ΒΟSTON – One of the first communities, perhaps the first, to adopt the use of multiple communion spoons to administer Holy Communion after the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic was the Dormition of the Virgin Mary in Southampton, New York. Its head and the founder of the beautiful church and its imposing community center is the Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne Fr. Alexander Karloutsos.
In an interview with The National Herald and in response being asked what prompted him to advocate for and use multiple spoons for the administration of Holy Communion, he said, “for me it was very simple. People wanted to partake of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Initially people communed from the Holy Chalice and the Holy Body separately. After a thousand years, they began to administer communion with a spoon because they wanted to give Holy Communion to the faithful more quickly. They had many Holy Chalices, many spoons, and in Aghia Sophia in Constantinople, seventy priests administered Holy Communion. So I thought, since seventy priests had seventy spoons, why not have a lot of spoons for our world?
Speaking of the 70 priests giving Holy Communion to thousands of people brings to mind the Divine Liturgy celebrated on October 26, 1997 at Madison Square Garden by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with over 18,000 faithful in attendance. Fr. Dennis Strouzas had organized at least 40 priests using 40 multiple spoons to distribute Holy Communion in one Liturgy. Why can’t one priest use multiple spoons in the same manner? There is no dogmatic or canonical anomaly in the use of multiple spoons whatsoever. There are people I have known for many years since I first became a priest, only now with the Coronavirus, they had this fear. I told them that no priest has died after consuming Holy Communion at the end of the Liturgy after all the faithful have received communion.”
Father Alexander said that “we have 90 to 100 people every Sunday who come and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. The spoons are not a dogmatic issue, but a tradition.”
Regarding the fact that there were some who reacted negatively, he said they were “few,” and added that “everyone was happy. The saying of the Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan from Yale University, who understood Orthodoxy very well, that ‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead, Traditionalism (the worship of Tradition) is the dead Faith of the living” is true.
Father Alexander stressed that “in the Greek-American community the Church maintains the Tradition of the Fathers and that God blesses the faithful with minds, and we immediately ordered liturgical stands for Communion. We never said anything about plastic spoons, but metal spoons, respecting that what we transmit to the faithful is the Body and the Blood of the Lord.”
Asked what young people told him, he said, “it was not the young, but the elderly who had great fear. But let me tell you, I saw young people of 20 or 25 years look at the use of the common spoon as strange. Now they rejoice – many come, make the sign of the cross and receive communion with reverence.” Father Alexander emphasized that “the issue is not the spoon, but the Body and Blood of the Lord, as you said Mr. Kalmoukos in your very correct analysis, and also as stated by Father Calivas very wisely.”
He said that “we ordered one hundred thousand spoons for the Archdiocese which are sacred communion spoons in shape and size, a copy of the communion spoons we had used in all our Liturgies. They have the cross of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on them, the Archdiocese logo and name; that is, we made proper Orthodox spoons for the Orthodox people.” He explained that “people come and take a paper tissue, because many are concerned about a common cloth, and the communicant puts the tissue under his chin. I pick up one of the spoons from a Communion Box, I administer Holy Communion and then I put the used spoon in another container that is very close to us, and with the next of the faithful people I do the same thing – I take a clean and disinfected spoon, I administer Holy Communion, and then I place it in the box next to me. We have a tray, so that after people wipe their lips they put the paper tissue on the tray, then we burn the used tissues and deposit the ashes among the plants and flowers. When we finish offering Holy Communion, we give the used sacred communion spoons to our sacristan, Thanasis Polychronopoulos, who boils them in hot water, disinfects them, and then pours the water on the flowers and plants.”
He further pointed out that there are 350 spoons in the Dormition of Southampton community.
Asked if he believed it would be good to establish this in all the communities of the Archdiocese of America, Father Alexander said, “of course. For this reason, I ordered a hundred thousand spoons, because I do not want to have something in my community and not think about my brother priests. Both Fr. Constantine Lazarakis and I are happy that Archbishop Elpidophoros, whose leadership and action were very good, has been fully supported by the faithful of our parish.”
After it was pointed out that the majority of the hierarchs went against this practice, indicating that the First, Archbishop Elpidophoros, is thirty or fifty years ahead of his time and the others are following a few centuries behind, Fr. Alexander was asked how this gap is being bridged. He said, “I believe in the voice of the people. If they see that people do not come to Communion because one spoon is being used, do they not see that we are here to serve the Lord? And as the Lord said, ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’”