Here’s a sad report, and it’s one time I’m grateful for the concept of transubstantiation.
Tragically, some senior figures in the Orthodox Church in Serbia have died of the coronavirus, while some Orthodox leaders in Greece are claiming that Communion from a shared spoon “can’t transmit the disease as it is the body and blood of Christ.” (Note to the AP: this isn’t a doctrine, just a really bad judgment about science as well as theology.)
I wouldn’t claim that transubstantiation is the best or most exhaustive ‘explanation’ of the mystery of the Real Presence, even as I affirm everything that it wishes to affirm. But in this case the medieval, Thomistic term helps us see that the so-called “accidents” received in Holy Communion retain all the physical attributes of natural bread and wine – weight, color, consistency, taste, molecular make-up, calories, and so forth. That includes the potential of carrying the coronavirus.
To affirm this takes nothing away from the faith that it is the Body and Blood of Christ that are received. The substance in tran-substan-tiation, according to Thomas, is truly the substance of Christ’s Body and Blood, but that substance cannot be seen with the eyes, nor moved by the hands of the priest (or communion minister), nor be understood as existing in a place.
The bread and wine are entirely Body and Blood of Christ; the Body and Blood of Christ can’t transmit the coronavirus; but the consecrated elements can transmit it. Got it, everyone? Of course you don’t – that’s why it’s a mystery.
The point is, all the rules of science apply, even for believers. Nothing mysterious about that.