Hi. It's me again, and I received my answer.
Took the bull by the horns and talked to my Orthodox priest. I'd been put off by his original comment ("The body and blood of Jesus Christ couldn't possibly do any harm") but when I spoke to him, person to person, he listened with care and attention, and understood. He acted as a true pastor.
He said that provision was made for recovering alcoholics, and provision could be made for me. He believed that all of the Orthodox priests in the area would agree with him -- "Except maybe the Russian."
My parish priest understands that this is a physical condition. Regarding the ideas that might attach blame or impute sinfulness to a physical response to a hosting substance -- "That's not Orthodoxy."
Upon hearing some of the opinions set forth in this room, my parish priest rolled his eyes. He urged me to refrain from getting my information online.
If you are celiac, and wondering, I'd urge you not to waste time talking about it on a board like this, but to go directly to your pastor and ask him. At the very least, you'll know where you stand.
Wow, this is a relief. I'm Celiac, and have been beating myself up for over a year over this issue wondering if I'm sick, as St. Paul implied in his epistles, because of my sins. I know I have much to answer for, and I have trouble myself, already, looking my sins straight in the face. To consider that I might not be able to receive the aid of the Eucharist to aid me in my struggle had be on the brink of tears (without exaggeration). However, I'm also humbled by the comments. I'm probably not worthy to receive, and perhaps the most traditional path for me would be the one taken by St. Mary of Egypt, whereby she lived for 40 years in the wilderness and did not receive until the end of her life, but something declarative like a visitation from the Theotokos, as she had, has not indicated that path to me as of yet. So where is the middle ground for me?
I can honestly say, I have no idea what is right or wrong in this argument. All I know is, my past experience has lead to me believe that I should not receive the Bread in the Eucharist.
To give a history of my experience, the symptoms of Celiac/gluten intolerance appeared for me in my early 20's. During that time, I went from being 6'2" and 178lbs to struggling to maintain 150lbs. It was about 5 years I had symptoms that progressively worsed to the point where I had loose bowels, stomach pain, severe brain fog, complete lack of energy (had trouble staying awake for any length of time, I had joint pain, and paying attention was impossible) and eventually my speech became slurred, even, and I experienced extreme depression because of the terrible quality of my life. I had been to the swimming state championships in highschool, and was reduced to being unable to even complete a 5 mile bike ride without severe pain and exhaustion. The left side of my face still routinely feels numb under relatively little stress due to the damage done. I have since undergone a considerable personality change as well - I can tell my thinking patterns are a bit different and my regulations of hormones and such as well as my energy levels have been permanently affected. I'm only 29 years old.
To give a background for what causes these symptoms, Gluten Intolerance AND Celiac disease both involve a reaction that produces anti-gluten antibodies. However, there are other proteins in the body, including the brain, that mimick gluten, and in most cases, these anti-bodies will also attack those gluten-mimicking proteins, which results in damage to the cerebelum (slurred speech), and to many other internal organs besides the digestive system. The damage is system-wide and very serious. Those who do not go gluten-free with these conditions are not expected to live beyond 60. Those who do go fully gluten free, it is yet to be discovered if you can improve your situation - certainly it can't hurt to stop hurting yourself
. I know I have permanent damage that can't be undone - however, I have resumed sports after being gluten free completely for about 5 years.
Who figured out my condition? My now wife, who used to work at a natural food store. How do I know this is my situation? If you had been as sick as me, and experienced the improvement from cutting out all gluten, you would not doubt that Celiac or Gluten Intolerance is the culprit, either. Also, I've made a few sparing errors where I've eaten things such as nuts produced on machinery that processes gluten containing agents to know that I am very sensitive and will notice when I eat gluten. Go ahead and call me a hypochondriac, I won't be offended, they do exist and I'm fairly analytical, which is easily mistaken for OCD (or accompanied by), so I won't blame you. Just understand, however, that I will in no way ever trust you with my food, as a result.
What do I think about this thread? I think this thread pretty accurately represents all of the differing opinions on this subject of The Eucharist and its safety for Celiacs and the like (from now on, I lump Gluten intolerant in with Celiac for brevity). This being an internet forum, I expected as much.
What I did not expect was the hard-lined responses of the priests on this forum. Such responses are what almost sent me into a panic - I was about thinking I needed to drop my entire life and flee to a monastery somewhere to do some really severe, well-supervised repentance. I'm not saying I don't need to seriously repent (I certainly do, and have begun a long time ago cutting a lot of common luxuries out of my life to make room for more prayer), but so far I have not considered fleeing my family, friends, and career to spend my life with my face in the dirt begging God for salvation - until now. Maybe this is the attitude I should have...
Regardless, the general sense that I get is this -> and I say this with all understanding and respect to the people expressing these opinions -> those who have assumed lack of faith on the part of those with Celiac do not understand the pain involved in Celiac disease or what it does to the mind. I do understand this, first hand, how the gluten attacking my body and brain drove me nearly insane, how 5 years plagued by such severe illness makes life feel like a chore, how the the mind, being tired, cannot even focus the soul on prayer because it struggles only to focus enough to understand the prayer at the most basic level. The body, being tired, for me, never experienced any physical uplifting or sweetness of prayer, and while I attribute this in part to my being newly baptized as well and inexperienced in prayer and the virtues (I'm only 10 years Orthodox), I must also admit that prayers that bring me near tears now because of their sweetness did not then also in part because my body was too weak to receive that sense of joy. Sustain such a life for 5 years + 2 years for sufficient recovery, and you will begin to understand. You begin wishing sometimes for death because living is a burden. I had no one at that time willing or able to take me in (my family, at that time, had their own problems and could not take on mine in addition, God bless them), so I had no choice but to keep a job during all of this.
Now consider, with what caution would I approach a Chalice containing Gluten, having regained my sanity and my physical health enough to make a new beginning at truely praying, and to feel the prayers as I say them, and to cherish the words of the Scripture, and the teachings of the Philokalia, and the lives of the Saints, in my heart, and sense that cherishing in my emotions, and not just hope for it in theory as before? My interpretation of my disease is that the cumulative sins of mankind have made the body weak and vulnerable to all kinds of illness. I am evidence of that, and as such, I bear witness to mankind's sin every time I eat with people, and every time I commune from a separate Chalice that has not come into contact with the Host. My heart is full of sadness because I cannot receive the Host, but I am also glad that I can receive His Blood, at least. I often am tempted to ask myself, is it due to my lack of faith that I have prayed numerous times, even participating with the priest in a Menaion asking for healing before the icon of St Panteleimon (who had worked miracles for the monastery the Priest and I were praying at in the past), and still remained unhealed? I still don't know why, for sure, I have been selected to bear this affliction. Maybe it is for the sake of the community, maybe it is for my own salvation, maybe both.
I know all of you spoke according to your convictions and had good intentions. My conviction is this -> the reason for my affliction is not simple, but it is most certainly a result of the sins of all humanity that I bear this aberration in my genetic code. Whether there is more behind this affliction than that is not for me to know right now. But pray for me, because as a result of this affliction, I am made more aware that I would be otherwise that I don't even yet know the first thing about how to pray, or even what prayer is, or even how to begin in prayer. I may be touched sometimes by a prayer, but I don't even know where this comes from, whether it is from God or a deception sent to spark my pride from the evil one. I know this because I don't even know why I bear the cross God has appointed me, and chances are, I don't know this because I haven't even begun to repent, and don't even know how to repent. But against all reason and logic, I will continue to approach the Chalice with the blessing of my priest, because the alternative is self-excommunication, which is no viable alternative at all.
In summary, if you have Celiac disease, repent, pray to God, pray with your priest, pray with your bishop, and weep with them over your sins, and decide together how to handle your thorn in the flesh. I truly believe in my heart after considering these things in my soul that economia is the way to handle this issue.
God bless everyone in this thread, and forgive me, a sinner.