thus, we feel compelled to respond to the proposed changes that are about to occurunder your guidanceto the Sacrament of Holy Communion, as well as to theologically inaccurate information that is being disseminated, sadly, from Orthodox priests and theologians in our Church.
Regrettably these days, Orthodox Christians who stand in defense of their Faith are labeled as “fundamentalists” and “traditionalists,” or even radicals, simply because they wish to preserve their Faith unadulterated and unharmed by secular mandates or societal whims. The doctrines of our Orthodox Faith should be subject to neither; but rather, The Holy Orthodox Church should remain true to the teachings of Christ, our Holy Church Fathers, and the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
Holy Fathers, we respectfully ask you to explain to us, how is it that God can defile or corrupt man in any way through the receiving of Holy Communion from a common spoon when that spoon has come into contact with the very Body and Blood of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who is an all-consuming fire according to our Holy Communion Prayers? The Church has used the common spoon for the distribution of Holy Communion through a myriad of plagues and highly-communicable diseases for hundreds of years, and it has NEVER been a source of contamination. Yet now, we suddenly claim that “people are justly apprehensive and frightened.” As Father Calivas states in his narrative, “the Coronavirus has many people wondering about and questioning the continued use of a common spoon for Holy Communion.” Exactly who is it that is posing this question, and why are our clergy and hierarchs not responding to these fears and doubts with right teachings and truths about our Orthodox Faith which will unquestionably dispel any apprehensions that the faithful may have? Father Calivasgoes on to write the following: “The real fears, reservations, and apprehensions of the people should not be dismissed… as if the act of communing is void of human considerations and the limitations of the created order.” On the contrary, quite the opposite is true! Any fears that one may have SHOULD lovingly be dismissed through the right teachings of our Faith. Our faithful Orthodox Christians should be taught the truths of our Church and the countless miracles manifested throughout Ecclesiastical History which serve to prove that the act of communing SHOULD be devoid of any faithless cogitations. If we truly BELIEVE in the Mystery, there cannot and should not be any set of physical limitations placed on the Divine Mystery of Holy Communion.
Does Father Calivas not shatter the Orthodox understanding of theosis with his following rationalistic claim – to wit: “The communion spoon is an imperfect material object. It does not share in the incorruptibility of the risen and deified Body of Christ, which is really present tous through the eucharistic elements. On its own, the spoon is simply a spoon, a utensil”? What an unfortunate argument from such a highly-esteemed theologian, to say the least!!! The wood that Christ was crucified on was simply a wooden cross…the nails hammered into His hands and feet were simply made of iron…the Belt of the Virgin Mary was simply cloth…the relics of the saints are simply bones…yet, the Holy Spirit of God has flowed and perpetually flows through these material, holy objects as they serve as proof of healing for countless people of faith.
St. Symeon the New Theologian, towards the end of his Holy Communion Prayer, feels as imperfect as straw, but “after he partakes of the Lord’s Fire, [Holy Communion] he becomes like that Bush Moses saw,” which, though unconsumed, was burning. The divine Glory of Christ during His Holy Transfiguration glorified and perfected everything around Him. Yes, even objects share in God’s Glory! According to Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, “Where the Holy Spirit of God intervenes, all corruption ceases.” As we see in countless examples in Holy Scripture, where God wills, the natural order of things is defeated. If the mere shadow of the Apostle Peter could heal the imperfections of human bodies, could there be any doubt that the Most Pure Body and Precious Blood of the Incarnate Son and Word of God can sanctify and perfect the holy Spoon during the partaking of the Holy Sacraments? Father Calivas would not have remained alive and healthy to this day, after having consumed the remains of the Holy Cup which came into contact with the saliva of hundreds of thousands of mouths during the span of 64 years of active priesthood, were it not for the very fact that the Divine Mystery of Holy Communion absolutely, categorically, and ontologically was and is the medicine of immortality and NEVER will be a source of any pathogenic transmission.
We respectfully reiterate that this form of catechism should be one of the main tasks of our clergy and our hierarchs. Have our fellow Orthodox Christians been told about the priest in Crete who visited and communed the colony of lepers who lived on Spinalonga Island for at least ten years? Leprosy was a highly contagious disease; yet, this faithful priest was the only priest willing to go and celebrate Divine Liturgy daily, and he communed these poor lepers. To the dismay of many, he faithfully consumed the remains of the Holy Cup after each Holy Communion. He fell asleep in the Lord from old age, without ever having contracted the highly contagious disease of leprosy (Hansen’s disease). Have we used the example of Saint John Maximovitch, who communed a woman who had contracted rabies? After receiving Holy Communion from Saint John, the woman began foaming at the mouth and she subsequently spat out the Holy Gifts. Saint John proceeded to pick up and put in his mouth the Holy Gifts that had been vomited out by the sick woman! Those who were with him were horrified and exclaimed, “Vladyka, what are you doing? Rabies is terribly contagious!” But Vladyka peacefully answered, “Nothing will happen; these are the Holy Gifts.” And, glory to God, nothing did happen!
As you well know, Holy Fathers, these are not fairy tales; yet we are left to wonder about and lament over why, in lieu of relating to our faithful these miracles and other truths regarding the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we resort to furthering their fears and doubts by altering how Holy Communion is received, and implementing measures that do nothing more than adulterate and defile the teachings and doctrines of our Faith. Why is a renowned theologian like Father
Calivas concerned about mitigating “the transmission of dangerous parasitic microbes” by suggesting the elimination and/or cleansing of the common spoon, when this “imperfect material object” is immersed into the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” after the Communion of each Orthodox Christian? Is alcohol or vinegar more therapeutic than the Healer of all ills? Does the “Purifier of all” not have the power to purify a created object when He Himself purifies His faithful of all sins and transgressions?
For reasons we previously stated, and for the many timeless truths of our Holy Orthodox Faith, there simply is no cogent argument to be made for eliminating the common spoon as a means by which the faithful Orthodox Christians receive Holy Communion. We would further proclaim that under these circumstances, such a change is blasphemous. Holy Communion is a Holy Mystery that is freely given to us by Christ for the cleansing of our bodies and souls and for
our union with Him. There is absolutely NO room for science or human reasoning to irreverently enter Gods Holy Ground, Gods Holy of Holies, the Holy Mysteries and miracles of our precious Orthodox Faith. Our Church should be off limits to “science”, or to any other organization that may endeavor to replace the unexplainable wonders of our faith with the empirical limits of science. For an Orthodox Christian, there is no room for fear. However, in order for this blessed fearlessness to occur, a Christian must understand what Christ has taught and promised to the one who is willing to “take up his cross and follow Him.” Are we willing to take up our cross and follow Him or is it easier and more convenient to give in to doubt and to follow any misguided and erroneous notion that conveniently allays our fears?
These past few months, the world has been overcome with fear and our state governments and the media have done a stellar job of controlling and placing limitations on the masses through the use of fear. Why are our churches and places of worship doing the same and being transformed into apparent bastions of secular, political rhetoric when they should be ever increasing as dwelling places of the Body of Christ whose hierarchical representatives should be dispelling people’s fears through the divinely proclaimed dogmas and teachings of the Faith of Christ, as the Church is a place that is literally “out of this world!” Why are so many of our priests and hierarchs failing to catechize the faithful and to help them to understand the Divine Mysteries of the Holy Orthodox Church so that the faithful may freely and boldly approach to receive the Holy
Mysteries without fear or hesitation? Only when our faithful understand their Holy Faith and develop a relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ can their fears be dispelled and replaced by the peace that comes from knowing Him! We, your children, appeal to you, Holy Fathers, to dispel this virus of fear, the idol of Thanatophobia, by teaching our faithful the Truths we hold to be sacred and true. The Truths that have been sealed through the blood of the Saints and Martyrs of our Church. The Truths that must remain unchanged and unadulterated, now and ever and unto the ages of ages.
Respectfully, we remain,
Your Sunday School teachers, Chanters, Choir directors, Choir members, Philoptochos members, Parish council members, and all your faithful children in Christ.