It is possible after receiving Holy Communion that I could be hit by a car and killed a few minutes later. Or be infected with a virus within minutes of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. What about minutes before, in the act of Communion itself? Does Holy Communion exempt us from all infections, sickness, suffering and death? No. Does the Holy Body and Blood itself transmit any of these? Of course not.
It is certainly true that the Holy Spirit can and does heal us physically at times through the intercession of the saints and the Panaghia, who once ended a cholera epidemic and even raised the dead. At other times we are healed by God through the intervention of science. God is present in both.
Nevertheless, the Eucharist isn’t a magic talisman or an elixir that affords super powers. It is not exempt from the logoi inherent to natural law, but neither is it merely bread and wine any more than Jesus Christ is merely an ordinary man, or some kind of superman. The Person of Christ is something much more than either of these in and of themselves can convey.
For those who approach Christ in Holy Communion without pretension, in the vulnerability of repentance, with a heart of faith, crushed and humbled of our illusions of self-sufficiency, the Eucharist is an encounter which sanctifies and spiritualizes us. It is a synergy of personal communion in a sacramental bond pursued over a lifetime as in marriage and monasticism. We do indeed undergo changes through the dialogical reciprocity of love according to our obedience to Christ’s self-offering, for as St. John affirms, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Through the condescension of the Logos, man affects God and God affects man. But this change is something that is beyond our power to achieve through any means available to us apart from Communion with Christ.
So what are we to make of the new questions arising from the encounter of our fears of contracting COVID-19 and hunger and thirst for the Holy Eucharist? I received a question recently that has been on many people’s minds in recent weeks.
There seems to be some division in our church as to whether or not COVID-19 can be transmitted by partaking in the Eucharist. My casual understanding from Priest, Bishops and Elders is that the Eucharist cannot be a source of disease and we should not fear partaking of Communion because the person before us had COVID-19, AIDS, or any other illness. This article was shared with me recently and I’m curious to know your thoughts. https://publicorthodoxy.org/2020/03/23/covid-19-and-dualism/
I appreciated the questions which were raised in the Public Orthodoxy article and how historical, theological and scientific perspectives were all included, because all these must be integrated and given their due. Another article I found of interest came out when the flu epidemic was raising similar questions some years earlier. https://www.oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-breck/disease-and-holy-communion
If Jesus were studied scientifically under a microscope, regardless of the acuity of the examination, from quantum physics to biomes, DNA and encephalograms, there would be nothing other than His created nature discovered. He cannot be known in His fullness apart from the Holy Spirit. The same is true of the bread and wine and water of Eucharist after the anaphora and epiclesis. This is central to the mystery of the Church as being one with the Logos Who is fully created, fully uncreated, two natures unconfused and yet united in one Person.
Science cannot comprehend this mystery, yet it is an empirical fact testified to by the many miracles of sanctification over millennia. Every time a heresy arises, it is the result of trying to tamper with this paradox. As we consider how to approach Christ in light of the COVID virus, the latest in a series of historical tests from the bubonic plague, to leprosy, to the flu over centuries, the same issue arises. In many ways the test is just another version of the question that came to a head in the debate between Barlaam and St. Gregory Palamas. Can God be known as an object of knowledge the same way science and philosophy know things rationally while still remaining “apart from” them or can God only be encountered through the intimate reciprocity of Communion? Anything that reduces or separates us from encountering Christ freely in love with our whole humanity, body and soul, through the sanctifying dialogue of Eucharistic reciprocity with the divine energies of Grace misses the mark of Orthodox Faith.
Now the question of whether we should give the Holy Body and Blood to each person from a common spoon and Common cup is a different issue. This particular method of delivery is probably not essential to the faith. But it is a tradition that is at least 1300 years old. It is important for us to understand the historical and theological reasons for it remaining the unchanging means of giving Communion for over a millennium in spite of repeated challenges during times of worldwide epidemics. We must approach it with respect for these larger theological concerns in order to address the questions of disease transmission which people want to raise. These questions of theology and science should not be simply dismissed by either side, but always approached together in search of the full paradox that transforms both and with respect for the changing historical circumstances.
Scientifically, it could be argued that if diluted wine is not capable of killing virus and bacteria in seconds when the spoon is immersed, because of insufficient alcohol content, then it should be that many people have been getting sick frequently from taking Communion. Even stronger evidence of the lack of safety of administering the Eucharist with a single spoon from the Chalice would be if priests and deacons who consume the remainder of the Chalice every Liturgy get sick more frequently or have a significantly higher death rate than the rest of the population, which is not the case.
This has been true even in situations when clergy have administered the Eucharist where this might be expected, such as within leper colonies and during times of plague. Since they don’t seem to be getting sick and dying in greater numbers, there must be something else going on. A recent theological argument along these lines can be found here:https://asceticexperience.com/portfolio/the-holy-communion-does-not-make-people-sick-photo-journal-from-the-chapel-of-holy-unmercenary-healers/
Actually, as my friend Carlie Frederick, a nurse practitioner discovered and shared with me, this question was researched back in 1897 by the American Medical Association who declared at the time, “We know of not one bona fide instance of disease contracted from a common communion cup.” 
In 1998 “the CDC reported there had never been a case of an outbreak of infection related to the communion cup” Still, scientific questions concerning this have remained the subject of scientific investigation. A 2018 study in the International Journal of Infectious Illnesses, entitled “Infections Associated With Religious Rituals” is a case in point. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1201971213001872.
The sudden awareness of the real possibility of illness and death brought on by the pandemonium around the pandemic of COVID-19 evokes heightened concern over “catching a disease.” That’s understandable. And it is understandable that as precautions are taken to prevent spread of the virus, that the way of administering Communion would come under scrutiny as well. We should be as practical in examining this as we are in how many people can be in a room together and how far apart they should stand and whether or not more than ten people should even be together in the same room.
But the larger reality from the side of Faith, is that what we should be even more concerned with is that we have already caught a much more dangerous disease, more dangerous than sickness and death itself. Our spiritual hygiene is the more important question. How we are and have been living inwardly in our soul and by extension, in our practice and life with one another, is by far the more critical examination.
Our current situation of this COVID-enhanced Lenten struggle presents us, and everyone in the entire world, with the real possibility of dying from the virus. This creates an opportunity for persons who are suddenly very interested, to make a deeper dive into Orthodox Christian faith and practice and gain a better understanding. Illusions of our self-sufficiency and the psychological denial of our mortality have been temporarily pierced by the virus and the near mythological meaning ascribed to it. This is of a great value.
We should be asking equally serious questions in other parts of our life in realization of our true situation. COVID-19 can only kill my body, but the real danger is what can kill my soul and render it unable to turn from the heart to Christ in the humility of the publican and the thief on the cross. Because when all is said and done, there is NOTHING that can protect me from dying. We are all preparing “with fear, faith and love,” for the meeting with the risen Christ “Whose love is greater than life itself.” He did not seek to avoid death in order that he might raise us from the dead in preparation for Communion with Him.
This sudden new focus on the Eucharist in a purely scientific manner, must also be considered in terms of its secularity and reductionism regarding the truth of the Christian Faith and the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, otherwise we miss our opportunity to go deeper. Examination of the scientific dimension alone fails to grasp the full gravity of our circumstances. It will take many voices weighing in and much discussion to accurately clarify how the theological, historical and scientific perspectives are best expressed in a way that is faithful to Christ and the laws of nature and Spirit that proclaim Him through His Holy Church.
As we approach the great mystery of Pascha, possibly without being able to gather physically as one Body, our social isolation may be received as a healing epitimia which can help render us even more appreciative of the unity of love in Christ that has conquered death by dying and overcomes as time and space. We might also consider that it is only the blind, deaf, dumb, paralyzed and suffering who hunger and thirst for Christ in a way that proves healing and transformative. Those of us who satisfied by our worldly lives and imagine we are already well are too lukewarm to care much about the eternal things that viruses cannot touch. In our attempts to save our bodies, we do not want to lose our souls.
 I Jn. 4:16.
 Journal of the American Medical Association, 1897, Volume 29, p. 791.
 L. Managan, L. Sehulster, L. Chiarelo, D. Simonds, W. Jarvis Risk of infectious disease transmission from a common communion cup Am J Infect Control, 26 (1998), pp. 538-539
 Psalm 63:3.