With regard to the reception of Holy Communion:
If one receives Communion in the proper manner, one would tilt one’s head back and open one’s mouth as wide as possible, thereby allowing the priest to simply drop the Body and Blood of Christ into the communicant’s mouth without ever coming into contact with the spoon.
Just a comment; Yes, our priest has instructed us to receive communion as you described. However, this must not be universal—nothing usually completely is, is it? When I visited St. Tikhon’s last fall, I was instructed to “take it off the spoon” with my mouth, after pausing there with my mouth open for several seconds.
With regard to the kissing of icons and the cross:
I have never heard of anyone who has become ill as a result of this. Of course, there may be cases in which individuals with serious flus or other ailments may wish to refrain from doing so.
In general, if a person was uncomfortable with kissing the icons, due to concern of picking up disease, would priests tend to make this an issue of faith? Is kissing the icon significant versus just bowing or touching the icon reverently with your hand or forehead?
If you have any additional details or insight, please let me know. My questions are not meant to be legalistic, but to help understand our practices better.
Thanks for your reply. Hope the following helps:
Indeed, not everyone instructs the faithful to open their mouths wide so that the priest might drop the Body and Blood into their mouths. Even though this is not universally practiced, it perhaps should be, as there is no significance to coming into contact with the spoon.
Even if the spoon does come into contact with someone’s mouth, it must be placed back in the Holy Blood for the next communicant, thereby coming into content with the alcohol content and the extremely hot water.
With regard to refusing to kiss an icon out of fear of catching a disease, it would seem to me that no one has ever gotten sick and died from kissing an icon. I apologize for being candid here, but sometimes the very people who fear kissing an icon should study the dynamics at work when kissing another human being. I can catch the flu from my wife, but it seems far fetched to say that I can catch the flu from an icon of Saint Nicholas.
What is a matter of faith is the struggle to overcome precisely those things which can become an obstacle to faith, such as a preoccupation with getting sick from taking Communion or kissing the cross. I have met a few people who refuse to go to Communion because they are obsessed with the thought of getting sick. This reveals a desire, conscious or unconscious, to keep the body in perfect health—which we all know is not possible for any serious length of time, since ultimately we all die—at the expense of spiritual health. In the Gospel of Saint John, Christ says, “Unless you eat of My Body and drink of My Blood, you have no life in you.” Those who outright refuse the Eucharist out of concern for their physical health clearly reveal that their spiritual health is less important or not important at all.
For those who have faith, there is can be no doubt that one will not contract a disease from the Eucharist; for those of little or no faith, I would imagine that plastic, individual, disposable Communion spoons wrapped in sterile plastic would not solve the problem. There is a parish in our area—not an OCA parish—which several years ago introduced disposable Communion spoons. The practice was discontinued post haste, as the priest soon discovered that those who objected to the common spoon still weren’t coming to Communion but had come up with new obstacles to partaking of the Sacrament. According to the priest, the revised objection was, “I don’t receive Communion because I am too sinful.” This is akin to the cancer patient saying, “I don’t want my medicine because I am too ill.” Both cases are suicidal, one physically, the other spiritually. So we need that faith which makes us certain of those things which we have not fully understood or seen to be assured that we will not become ill from the Body and Blood of Christ. If we do not have such faith, then it is best not to receive Communion, not out of fear of physical illness or death, but because we are not prepared, in which case, as Saint John Chrysostom writes, the Eucharist can be a burning fire and to our condemnation rather than salvation.