It is possible after receiving Holy Communion that I could be hit by a car and killed a few minutes later. Or contract 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 getting sick, suffering and dying? No. Does the Holy Body and Blood itself transmit disease. Of course not.
It is certainly true that the Holy Spirit can and does heal us through the intercession of the saints and the Panaghia, who once ended a cholera epidemic and even raised the dead. Nevertheless, the Eucharist isn’t a magic talisman or an elixir that affords super powers. Neither is it merely bread and wine any more than Jesus Christ is merely a man, or even a superman for that matter. Christ is something much more than this.
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 Logos, man affects God and God affects man.
What are we to make of the new questions arising from the encounter of COVID-19 and the Holy Eucharist? I received one recently that has been on many people’s minds.
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 raised in the Public Orthodoxy article and how historical, theological and scientific perspectives were all included, because all 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, there would be nothing other than created nature discovered. He cannot be known apart from the Holy Spirit. The same is true of the bread and wine and water of Eucharist and 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, 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 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 way science and philosophy know things by 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 with our whole humanity, body and soul through the sanctifying dialogue of Eucharistic reciprocity misses the mark of Orthodox Faith.
Now the question of whether we should give the Holy Body and Blood to each person from a spoon and Common cup is a different issue. This particular method of delivery is probably not essential to the faith. But 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 should not be simply dismissed on either side, but always approached together in search of the full paradox that transforms both and with respect for the changing contemporary 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, it should be that many people are getting sick frequently from taking Communion. An even stronger evidence of the safety of Eucharist is that priests and deacons who consume the remainder of the Chalice every Liturgy do not have a higher death rate than the rest of the population, nor do we seem to get sick more often than others.
This has been true even in situations when clergy have administered the Eucharist within leper colonies and during plagues. 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 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, the scientific questions concerning this remain the subject of 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.” 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 death. Our spiritual hygiene is the more important question; how we are and have been living inwardly in our soul and as an extension, in our practice and life with one another.
Our current situation, in light of the real possibility of dying from the virus, is an opportunity for persons who are now very interested, to gain a deeper understanding of Orthodox Christian faith and practice. We should of course be asking equally serious questions in other parts of our life as well. COVID-19 can only kill my body, but the real danger is what can kill my soul and renders 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.
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. 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.
 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.