In the Orthodox Church, Holy Communion is administered to communicants using a special spoon. Some have asked, doesn’t the 101st canon of the Council of Trullo forbid the use of Communion spoons? And why are the laity not allowed to receive Communion in the hand and from the chalice, as they did at the time of the Ecumenical Councils? Fr. John Whiteford answers these questions about the use of Communion spoons in our Orthodox Liturgy.
The canon in question has nothing to do with Communion spoons. It addressed the practice of some people who, rather than receive Communion in the hand, as was the practice at that time, would make vessels of their own, and would receive Communion in these vessels, thinking it was more pious than to receive it in the hand. Some may also have used these vessels to take some of the Eucharist to their homes. This practice was specifically prohibited by that canon:
“The divine Apostle loudly proclaims the man created in the image of God to be a body of Christ and a temple. Standing therefore, far above all sensible creation, and having attained to a heavenly dignity by virtue of the saving Passion, by eating and drinking Christ as a source of life, he perpetually readjusts both his eternal soul and his body and by partaking of the divine grace he is continually sanctified. So that if anyone should wish to partake of the immaculate body during the time of a Synaxis, and to become one therewith by virtue of transessence, let him form his hands into the shape of a cross, an
When speaking about the illness of the soul, we primarily mean the loss of Divine Grace, which has repercussions to the body also, and then the whole person is sick. There might be an absence of bodily illness, but without the Grace of God there is no health.
To best comprehend the Fall of man, it is necessary to start with what the Holy Fathers say, that the soul is noetic and intelligent, that is, the soul contains both nous and reason and these move in parallel. The nous is distinguished from reason in that the nous is the eye of the soul, the focus of attention, while reason is verbal and articulate and formulates thoughts through the brain. Thus, if the nous moves according to nature, which means it is healthy, reason is also healthy and the spirit, that is love, is healthy too. If the nous is not healthy, man is ill both in his reason and in his love. The malfunctioning of these two powers, nous and reason, causes illness.
Before the Fall, Adam lived in a natural condition. His nous was directed to God and received Grace from Him, while reason was subordinated to the graceful nous and, therefore, functioned normally.
The Fall, which constitutes the true illness, is in reality the darkening of the nous. The nous was darkened, lost the Grace of God, and spread darkness to the entire man. By the Fall of man we mean three things in the Orthodox Tradition: First, the nous was darkened and stopped functioning normally. Second, the nous was identified with reason and reason became the center of man. Third, the nous was enslaved to passions and to outside conditions. This was man’s spiritual death. And, as is the case when man’s eye is hurt and the entire body becomes dark, when the eye of the soul, the nous, is blinded, the entire spiritual organism is sick. It falls in deep darkness. Christ said: “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?” (Matt. 6:23).
What is important for us to bear in mind during the fast?
The fast, by definition, is a time of abstinence. Therefore, let us strive to abstain from everything that is unprofitable for our souls:
Archpriest Andrei Efanov
1. Television. It seems to me that television is first on the list of unprofitable things. Television shows compel viewers to squander a part of their lives “for someone else.” There was a case of a mother who refused to emigrate to be with her children because the country to which they had invited her had stopped showing “Santa Barbara.” When it comes time to say that television viewing should be limited during the fast, you will hear that people are ready to give up watching the news and to fast very strictly with regard to food, but they cannot give up watching television shows.
It is precisely this harmful obsession – one that teaches us to live an imaginary life and to sympathize with vice and passion, as dictated by directors and screenwriters – that we need to give up, at least during the fast. I also advise watching fewer movies: nearly everything said about television can be applied to the average film. The news is also unlikely to bring a calm and prayerful disposition to someone who is fasting. Therefore, if you have not yet disconnected the antenna from your television, now is the time to do so.
2. Unlimited cell phone service. Unless your work requires you to have unlimited phone service, it would be better to give it up during the fast. Unlimited communication is very unprofitable during the time the Church has allocated for prayer and spiritual reading; it greatly weakens the soul. Let us also be careful with our land line phones.
3. The Internet. The best thing is to draw up a precise list of websites that you can visit during the fast. Everything not related to work or obedience should be strictly regulated. Even a familiar website that is completely innocuous at regular times might provide information that is unprofitable during the fast. Therefore, before you follow a link, give some thought to what the consequences will be for your soul that is fasting.