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Question 76.

Father Christopher, Your blessing!

I had been told recently by a relative that the Holy Communion administered to the faithful who are ill is not the same as, or is somehow 'different' to, the Holy Communion administered during the Divine Liturgy (i.e. Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Chalice). I considered this to be absurd, as Holy Communion is surely one (the same at all times and in all places) just as Christ is one. Therefore, I ask: since it is typical for Holy Communion to be consumed entirely by either the deacon or the priest at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, what happens when a priest is called, for example, at 2:30 a.m. on a Monday to administer Holy Communion to someone who is on their deathbed? Where does the Holy Communion come from? Is there always Holy Communion kept in the tabernacle?

With all due respect,


Answer to Question 76.

Dear Evangelos,
On Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent, the Church offers the Presanctified Liturgies where people can come and partake of Holy Communion. They are called Presanctified because on the Previous Sunday the priest prepares two more Lambs with the Lamb that will be used for the Sunday. When the time comes for the consecration the three Lambs are consecrated together in the singular tense because even though there might be three pieces of bread on the paten, Christ is only one. Thus the priest does not say: "Bless these breads" but "let Thy Holy Spirit come upon us and upon these gifts here set forth, and bless, hallow and manifest: This bread the precious and very Body of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. (St. Basil's Liturgy)
Just before Communion, the priest will take each Lamb (Body) that will be used during the Presanctified and dip them into the chalice to be soaked with the Blood of Christ. He will then place the lambs upside down on an extra Paten or special vessel to preserve them until they are needed.
Something similar is done during the Divine Liturgy of Holy and Great Thursday. An extra Lamb is consecrated, dipped in the Blood and preserved on an extra paten. The next day or when the priest finds time, the Lamb is cut into small pieces and slowly dried using the heat from an electrical lamp. In older times the paten (silver only) was placed over coals or a small fire and the Lamb was slowly cooked dry but with this method there was always the danger of over cooking and burning the Lamb. When the Lamb is completely dried is it is placed in a special vessel called the Artophorion which is kept on the Holy Altar at all times. Thus there is always the Body and Blood of Christ available to commune those in need at whatever time of the day or night. The next year on Great Thursday, the priest will again prepare a second Lamb and will consume the dried Gifts of the previous year. There is absolutely no difference in the preserved Holy Gifts from the Holy Gifts we receive during the Liturgy. If there is a difference it is not in the Holy Gifts but in the way it is administered.
When called to give Holy Communion to someone ill at home or in hospital the priest should take with him a small container with a portion of the Dried Gifts, some sweet wine, a communion spoon and other things required for the purpose. The Dried Lamb is placed in a small chalice or even directly on the communion spoon and wine is added. As the Lamb is dry, enough time must be allowed for it to soak up the wine and soften. Holy Communion can then be given to the ill patient.
Some priest use a different method. Instead of preparing the Gifts on the spot, they have a bottle prepared beforehand where they place some of the dried Body and then fill the bottle with wine. They will take this bottle with them and pour from the bottle onto the communion spoon and give communion in this way. This method is widely used, but there are some theological problems. During usual Communion, if the priests runs low on the Blood of Christ he can top up by adding extra wine as this will mix with the Blood already in the Chalice and become one. With the Dried Elements, the question arises if the wine added to the Gifts mixes with the Dried Blood and becomes one with the Blood of Christ. Also the dried Body in the bottle sinks to the bottom of the bottle and when the priest pours out onto the Communion spoon the Body usually remains behind. So the recipient is not receiving the Body but only the Blood and this only if the wine mixes with the dried Blood. If the priest is to use this method which is much easier and quicker, the bottle or container he uses must have an opening wide enough for the spoon to enter and pick up a portion of the Body. He must also keep in mind that the bottle he uses is now a sacred vessel like the chalice and must be treated accordingly.
The same methods are used to give Communion to infants and adults after Baptism. I prefer the first method of preparing as needed and make sure the Gifts have enough time to soften in the wine otherwise the infant, on receiving a hard and dried pearl, will most likely spit it out.

With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher