On the Temple of God & COVID-19 Infection: Interview w/ Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis (1/4)
The first part of our four-part discussion with Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis, on the question of whether the Holy Temple and Holy Things can be conduits for infection and sickness.
Archimandrite Fr. Savas Agioreitis began his monastic life in the Holy Kelli of the Entrance of the Theotokos in Kerasia on Mt. Athos. He is also a graduate of the School of Dentistry and the School of Theology, at the University of Thessaloníki, where he completed his Masters Degree with Professor Demetrios Tselengides. Today, Fr. Savas is the spiritual father of the Holy Monastery of the Holy Trinity in the Diocese of Edessa, in northern Greece. Fr. Savas works tirelessly teaching and guiding the faithful not only in his diocese or in Greece, but, indeed, through the online homilies and lectures, the world over, wherever the rational sheep of Christ are thirsting for the Word of God and the Gospel.
In addition to nearly daily homilies during Divine Liturgy, which are uploaded to the internet, now numbering in the many hundreds if not thousands, Fr. Savas is also a prolific author, penning more than 11 books.
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A Four-Part Interview:
- In this first segment we will address the Temple and whether or not the faithful need to fear becoming sick therein.
- In the second segment, we address the all-important matter of having a spiritual father during these times of trouble and persecution.
- In the third segment, we discuss a wide-range of matters pertaining to how we must live in a spiritual manner in face of this great challenge to our Faith.
And, in the fourth segment, we look at the commentary of our Holy Venerable Father Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite on the 28th canon of the Sixth Oecumenical Council, which is being cited by some to support a change in the method of communing the faithful.
Due to pleas from the faithful, we will air the fourth segment next and then return to the second and third afterwards.
We are sure that these interviews, with the ever-vigilant Fr. Savas, offered with much love and sacrifice to you, the pious, zealous faithful, will undoubtedly be quite profitable and enlightening!
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Part One of our discussion w/ Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis, on whether the Holy Temple & Holy Things can be conduits for infection.
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The Orthodox Ethos Podcast
On the Holy Temple of God & COVID-19 Infection
Interview with Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis (1/4)
Archpriest Fr. Peter Heers: Geronda, many people are asking about the measures that will be taken. We hear a variety of opinions, especially outside of Greece, but also in Greece, with relation to the Temple, especially with regard to Holy Communion. There are those outside of the Church who doubt as to whether or not illness can be transmitted through Communion, but also with regard to other things in the Temple of God. I would like you to comment on this. What does the Holy Tradition of the Church and the witness of the Saints tell us as to what is possible in the Temple in terms of sickness and transmission of viruses?
Archimandrite Savas: To begin with, Christ is Risen! May we all have the blessing of the Resurrected Christ! What the Lord Himself says to us is that, “I am the Life.” “I am the Life, the Way and the Truth.” And elsewhere He says, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” In other words, He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood in the jMystery of the Divine Eucharist remains within Me and I in him. And, again, in another place, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” That is, I have come that those who believe in my might have life, and abundant life, which is the Grace of the Holy Spirit in abundance. Thus, Christ is the life, the light, the food of heaven which every believer needs in order to live. If a Christian does not commune of Christ, he does not have life. Our Lord Himself said that in order for you to live you need to eat and drink of me. If we do not eat His Body and drink His blood on a regular basis, we do not have life. This has been stressed by the Holy Fathers, in the Holy Canons. In one particular canon, in fact, it is written that if for three consecutive Sundays a believer does not commune, he is excommunicated. If he is a priest, he is defrocked.
A.P.H.: Someone might say, Geronda, that this is of the believer’s own will, when he doesn’t want to commune.
A.S.: Yes, of course, when he does it of his own will, and not when he has a penance [therapeutic rule], because he has fallen into a serious error, either into sins of the flesh or denial of Christ or sins such as hatred or enmity against even one other person on earth - all of these are obstacles to Divine Communion. When the believer is under a penance, which the spiritual father has given him a rule to carry out, in this case he is covered by the prayer of the spiritual father and as long as he is obedient to his spiritual father, he is in the security and Grace of God - given, of course, that the spiritual father is Orthodox and that which he says to him is Orthodox and the penance he gives him is within the framework of the Holy Canons.
A.P.H.: In this case, do we have a “penance”? In other words, Geronda, I have questions: the faithful who do not commune (during the crisis), are they responsible for this? The canon is not being employed here, that is, the faithful don’t want to avoid communion but rather are being kept from Holy Communion. So, this is not the employment of a penance for them, isn’t that right? That is the first question. The second is: with being kept from Holy Communion for so many weeks, is this justified? Can we justify this on account of the unique circumstances?
A.S.: This abstention from communion has been imposed upon the laity, upon the fullness of the Church and specifically upon the laity, upon this particular part of the Church, independently of their own will and, we would say, independently of the Holy Canons. We cannot accept that today the fullness of the Church, that is, of the Orthodox, has fallen into mortal sins and therefore none of them should commune! God forbid! So have they all fallen into a denial of Christ or into carnal sins or to something else that keeps them from Holy Communion? Certainly not. There are also people that are able to commune and did commune up until now and very frequently, too. But now they are hindered, and this is done with the co-operation of some churchmen (as I would dare to say) and not by a decision of all the bishops. What happened in our temples has never happened in the two thousand years of our Church’s history, that is, that the temples were closed and the Divine Liturgy was done without the presence of laymen. It was done only secretly, or rather exclusively by the priests with the presence of two laymen, chanters, sextons, etc. This has never happened in the Church, and now it happened without even having been discussed by the entirety of the bishops [of Greece]. As someone accurately said, a pan-orthodox council should have been convoked before such a decision was to be taken and all the Orthodox churches closed worldwide. Here in Greece there was only a meeting of the Permanent Holy Council, which again decided that an abbreviated liturgy should be celebrated, that the liturgy should last for one hour — although that is also groundless, but in any case the Permanent Holy Council did not make a conciliar decision to close the churches. Afterwards, the ruler, the worldly, political ruler, said, “Nothing: no religious ceremonies will be held.” Unfortunately some people, the press representative, the Archbishop, etc. said, “We should obey whatever the state says,” although there was not even any consent on the part of the hierarchs of the Permanent Holy Council or of all the hierarchs.
A.P.H.: So, here’s a question, Geronda. Since there is no real conciliar decision for what is happening, are we obliged to obey?
A.S.: Of course not. But even the conciliar decisions are not always, we would say, ‘adoptable’. We do not always adopt them. The final judge of conciliar decisions is the people, according to the Patristic tradition. There have been robber councils. That is, tomorrow a council could decide, for instance, that it be allowed to give Holy Communion to the heterodox as well, to the cacodox, to the Papists, to the Protestants, whom we know to be heretics. We cannot adopt this as a people.
A.P.H.: At this point, forgive me, I do wish to come to the question of Holy Communion and of the temple, but at this point I remembered the following. Someone told that abroad there are hierarchs who tell their priests, “You have no blessing to serve liturgy at all.” That is, neither at home nor in a chapel, nowhere. Regardless of whether the people will come. Because many were saying that there shouldn’t be many people gathered, since that is when the virus is transmitted. [But] here we hear of bishops telling priests, “You have no blessing even to serve liturgy”! Here, is it possible, does a hierarch have the ability, the right, the authority, to ban a priest from serving Divine Liturgy?
A.S.: When a hierarch is ordained, he goes beneath the Holy Gospel. Therefore, this means that the hierarch also has upon him the Holy Gospel, that is, the Word of God (Christ) and the Holy Canons, and he obeys [these]. The Holy Canons clearly tell us that if a clergyman does not liturgize for three Sundays, he is defrocked! It is not allowed for a clergyman to not liturgize! At least on Sundays! The Holy Canon is clear. So, when a hierarch teaches us the opposite of the Holy Canons, of course it is not permitted for us to listen to him. Because “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
A.P.H.: Good. This is very clear. Now, concerning the temple and the Divine Liturgy and all the holy services there celebrated. Is there any chance of sickness being transmitted within the area of the temple?
A.S.: In the first place, let us clarify that there is no chance of sickness being transmitted through Holy Communion. We have very clear witnesses from all of the history of the Church, two thousand years now, that never did clergymen [contract disease]. Scientific studies as well do not witness that there has ever been transmission through Holy Communion. Now, this is substantiated theologically by the fact that our Christ is the uncreated God, the all-holy God, Who transmits life, never death, never sickness. We indeed have scientific witnesses (it is online, so I won’t go into detail) by scientists, doctors, and the like, who certify that in no case do we have a witness that there was transmission of illness through Holy Communion. But we have verification of our saints also. For example we have the received tradition of the service of Holy Communion which is used daily by our Church, which says among other things that when a Christian communes, he is deified. We say, “The body of God both deifieth and nourisheth me.” In other words, what I am communing is the body of God, and it makes me into a god and feeds me. “It deifieth the spirit and wondrously nourisheth the mind”, that is, our soul. And we have the witness of St. Symeon the New Theologian, for me to quote only one Father of the Church, who saw what takes place after Holy Communion. He saw his members full of light, full of Divine Grace. He said, “I move my hand, and Christ is my hand. I move my foot, and behold, it flashes as He”, my foot flashes just as my Lord, my Christ, flashes. “Do not say that I blaspheme. But accept these things and worship Christ, who makes you thus.” In other words, what does He make you? A god by Grace!
He makes you full of light, full of divine energy, divine Grace. How is it possible for such a person, who becomes a god by Grace, to leave something behind in the Holy Spoon or the Holy Chalice and for the next person who communes to become infected? He has become light, become entirely light! The whole Holy Chalice and all of the temple are within the Uncreated Light of God! Is there a possibility of an illness being transmitted there where Christ is, where the Uncreated Light is? A modern saint also, St. Gabriel the Georgian, a Fool for Christ, would say that “If you knew how much Grace there is in the temple”— He says, word for word —the Holy Fathers teach us — St. Gabriel says, “If you knew how much blessing comes during Divine Liturgy, then you would gather up even the dust from the floor of the church to wash your face with it.” We would even gather up the dust. We on Mt. Athos, when we swept the church, did not through away that trash, whatever ghere was, but we burned it. St. John Chrysostom tells us that even the dust from the Holy Relics is filled with Divine Grace. And we have a contemporary example from a church in Chernobyl, where the terrible well-known nuclear accident took place many years ago. When that nuclear accident occurred, the whole region was flooded with radioactivity, but the sole church existing in that region next to the site of the blast had zero radioactivity. There was no radioactivity within the church, whereas the surrounding region was full of it.
What do all these things testify? That the temple is a God-protected place. It is guarded by God. And of course we know this from the service of the consecration of a church, wherein we ask the All-Holy, Triune God with awesome words, and we say that God sends down His Holy Spirit. In this service of the consecration the hierarch says for example, “This house was built by the Father. This house was made firm by the Son. This house was renewed by the Holy Spirit, Who illumineth and upholdeth and sanctifieth.” And then we all kneel together and the hierarch says, “Send down Thy Holy Spirit and sanctify this house. Fill it with unending Light”, the uncreated, eternal light of God. “Choose it as Thy habitation.” Is it possible, then, in the house of God, for God for permit us to be harmed, to become infected? Even if some sick person enters in, there is no chance of him transmitting illness to another! All that is being said today about us maintaining a distance of 1.5 to 2 meters lest we infect, this is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Of course it is also blasphemy what many are saying, that we can be infected through Holy Communion, as well as through the holy icons or through the blessings, such as Artoklasia, Holy Water, Holy Unction, or Kollyva. In fact we unfortunately read in various encyclicals—I have Germany in mind—which say that [the faithful] will have to take all these things by themselves in packages so that no one touches the priest’s hand. Each one should take all these things, the blessings of the Church at the door of the church in packages, because apparently there is the fear of transmission. But is it possible for Christ to allow us to become sick in His house? He Who is Life? Can we ever imagine our Christ keeping us at a distance of two meters while talking to us? We are in Christ’s house. Can we imagine St. Basil keeping us two meters away while talking to us or not giving his hand for us to kiss it? Or [can we imagine] St. Paisios keeping all those people that would visit him two meters away lest by any chance they infect him or he infect them with some virus? All these things are blasphemy!
Furthermore, in our liturgical practice we embrace each other. Our Christ is he that taught us how to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. This [can be seen] in the Holy Fathers. As the Holy Gospel tells us, after the Resurrection Christ was interpreting to the disciplines “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). What is the Kingdom of God? It is the Church! That is, among the other things, he was instructing them in how to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. So. In the Divine Liturgy we have the liturgical embrace, where the priests (if there is a hierarch there, he participates as well), they embrace one another, and while we are embracing each other we say, “Christ is in our midst!” And the other priest, whom we are embracing, says, “He is an ever shall be unto the ages of ages!’
A.S.: That is, we are confirming that Christ is among us and will be unto the ages of ages! Since Christ is among us, is it ever possible for Him to permit us to catch [a disease] or to defile [someone else]?
A.P.H.: And now we see that there are measures that say, “[Only] one priest.”
A.S.: There! In other words, we are cancelling every sense of concelebration and brotherhood. This embracing of one another used to exist among us laity, as well! In the first Church the men would embrace the men “with an holy kiss”, and the women would embrace the women “with an holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16). This precisely expresses that in the Church we are now one body. There is no longer man and woman, there is no longer a person and the Other, but we are all “the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (I Cor. 12:27). Each man is a part of the other.
A.P.H.: When a thing goes to break the communion between God and man and between men themselves, what can it be except demonic?
A.S.: Exactly. All of what we are living is clearly demonic. It is a well-aimed attack of the powers of darkness, of the Kabbalistic, Sionistic forces. These things, of course, are not conspiracy theories. There is historical evidence that shows — and St. Paisios was saying this, as well — that for two hundred and fifty years now the Zionistic have been working systematically in order to strike the Church. St. Porphyrios also used to say that the Church’s worst enemies are the Masons, who are attacking the Church from the inside. They have unfortunately infiltrated into the Church as well, and Saint Father Augustine Kantiotes of blessed memory used to say that there are some hierarchs who become hierarchs after they have previously made a prostration in the Lodge. And he would imply that these are not few, that they are many. He says, “If they do not make a prostration in the Lodge, they do not become hierarchs. Of course, we cannot say that all [the hierarchs] are such, but unfortunately there are some such even in the hierarchy. Consequently, under no circumstances do we catch bacteria, even while we are in the temple, since as we said the temple wholly becomes a furnace of divine grace, a furnace of divine light. And in there everyone is sanctified. Of course, we have St. Paul’s witness, who tells us that, if you commune unworthily, you can certainly become sick and you can even die. Certainly! Clearly.
A.P.H.: St. Paul says it.
A.S.: St. Paul, yes. These people are themselves to blame. It is not a matter of mechanics, [namely] that they became ill because they did not take some protective measures. Even if they take protective measures, they shall still become infected, not only by the coronavirus but, as St. Paul says, they shall become seriously ill and they shall die! Because the penance is spiritual.
What we must understand is that all the things that the scientists are telling us today (and unfortunately our politicians are telling us, “Believe the scientists!” — and unfortunately even some hierarchs are saying, “We believe the scientists”) — all these things are valid for now and again not for all the scientists. Science never says, “I am teaching you the truth.” Science says, “I am searching for the truth, and so far, on the basis of the available data, I say this.” Again I repeat: this is not accepted by all. The only truth, however, is that which is spoken by Christ and which the Church is preaching. The Church never says, “I am searching for the truth.” Rather, Christ Himself tells us, “I am the Truth” (John 14:6). Truth is a person, it is Truth Himself, it is Christ. There is no doubting there. Christ tells us, “I am the Life, I am the Light” (cf. John 14:6, 8:12). So, there is no chance that he who communes of the Light and the Life will receive death or transmit death to another.
A.P.H.: What would you say, Geronda, to the following? Some say, “Yes, all that you are saying is the exactitude. But now by oikonomia we have to make concessions.” Some say that we should scandalize the non-Orthodox. Others say that we must make oikonomias for those weak in faith. Is what we are doing a oikonomia or a violation?
A.S.: This is not a oikonomia: it is a violation. With these so-called ‘oikonomias’ we are opening the door to the evil one. This is also know as “secularization of the Church”. In other words, we are trying to attract the people into the Church by secularizing, “worldly-fying”, the Church, while we should be doing the opposite, [namely] “churchy-fying” the world. We should not bring in worldly criteria and worldly methodology, supposedly for missionary purposes. Instead, we should put into people the ecclesiastical criteria. We should inspire people to think in an ecclesiastical manner, in a right manner.
A.P.H.: “Dispensation” comes from the Divine Dispensation, which is the Incarnation. So, dispensation is the best thing! Dispensation must bear fruits of holiness. If we bar the people from Holy Communion, what sort of dispensation are we speaking of? We are speaking of death!
A.S.: We are speaking of spiritual suicide, spiritual suicide, which is unfortunately committed with the “blessing” of some hierarchs, who closed down the churches, we would say, in a completely anti-evangelical way. Some hierarchs forbade and forbid even Divine Liturgy! There are instances of hierarchs who forbid priests from serving at all.
A.P.H.: Can a hierarch do that? Does he have a right?
A.S.: He does not have a right because it goes against the Holy Canons, according to which, as we mentioned earlier, the priest ought to serve at least every Sunday. There is also the canon saying that if he does not liturgize for three Sundays, he is defrocked.
A.P.H.: What would you say to those who claim that we are doing all these things out of love, so that the elderly or the weak may not fall ill and so that the sickness may not be prolonged or spread?
A.S.: All these are precisely expressing the spirit of the world, which we mentioned earlier, that we trust in science and not in God. The Holy Fathers tell us that there are no natural laws. This started from the moment when Europe became atheist. Scientists such as Neuton and others who spoke about natural laws were also entangled in occultism and magic, and Kabbalah and hermeticism and in alchemy, which is again magic. The scientists that were dominant in Europe, who unfortunately have dominated and are still dominating in the universities to our own day, are connected with Masonry, which is connected with Kabbalah, with occultism, in other words with magic. Today, in a completely racist way, among scientists the dogma has been imposed that if anyone speaks about faith, about a miracle, he is automatically unscientific! Why? Up until the eighteenth century scientists were faithful. This is a [kind of] racism and dictatorship that has been imposed today by the Sionists and Kabbalists in the universities. And [as a result] scientists do not dare to speak of faith in God! We have seen, for example, a well-known, distinguished doctor, who spoke about Holy Communion, and how much she was attacked—
A.P.H.: Down in Athens, you mean.
A.S.: In Athens, by the so-called scientific community.
A.P.H.: What was she called?
A.S.: Mrs. Yamarelou. She is qualified on the subject of infections, which is what we are facing — supposedly facing, since all of this, as it seems, is a great deception, and every day we learn something more about this deception, the so-called coronavirus or fool’s virus, as some call it [in the Greek-speaking world] since it turns out that those said to be its victims are not victims of the coronavirus. Already in Italy, in the parliament, a congressman officially said,
based on data of the National Health Institute, that of the 25,000 registered victims (deaths, that is) of the coronavirus, the real victims of the coronavirus were 900, 925 to be exact, if I remember correctly. That is, the 96.3% did not die of the coronavirus.
A.P.H.: Did they die of other causes?
A.S.: Of other causes, of underlying illnesses, for other reasons, and it was attributed to the coronavirus. On a daily basis I personal hear of cases from my spiritual children, who tell me how they were pressured by various people in the hospitals to register that the death was due to the coronavirus. They were promised various rewards, e.g. they would have the funeral paid for, etc. etc.
A.P.H.: Here is Greece, too, The man in charge, Tsiodras, what’s his name, he himself admitted it.
A.S.: He himself admitted that “We were attributing everything [to the virus]], both [the deaths] of the coronavirus and [the deaths] with the coronavirus”, in other words, those who also had other sicknesses. A man has cancer, and because he also tested positive to the virus, they say he died of the coronavirus. Is it possible? The man is dying of cancer and they register that he died of the coronavirus. This is fraud. I wonder how these people are still standing in government and are still keeping their posts, how the people are not rising up and protesting for all of this entire fraud! It has been proven that the same fraud is being done in America. In fact, we saw some videos where they are using dolls, literally dolls, intubated in order to tell us that these are victims of the coronavirus. A million and one videos have come out, like those in Italy, where the military trucks were supposedly carrying the dead, which in fact was a video from 2013, from a shipwreck that had happened back then. Those journalists presented it to us in a heartbreaking manner, that these were the victims of the coronavirus. In other words, it’s a huge fraud, staged by Sionists, Kabbalists, and the media, which again are theirs. It is a common secret that they are all funded by the globalists, which is why they all say the same things worldwide.
A. P. H.: Geronda, let’s take a break. We shall continue in a bit. When we come back, I would us to talk about what the faithful should do. Gradually, all of us are realizing that something is wrong. Things are not as they are presented. There are very many questions, but mainly we are troubled by the stance [of those] inside the Church, because there it is especially painful. What can we do? What stance should we keep, on the basis of the Patristic tradition and the Holy Canons? What should we do? We shall continue in a bit.
END OF PART ONE