Patriarch Nikon’s Reforms and the Spoon Controversy


Patriarch Nikon

On June 8, the OCA website published “A Letter of a Parish Priest to His Flock.” This letter has been shared widely on social media, by people of many different Orthodox jurisdictions. It was written by an unnamed OCA priest in the Diocese of the South and was made public by his bishop, Archbishop Alexander of Dallas. Certain aspects of this letter touch on historical matters, and it is on these things that I’d like to focus.

***

The unnamed priest writes, “Many people, particularly online, are now in a huff about practices concerning cleaning or even replacing the spoon. The use of a spoon for Holy Communion is approximately 1000 years old. That means, prior to that, there was no Communion spoon. I will not take time to go into the more ancient practices for receiving Holy Communion, I will only say that to make a dogma out of the spoon is wrong.”

What were the “more ancient practices” that the priest does not discuss? From the time of the Apostles, all of the faithful received Communion in the way that the priests and deacons still do to this day: they received the Body in their hands, and then they sipped the Blood from the chalice — a common chalice. The spoon appears to have supplanted the older method for purely practical reasons — it’s much less messy to feed the faithful by the spoon than it is to put the Body in their hands, which risks the dropping of crumbs, etc. It also happens to be quicker when you’re communing a large number of communicants at a single Divine Liturgy. In any event, the older method is certainly not “more sanitary” than the spoon, from a secular perspective, as it involves the faithful sucking up bread crumbs from their hands and drinking from a shared cup.

***

The priest then turns to the Old Believer schism:

Brothers and sisters, there is real danger of another sort of Old Believer schism affecting the Church today as it did in Russia a few hundred years ago when people refused to accept changes to the service books and some of the practices of the faithful even when it became clear that the old ways were mistaken. At that time the corrections were often introduced heavy-handedly, but that is not the case in our situation, where the bishops have considerately and in the face of a serious health crisis introduced temporary changes, changes which in no way affect the dogmas or teachings of our Faith.

In 1652, Patriarch Nikon ascended to the throne of the Moscow Patriarchate. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes in The Orthodox Church, “Nikon was probably the most brilliant and gifted man ever to become head of the Russian Church; but he suffered from an overbearing an authoritarian temper.” Nikon discovered a number of differences between the practices of the Russian and Greek Churches, and he decided to “correct” these Russian practices by ordering immediate, unilateral changes applicable throughout the entire Moscow Patriarchate. The most famous of these changes involved the Sign of the Cross — the Russians had been making it with two fingers, and Nikon insisted that they must now make it with three, like the Greeks.

A significant minority in the Russian Church rejected Nikon’s reforms. In a 1957 paper, Serge Zenkovsky explains, “What were the real causes of this contention over the reforms? The Patriarch and the Tsar wanted to remove the discrepancies which had crept in over the centuries; they wanted to introduce a common Orthodox ritual. Opponents of reform regarded the Muscovite practices as an inseparable part of the Russian Orthodox way of life — as, indeed, sanctified by generations of Muscovite clerics, saints, and laymen.”

This was a sensitive pastoral situation, and Patriarch Nikon was not up to the challenge. Metropolitan Kallistos writes, “Had Nikon proceeded gently and tactfully, all might yet have been well, but unfortunately he was not a tactful man.” Opponents of Nikon’s reforms — “Old Believers” — were harshly persecuted. In 1666-67, a Pan-Orthodox Council was held in Moscow, presided over by the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch. The Council’s decision was nuanced. Metropolitan Kallistos summarizes it in this way: “The council decided in favour of Nikon’s reforms, but against his person: Nikon’s changes in the service books and above all his ruling on the sign of the Cross were confirmed, but Nikon himself was deposed and exiled, a new Patriarch being appointed in his place.”

Unfortunately, the schism was not healed — it has persisted to the present day, although in recent times some Old Believers have reunited with the Russian Orthodox Church.

***

So what does the Old Believer schism have to tell us about the present controversy over the Communion spoon?

Firstly, it’s important to note a significant difference between Nikon’s reforms and the spoon issue: In the case of Nikon’s reforms, there was broad consensus among the Orthodox hierarchy. This is not the case with the spoon. The majority of the Orthodox Churches are not changing the traditional practice. The Moscow Patriarchate has introduced a temporary measure to “disinfect” the spoon between communicants, and outside of that, a relative handful of bishops in the so-called “diaspora” have mandated some version of multiple spoons. Everyone else is sticking with the common spoon.

This is in stark contrast with the Nikonian reforms, in which Nikon attempted to align the Russian Church with the practices of the other Orthodox Churches. A comparable approach today would be for the “multiple spoons” bishops to switch back to the common spoon — not the other way around. Instead of Nikon’s reforms, the current changes are perhaps more akin to the “Living Church” in 1920s Communist Russia, when changes in the external conditions of society created momentum for advocates of change within the Russian Church. In addition to the headline revisions of the Living Church, such as allowing clergy (including bishops) to marry after ordination and retain their ranks, those renovationists made liturgical changes, including moving the altar to the center of the church.

The Old Believers were primarily laypeople who rebelled against a united Russian Church hierarchy. American Orthodoxy, with its tangle of jurisdictions, is nothing like this. The American Orthodox laypeople who are currently questioning their bishops live side by side among other Orthodox faithful whose bishops are not innovating.

Furthermore, the unnamed priest insists that, unlike Nikon’s “heavy-handed” approach, the OCA bishops (the subject of the author’s letter) have introduced their changes “considerately.” This, of course, is a matter of opinion, but any mandate handed down from above, without exceptions and without the hard work of consensus-building, runs the risk of being “heavy-handed” and creating unintended divisions.

I am sure that the bishops who are introducing liturgical changes today are all gentle and loving men, acting in what they believe to be the best interests of their flocks. I’m not saying this in a pandering way — I mean it. Precisely because of this, it is important that they consider the Nikonian reforms as a warning, not only to their frustrated parishioners (i.e., don’t be like the Old Believers), but to themselves (i.e., don’t be like Nikon). Nikon may have been right, but his pastoral approach was wrong, and had disastrous consequences.

***

Finally, the unnamed priest assures us that the spoon issue is not dogmatic. And to be sure, there is nothing inherently “dogmatic” about the use of a spoon — after all, it wasn’t used for the first thousand or so years of church history. But the underlying issues most certainly are dogmatic: What is Communion? Can it be a vector for disease? If I become sick after taking Communion, what does it mean? The answers to these questions have significant dogmatic and soteriological implications.

The priest says that many people “are now in a huff” about the spoon issue and he decries “‘Armchair bishops’ without the grace of the episcopacy.” From the context, it seems that the priest is focusing his criticisms on people who pontificate on the Internet. Fair enough. But many faithful Orthodox clergy and laity are genuinely concerned about the changes being mandated by certain hierarchs, and the correct response to those concerned people is not the stereotypical counsel to “pray, pay, and obey” that seems to underlie this anonymous letter. There are real dogmatic issues here, and they concern the entire Body of the faithful.

It seems to me, then, that both the frustrated clergy and laity and the innovating hierarchs should take heed: we the faithful should not become like the Old Believers, but likewise the hierarchs should strive not to imitate Patriarch Nikon.

24 Replies to “Patriarch Nikon’s Reforms and the Spoon Controversy”

  1. Of course, the vast majority of bishops have not changed the means of receiving communion. Most have simply mandated a few temporary measures aimed at minimizing cross-contacts which may spread infection, such as venerating icons or the cross without kissing, not closing the mouth on the communion spoon, not kissing the hand, social distancing, and most difficult of all, limiting or forbidding the faithful to attend the services. You are of course right that the bishops need to be open with their people and listen to their concerns with sympathy, unlike Patriarch Nikon. But at the same time the buck stops somewhere, and that is with our bishops. They did not have the luxury of having a year of conferences and preparing the ground for these changes. They had to be carried out immediately, and they made these changes in full knowledge that they would cause pain and blowback, and they did not act lightly or rashly, but with full responsibility before God for the flocks entrusted to them. And in my experience they did not make these decisions on their own, but after consultation with other bishops, including of other jurisdictions, and asking advice from some clergy and faithful laypersons.

    This whole time of challenge has opened up, as you observe, important practical and theological questions, and these can be addressed in the way Orthodoxy always addresses these things: deliberately and thoughtfully, looking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and allowing a full sharing of views before (hopefully) arriving at a consensus. The internet, unfortunately, while allowing many to be heard, gives equal time to saints and demons, thoughtful and knee-jerk, informed and ignorant. The conversations need to take place, but we must all exercise real discernment and discretion. And above all, humility. Too many speak without listening, thinking they are new holy fathers and mothers of the Church, and blocking out all else.

  2. Overall, a good article, up until the end. Our unnamed priest does directly address the issues that you bring up in the last section. He specifically says the changes in practice are not about questioning whether Holy Communion can transmit disease or not, but are concerned with 1) avoiding government interference, and 2) caring for “the weaker brethren” who may yet be worried about disease and the spoon. Later on, he again affirms the Church’s teaching that the Holy Gifts cannot transmit illness.

    While we can quibble about whether these are acceptable reasons for making a change (I, personally, have serious reservations about the first, but am sympathetic to the second), it is simply not the case that the dogmatic questions underlying concerns about the spoon are not being addressed.

  3. “Can communion be a vector of disease?” No, of course not. No one that is temporarily using multiple spoons (or “disinfecting” the spoon, as is being done in Russia) has said that it can. But a spoon might be a vector of disease, and there is no theological basis to say that it cannot, and will not. And the living witness of the Church, through her history has shown that coming into contact with the Eucharist does not make sacred vessels incorrupt (nor is that the purpose of the Eucharist), nor does it make them incapable of passing on something that can be physically harmful. Take the case of St. John of Shanghai being poisoned by wine used to consume the chalice after Paschal Liturgy as but one example.

    1. Whether the spoon that holds the Eucharist can be a vector of disease does indeed have dogmatic implications. That is why this is such a contentious issue.

      1. Recent development in the spoon controversy:

        “On Tuesday, July 14, 2020, a representative of the relevant government authorities called me and said that he had information that in two churches (he even named the churches) Holy Communion was given with a common spoon for all the faithful. He added that if this continues, measures will be taken for all Greek Orthodox churches, fines will be imposed (fines reach up to ten millions $ 10,000,000 for organizations) and they may go as far as to close our churches again.”

        https://orthodoxtimes.com/how-archbishop-of-canada-responds-to-critics-of-holy-communion/

      2. One must understand the theological implications of Canon 101 of 6th Ecumenical Council that clearly sets out the dogmatic basis for the proper means or vessel of Communion.

        According to this Canon, the human person is created to be the image of God, a body of Christ and a temple of God, who becomes one with Holy Communion, as opposed to soulless vessels that cannot become one with the Body and Blood of Christ.

        The main point here is not simply the vessels that Christians made in the 7th century to receive the Body of Christ instead of directly into their hands, but the fact that the Council condemns with excommunication those who prefer soulless matter and an inferior vessel to the living image of God.

        In other words, the spoon, just like any other soulless and inferior vessel mentioned in this Canon, because such it is, is not the image of God, does not partake of Holy Communion or share in its attributes, does not become the Body of Christ, nor a temple of God, and cannot in any way overshadow the dogmatic importance of the human being as the image of God, who is the focus of Communion as the one who directly receives and communes in Christ.

        The focus is on the human person as the image of God, who communes, not on the soulless vessels used in the process, which are of little comparative importance. The human being will become the Body of Christ and the Temple of God through communion, not some soulless vessel.

        Can the human being, as the true receptacle of Holy Communion, be a vessel of sin and death even after he communes? Obviously, this is possible. As St Paul says that some believers have become sick and died after communing.

        If a communicant as a true receptacle of Holy Communion can fail to maintain the grace of Holy Communion, and can become sick and die, then is a soulless vessel (such as a spoon) greater than a human being at being a vessel and receptacle of Holy Communion? Surely claiming that a soulless vessel is greater than the human communicant would deny the doctrine of the image of God of Canon 101?

        Focusing attention on a vessel of soulless matter as if it is life-giving and participates in the nature of Holy Communion, becoming one with it, is condemned with excommunication by this Canon.

        Furthermore, in regard to the practical use of spoons, they were introduced as an innovation to administer the Holy Blood of Christ to the congregation, not the Body of the Lord, which was deposited directly into the hand. Thus, the spoon was first used instead of communicants directly sipping from the chalice. There is only one practical reason for that. What do you suppose?

        The traditional method of communion in the hand and sipping from the chalice, or alternatively given the Body in the hand and the spoon from the Blood in the chalice, required either a priest and a deacon to commune the parish, or the communicants had to return after partaking of the Body to receive the Blood of Christ from the priest.

        Thus, it became practical as a further innovation to place the Body of the Lord into the chalice and administer both the Blood of the Lord and his Body by the spoon directly into the mouth. St Nikodemus mentions this practicality.

        While the traditions and Canons of the Church prescribe that a communicant must commune after proper preparation such as through prayer, fasting and confession, or he may become sick and die by communing unworthily, Canons 8 and 9 of the Apostles provide the balance to ensure the straight belief of Orthodoxy, where one who attends church and is properly prepared must partake of Holy Communion or he will create disorder in the church.

        A faithful member, who is properly prepared for Holy Communion, but then decides not to commune because of the sanctified vessels used to give him Holy Communion is despising Holy Communion and not rightly discerning it, and as such is to be excommunicated as an unworthy vessel.

        Let him remember that the spoon in the first place is not Holy Communion, nor does it partake of the life-saving qualities of Holy Communion, and it was introduced over time in place of believers directly sipping from the chalice, while the Body was still given into the hand. Hygiene, and the image of a physician, was clearly the practical motive for the innovation of the spoon.

        St Nikodemus commenting on these canons also provides for special vessels and thongs (spoons) to be used during a plague, which should also be sterilized.

        The point is that a soulless vessel (such as a spoon) is not the true receptacle of Holy Communion, and does not commune or partake of the Body of Christ, but rather the human person is the receptacle of Communion, the Body of Christ, and the temple of God.

        Now follow this through: do human communicants in Christ’s Body catch viruses and transmit them? Or do only sinful humans catch and transmit viruses, and not those who commune worthily?

        How many bishops and holy men have already fallen asleep in the Lord from Covid? Were they not the Body of Christ, sacred images of God, true receptacles and vessels of Holy Communion, partakers of the Divine Nature?

        It seems so much easier, on the other hand, for humans with clouded minds to deify soulless matter. The spoon is immaculate as it cannot sin, not the human who communes, who does sin. In this they judge themselves as less worthy than a spoon, a soulless vessel, and thus unworthy as a true vessel of Holy Communion.

        All those holy men in 2020 that communed and, nevertheless, suffered and physically died, did not die spiritually, but are now with Christ and his saints. This was the benefit of Holy Communion: though it did not necessarily stop physical death or physical illness (though it can, and it certainly will), yet it granted us spiritual life and the promise of eternal life in the physical resurrection.

        If humans can sin, lose grace, transmit spiritual and physical diseases, then let’s not put inanimate objects above this image of God, who was made to be the Body of Christ and the temple of God, and who is the true receptacle and vessel of Holy Communion according to the Church Canons, not any soulless inanimate vessel.

        The spoon is nothing compared to the image of God who is the proper means and vessel of Holy Communion.

      1. In a book published by St. Herman’s in Platina, titled “Blessed John the Wonderworker” A preliminary account of the Life and Miracles of Archbishop John Maximovitch. In the third edition on page 95

        “But once after Paschal Liturgy he did not come out from the altar for a long time. When he did, he came out pale as a sheet and began to throw up. The president of the Cathedral Sisterhood quickly brought a dish and handed it to him. He threw up some strange rose-colored matter. It was from the wine bottle from which he rinsed his chalice after the service. A hole was dug in the garden and it was buried. He was poisoned by a certain priest, who later lived in L.A. during our time and wrote very nasty articles in Russian newspapers. Father Peter T. used to tell much about him. Finally when he was dying from cancer, Archbishop John went to him in the hospital to release him from his sins, and he repented of his sins before his death.

  4. What did the Hebrews say about the midwives who, once summoned, met with Pharaoh and who deferred to Pharaoh’s order to put to death the male Hebrew babies when born? Do we not also recall that those midwives did not in actuality carry out their accepted (by appearances) task of infanticide? Should they have instead spat in Pharaoh’s face, thus provoking an outright slaughter? Perhaps their “go along to get along…in appearance” attitude saved a few male infants’ lives. Have we not heard the story of Moses?

    This is the situation we see ourselves in. Our midwives, our hierarchy, has met with Pharaoh. Our midwives have agreed to temporary measures that are not contrary to dogma. This is much less than the midwives who in word agreed to infanticide! How many infants have escaped infanticide in the meantime? Liturgy has been served, the laity have been allowed to return (to varying degrees), and the Pharaoh has not had an excuse to wage an all-out war. Consider the new catechumens who have sought out the Church in these past few months. They are the male infants in this extended analogy, and they have been allowed to live another day as a result of the tempered response of the midwives. Not only catechumens, but all of us who are infants spiritually.

    The Pharaoh’s hand has been stayed. This is significant! May we redeem the time!

  5. Re: The letter published by Bishop Alexander by the ostensibly unnamed parish priest.
    The only salient point in the “anonymous” letter is the admission that the bishops were not concerned about infection but wanted to “prevent government interference in the Church”. So to prevent government interference, some bishops in some jurisdictions, oftentimes went beyond the scope of government decrees (whether enforceable or otherwise) to shut down parishes. In other words, that obscure reference in a letter from Thomas Jefferson about a “wall of separation” between church and state is a magical one way wall. Politicians act according to their whims and bishops willingly capitulate.

    Please do not think that when the news of this virus was first made public that I was not very concerned. I was and I appreciated the concerns of the bishops. However, now that actual facts are coming out…

  6. I wasn’t going to do this, but since the “government interference” point has been brought up several times, I will address it. In my day job, I am a lawyer working exclusively with Orthodox jurisdictions and organizations, including the Assembly of Bishops. A big part of my job during these difficult months has been helping the hierarchs of all jurisdictions navigate the ever-changing legal landscape, with every state (and many counties and cities) issuing numerous orders and rules to address COVID-19. Along with other Orthodox lawyers, I have been directly interfacing with state officials to advocate for the interests of the Orthodox Church. So the whole “government interference” topic is literally what I deal with for a living.

    Very few states have rules that attempt to regulate Christian communion practices. Most states, following the CDC, merely “recommend” or ask churches to “consider” making changes, but they leave the ultimate decisions to the churches themselves. For those few states and localities that use stronger language, my experience has been that they are not actually intending to regulate religious ritual or otherwise violate the First Amendment. When we point out to these officials that their language is problematic, they are usually quick to make changes. Nothing really nefarious is going on here, then.

    So while I understand why people might worry about government interference if we maintain our traditional communion practice, I think it’s largely a non-issue, from a practical standpoint. Most states don’t have problematic rules, and those that do are (a) open to changing them and (b) not really able to enforce them anyway, under the First Amendment.

    1. Some states certainly did try to institute “problematic rules”, for example Delaware. It’s true they backtracked but that’s probably because the churches were demonstrating that they could and were on their own take adequate precautions.

      I’m more than a little surprised that so many Christians in America, particularly conservatives who are concerned about eroding religious freedoms, take this so nonchalantly. People who were up in arms two years ago about gay marriage being forced upon the Orthodox Church now think that the bishops were completely out of line to act the way they did in the face of the pandemic. I’m puzzled.

      1. I’m actively engaged in discussions with state and local governments about these problematic rules. I was just pointing out that the overwhelming majority of states don’t have such rules, and those that do are mostly doing so out of ignorance or sloppiness, and are open to making adjustments. Don’t get me wrong – these rules are a real threat to our religious freedom. I just don’t think “fear of government interference” is the driver behind most of the changes being instituted by the minority of bishops who are altering our communion practices.

  7. Why are modern Orthodox, particularly in the English-speaking world, so committedly deficient at history like the author of the OCA article? I guess as a general attempt to be as un-“ethnic” and deracinated as possible? In almost all cases “trends” date to earlier than our earliest archeological and written evidence, whether secular things like Ancient Greek burial practices or religious rules for serving Christian liturgies. Likewise, tradition in most cases tends to be right most of the times, despite the effect of looking boorish and childish in the face of Western scholarship.

    Communion spoons became explicitly, widely used for serving communion in the 9th century (spoons are mentioned as a liturgical tool in the Photian Council of 861) and definitely the majority practice by the 11th, but that doesn’t mean they came out of thin air. A spoon is a relatively mundane object, but we have silver spoons from the 500s with crosses and prayers engraved on them and are found literally next to communion chalices. It’s not 100% proof they were specifically used for serving communion, though it is hard to argue they had no liturgical purpose, whether in preparation of the wine or proskomidia or for serving communion to the faithful. If it is the latter, then communion spoons existed even earlier and parallel to the practices of intinction et alia prior to their more universal adoption in the East starting at least in the 9th century. St Sophronius of Jerusalem around 600 AD mentions a spoon being used to serve communion to a sick person, but that doesn’t tell us whether it was used generally during the liturgy or not or just for the sick.

    In terms of written evidence, the earliest explicit example of communion served with a spoon comes for a general communicant from around 700 AD in an account by St Anastasius of Sinai, Narration 43, where he says:
    “… and he prepared in it for him the holy particle with the precious blood. Having drawn out the holy communion, holding the holy chalice and the spoon, he hesitated to partake on account of the reproach which he had heard against the offering priest”
    “και έστειλαν αυτώ εις αυτό αγίαν μερίδα μετά και του τιμίου αίματος. Ελκύσας ουν άνω την αγίαν μεταληψιν, κρατών το αγίoν ποτηριoν και το κογχλιαρίον, διεκρίνετο μεταλαβειν δια την λοιδορίαν ην ήκουσε περί του προσενεγκαντος πρεσβυτέρου.”
    (pardon the lack of breathings, iota subscripts, and proper accenting, had to type it up manually and did not have the right font at hand)
    Robert Taft, a famous though problematic/questionable/irreverent Byzantine-Catholic liturgical scholar, still better than the most of the 20th century Orthodox liturgists of fame, says that despite the fact that the authenticity of the authorship is in question (but then again, don’t Western scholars even question the authenticity of authorship in the Bible?) as well as the form of the liturgy being served (he suggests it might be St. James and not Byzantine rite), he admits that this is a spoon being used to serve communion. Taft says that the word for spoon is different than in later Greek, here κογχλιαρίον (kongchliarion) versus the usual λαβις (labis/lavis) in later Byzantine texts, but languages can change drastically over time and geography, so that really doesn’t seem important. Particularly so if you are taking the opposition position that spoons are not important, then the word used would not have been semantically charged until later Catholic opposition. We cannot conclude if it was being widely used or not, but we can conclude that it happened and is mentioned with zero fanfare or fuss. The use of a spoon was sporadically condemned to certain degrees in the Western Latin Church, for example at the Council of Braga in 675 AD, but that still doesn’t mean the practice did not exist even earlier and I at least have not found polemics against it in Greek. I would be happy to be enlightened if someone does know of a Greek polemic against spoon, though I would note that Canon 101 of the Quinisext council (Trullo 692), more specifically Balsamon’s commentary (12 century, WAY after spoons became the absolute norm in the East, if they weren’t always), are not against spoons but rather about people (a) using “vessels” to take the Eucharist home and do inappropriate things with them or (b) to condemn the arrogant (I read wealthy) communicant for not wanting to receive communion like the poor. Likewise there is only a mention of “receiving by hand,” which actually does not contradict using a spoon (receiving wine by hand?), but would suggest they received the two species separately, but that is another beast I don’t care to engage with at the moment.

    1. The Sixth Ecumenical Council (692 AD) explicitly prescribed that the Body should be received in the hand (Canon 101). Spoons were used to serve the Body (mingled with wine) to babies who would otherwise chew and swallow with difficulty.

    2. Evangel, nothing you write contradicts anything in the letter from the priest. Your own words situate the development of the use of the spoon from the ninth to the 11th century. He simply said “approximately 1000 years ago“. Sounds about the same to me. So why the reference to being “committedly deficient at history“?

      And your statement regarding being deracinated is a complete non sequitur. I don’t know what ethnicity has to do with any of this.

      1. You did not read the quote to the end, or seemingly even the beginning. He first says “the use of a spoon is approximately 1000 years,” which I and others have shown is wrong, he then says “That means, prior to that, there was no Communion spoon,” which is completely wrong. Likewise, as is typical of the OCA, he says a lot without giving much supporting evidence for his positions at all. Given the inertial quality of tradition and history, all you can say is that by the 10th century we have recorded evidence that spoons were the predominant means of serving communion in the East, which, without contradicting evidence, you can only assume was the predominant means beforehand as well.

        And sure, you can say that ethnicity and other things are non sequiturs, though when you commit to putting diaspora in quotes, a la Meyendorff, who was almost callous with his disregard of history and tradition, and encourage people to shed their historical and familial identities, it is not likely you will have a great grasp of history, specifically because you do not even care to. So yes, a non-sequitur in a way, but the deficient grasp of history is clearly symptomatic of it.

      2. You’re just quibbling here. There clearly was a time – a thousand years ago, 1200 years ago, 1500! – when the spoon became the normal way to commune the faithful. Are you going to try to push it back to Chrysostom? the day of Pentecost? Clearly and obviously there was a time when it was not used. What is your point other than a grudge against anyone and everyone in the OCA?

      3. Well, I don’t really care to continue this with you, but clearly there was time we didn’t take communion at all, there was a time when there weren’t priests and bishops, there was a time when Christ’s name was not known, there was a time before the Bible was written. So what, you drop them when you feel like it suits you? You either see the hand of the Holy Spirit through history or you do not, and I have a lot of trouble seeing the Holy Spirit in the words of those proposing we drop the common spoon. One perspective leads to salvation “with all our histories in one” as St. Sebastian said, the other leads to nihilism and ultimately annihilation.

      4. We can end this, hopefully peacefully. I simply think you have read far too much into the letter that isn’t there. Nowhere, for example, does it suggest doing away with the communion spoon. But when people are using words like “heresy” and “blasphemy” to describe the changes necessitated by a pandemic (in the minds of bishops, not only of the OCA, but throughout most of the world) it is incumbent upon us to say that the spoon is not a dogma of our faith.

        I am well aware that there are those who will take advantage of the situation to try and get rid of the spoon because of their own liturgical agendas: clericalism or what have you. (I have not seen calls for this in the OCA, by the way.) But we don’t have to fall into the other side of the ditch either, creating schisms where there are no heresies.

        I wish you well.

  8. Forgive me, a simple woman, but I am aghast here. For weeks, MONTHS, there was no opportunity for us to receive the Eucharist. Now we have been given the glorious opportunity to receive again of these Life-creating Mysteries, and people are arguing about the means?? Lord, have mercy.

    1. Churches were closed in the States ultimately because Americans actually do not take religion very seriously, despite all the puffed up talk about freedom of religion and how Americans are so much more pious than those wretched Europeans and Russians. We are not entitled to communion, every approach must be with fear and trembling. We specifically beseech God in the precommunion prayer that our participation “not [be] unto judgment nor unto condemnation,” and if we are approaching communion trusting in pseudo/careless-science more than Christ I am skeptical we will seem fit in the eyes of the Lord. I fear it is much more likely that communion will not be for the “healing of body and soul,” if we do it without the fear of God, but rather unto judgement. To take communion only a few times in your life with authentic piety is far better, cf. Mary of Egypt, than to take it every week and treat is as something you are entitled to, or worse, as nothing significant at all. St. Paul directly addresses this too in 1 Corinthians 11:

      27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and [a]blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks [b]in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the [c]Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many [d]sleep.

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