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Analysis: How the Coronavirus Influences the Church

It was unavoidable that the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic would impact the habits and the routine of our daily lives and of course, our ecclesiastical life. In that light, I will present some food for thought in this Analysis. 

First of all the closings of our churches, especially during the holiest and unique Holy Week of our Orthodox Church, was undoubtedly a very painful thing and decision, but it was also extremely necessary for the general good and health of the entire Church and Community. It was also dictated by the governmental authorities and the scientists in the fields of medicine and health who are fighting to contain the spread of the insidious virus.

We applied lenience for the electronic broadcasts of the sacred services of the Church. This is not the proper time to point out the liturgical anomalies and other jarring things that were broadcast by some parishes to the point that I was saying it would be better if they didn’t broadcast anything. But there were some parishes, fortunately, where the services were done in an orderly way, with good chanting and the correct expression of hymns.

We should be careful because these electronic broadcasts do not constitute in any way a worshiping Community of faithful, meaning Ecclesia (Church). They are just “audio and video shows,” a kind of religious projection, or rather, a necessity for solace and reminiscence.

If we are not careful, however, there is a danger that this electronic religiosity will become established in our community, especially by the new generations of faithful which are the generations of digital conformism and social conduct that is usually motivated by the expression “why not?”

The closing of the naves and the loosening of the community-ecclesiastical life also has a serious impact on the finances of the local parishes. The lighting of a candle electronically from a distance cannot in any way replace the liturgical symbolism, nor the vital income from the sale of the candles.

The reduction of the contributions of the faithful is only to be expected because people are losing their jobs and closing their businesses, and they are faced with uncertainty. The Greek Festivals which are the “salvation” of the vast majority of our parishes which depend on them for their survival have either been cancelled for this year or moved to the Fall.

I am in position to know that in the New England area in which I live – about which I have firsthand knowledge of the situations in if not all then the vast majority of the communities – parishes depend for their economic survival on the Greek festivals and without them cannot keep their doors open.

Testimonies and statements by priests and members of parish councils are very clear that without the income from the festivals the majority of the parishes cannot survive. As sad as it sounds, it is the bitter truth.

Perhaps the coronavirus will become the reason for a spiritual and ecclesiastical awakening and prompt us to find other means of economic support and sustenance for the parishes instead of selling roasted lambs and pigs.

One way, for example, is that the parishes should reduce their budgets by half regardless of the consequences, including salaries and the annual contribution to the Archdiocese. I think my message is loud and clear. There is no need to say anything more.

I am now going to pose a question for thought and discussion: The coronavirus brought up again the issue of the way we commune the Holy Gifts with the common spoon. Should we begin to at least think about this very serious and sensitive issue?

Understandably, it is said that here it is a matter of

Faith, because it is the very Body and the very Blood of Christ. But it must be noted that in the Orthodox Church and its theology, we don’t believe in the transubstantiation of the Gifts, the Bread and the Wine. The accidents of the Gifts, the taste and the shape and other external qualities don’t change – what changes is their manner of existence.

Going a little deeper, the created exists together with the uncreated. In the future we will have an opportunity to elaborate more on this.

During this unprecedented time of the coronavirus pandemic, many young Greek-American males and females of first, second, third generations are posing the question of the use and practice of the common spoon. They say that of course we believe but we are concerned physically and psychologically about the use of the common spoon. I live it and hear about it often.

I would like to simply remind that the practice of the common spoon wasn’t in use from the begging in the liturgical life of the Church. For centuries in the original Church the communion of the faithful was done the way the bishops and priests continue to commune until today, that is separately as the Body and the Blood. The common spoon was introduced and established from the eleventh century on because of infant baptism and the special needs of persons of advanced age. But on these issues I will write more in the future. Please all stay safe and well.   

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Before plunging into a controversial and polarizing rant about the pandemic, I’d like to begin with a couple of disclaimers: first and foremost, I am profoundly saddened by all the suffering the virus’ victims and their loved ones have endured.

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