One brother writes: "If one receives the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ at Communion, there's no need to worry about celiac disease because how can the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord himself trigger celiac disease? Receiving Communion will not cure celiac disease; however, one will not be impacted by receiving Communion." Another brother writes that a person with celiac fearing adverse effects from receiving communion results from the roman catholic belief in transubstantiation. Unfortunately, my mother, a recent convert and a person with celiac has experienced physical distress after receiving the Bread of Holy Communion without the antidoron when the priest neglected to give her only the Wine. (An experiment?) What do we make of her distress after receiving? And what should my mother do?
It is my understanding that the roman catholic teaching of transubstantiation says that the essence of bread and wine no longer remains and only the "accidents" or qualities of bread and wine remain, but what still appears to be bread and wine has, in its essence, become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Body and Blood, however, still possess the physical, chemical, or accidental properties of bread and wine. This is my understanding of the RC teaching of transubstantiation.
It is also my understanding that we Orthodox don't explain holy communion in terms of transubstantiation, but continue to call the Body "Bread" and the Blood "Wine" even after the invocation of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we don't cease calling them Bread and Wine while also calling them the Body and Blood of Christ. But we don't try to explain this. We simply say that the Bread is Christ's Body and the Wine is His Blood.
If the gluten or gliadin in the wheat of Holy Communion no longer remains either in essence or in quality after the invocation of the Holy Spirit and all that remains is the Body of Christ, then we Orthodox have taken the RC doctrine of transubstantiation one step further in saying that not even the qualities of bread and wine remain. In other words, the imbibing of a full chalice of Holy Communion after the liturgy should not result in the priest or deacon feeling "tipsy." Perhaps we should not speak of such "mysteries," but, unfortunately, with the auto-immune trigger caused by gluten in celiacs, we are forced to pull our head out of the pre-Enlightenment sand.
Or perhaps, we should say, along with Christian Scientists, that any ill effects resulting are the result of a lack of faith or the wrong mental outlook. Or is it simply due to receiving unworthily as Saint Paul says?
All of these questions are important because they touch on the physical and spiritual health of my mother, a person with celiac sprue, and on our faith and teaching regarding the Mystery of Christ's Body and Blood in Communion. Science and faith meet here at the chalice in an interesting way, and depending on our view of Holy Communion, this meeting can be either a conflict or a concord. Somehow the answer to these issues seems more complex than simply saying that Holy Communion can cause no harm because Christ's Body brings life not death. I wish I could just accept this statement simply, but given the experience of my mother a struggling new convert, I'm having difficulties myself in helping her.