Question: All my life I was thought as an orthodox that, prayer heals the sick and the communion of our lord body and blood would never transfer disease such as flu and AIDS. And now all the sudden I have to not touch the spoon or the bread. What ?!!! If the body and blood of our lord can’t transfer Those diseases why not also the coronavirus too?? Church can’t have it both ways.
Fr. Paul's Answer: Our Faith actually requires that we accept many things to be “both ways”. It is not possible for us to completely understand what it means for Christ to be both fully human and fully God, or what it means for God to be both one and three at the same time, but one of the very, very important benefits of accepting these apparent contradictions is that it forces us to avoid closing our minds with simplistic solutions.
One of the most magical things for me as a priest is to be able to stand on God’s Holy Altar and hold His Body in my hands. Years ago, I thought I would someday get used to this, but, if anything, it becomes a much more awesome task each time. When I do this, I hold God’s Body and I hold a piece of bread. To deny that I see bread would be no less a sin than to deny the presence of Christ.
Our Holy Church as preserved in the East has carefully avoided ever attempting to define how or when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord. These are why we carefully (although often not carefully enough) refer to them as the Holy Mysteries.
To show respect for God, and to humbly accept the Mysteries, we must avoid either extreme, either denying that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of our Lord, or to deny that the Body and Blood of our Lord are bread and wine. This means that we accept that the Body and Blood are for healing of our body and soul, but that how they do this is known only to our Creator.
The bread and wine and chalice and spoon and cloth never cease being physical objects, and therefore never cease to obey the rules God created for His world. They can spoil, they can make people with allergies sick, and they can transmit disease, just as any other similar objects. The risk will therefore vary depending on the nature of the disease itself, and not upon the Faith of the communicant. HIV, we know now, is not transmitted via droplets or saliva; the ordinary flu is, but the risk of transmission or death are both relatively low, and we have means to protect ourselves. The present pandemic involves much more risk, and demands much more care.
I do not see this as turning against our Faith; in fact, accepting it both ways can strengthen our Faith, and gives us a narrow window into how we, too, can hope to use our physical lives to become as God.