The Theotokos, “The Lavis” or the Tongs,
“The Kochliarion” or the Holy Spoon)*
[*Translator’s note:-- At the outset, with regard to terminology, “Lavis” signifiesa pair of tongs, like the one that the Seraphim angel used to touch the lips of the Prophet Isaiah having burning coal in it from the sacrificial altar at the throne of the Most High. The kochliarion, on the other hand, signifies a little spoon that was introduced into the liturgy in the early Church by which the priest administers the Divine Communion to the faithful. As we shall have occasion to consider subsequently, the lavis pre-typifies the Theotokos Mother of God and the kochliarion, in the Orthodox Liturgy, the Communion spoon, IS and IS CALLED the Ever-virgin All- holy Mary.]
In the pandemic of the corona virus certain voices were heard concerning the change of the manner of the Administering of the Spotless Mysteries, that is, the manner of reception of the Body and the Blood of Christ. In the present treatise, then, we will search out the meaning of the Holy Lavida (Tongs) for the Church, in the framework of the expression of the Church’s theology.
1. “The mystical lavida (tongs)”
“Theotokos, Mother of God, the hope of all Christians, overshadow, guard, and protect those who have placed their hope in you” the Church chants in the Katavasia prayers on the feastday of Candlemas .
Metropolitan Nafpactou, Ierotheos, writes regarding the great Despotic feastday: “When righteous Symeon met the Panagia who was holding Christ, he received the divine infant in his bosom. “And he received him in his bosom and blessed God” (Luke 2:28) […] the scene is striking. And, to be sure, this could not have taken place if his arms were not strengthened by the Holy Spirit”.
This “scene”, continues the bishop, “reminds us of the image of the Prophet Isaiah. Since the Prophet saw the One sitting upon a high throne in glory” (Isaiah 6:1) and the Seraphim to be found sitting round about Him, and confessed the uncleanliness of his lips”. Then “the following amazing thing occurred: “and one of the Seraphim was sent towards me, and in his hand he had a live coal, which he lifted up from the sacrificial altar by a lavida (pair of tongs), and he raised it to my mouth and said: behold this has touched your lips and forgives your iniquities and your sins are cleansed” (Is. 6-7)”
“This vision refers to the incarnation of the Logos of God, since, after all, the Prophet Isaiah was called to preach to the Israelites the coming of the consolation, that is, the coming of Christ. For this reason he is considered the most loud-voiced of the Prophets and fifth Evangelist (Gospel-writer). With great purity and exactness he described scenes of the divine inhomination”, stresses the metropolitan.
“That this vision is connected with the incarnation is apparent from the ecclesiastical interpretive tradition”, continues bishop Ierotheos and he underlines, “In a troparion of the megalinarion of the feastday it is said: “The mystical lavida, the live coal of Christ having been conceived in your belly, are you Mariam” (9th Ode). All of the revelations in the Old Testament are revelations of the fleshless Logos (Word), in most of which he would manifest His inhomination, His coming in the flesh. Thus, then, here, the live coal is said to be Christ. The mystical lavida (pair of tongs) which holds the live coal is the Panagia (the Ever-Virgin Mary), who conceived Him in her belly. And the Panagia gives this live coal to righteous Symeon. The Heavenly sacrificial altar is the glory of God, heaven. For this reason we chant: “Having come down from heaven, the Despot of all, Symeon the Priest, received him”.
“Just as the Prophet Isaiah”, then, underscores metropolitan Ierotheos, “received the live coal and was not consumed by it, but was purified and became a Prophet, thus also righteous Symeon accepted the live coal Christ from the Panagia and was not completely burned up, but was purified according to the word: “Behold this has touched your lips and forgives your lawlessnesses and cleanses you completely of your sins.”
“The last […] phrase”, continues the bishop, “is an indication that the vision of the Prophet Isaiah was referring to the incarnation of the Logos (Word) of God”. This becomes “apparent from the fact that the Church ordained so that this phrase is said by the liturgizing priest, after the divine Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. Together with this prophetic image with the righteous Symeon, relating to the divine Communion, it shows that in order that the divine Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ does not burn up man, he or she must have Holy Spirit, precisely just as righteous Symeon”.
“Thus, then, the burning coal,” stresses metropolitan Ierotheos, “is the incarnated Christ, the sacrificial altar is the belly of the Panagia, the Seraphim is the Theotokos herself, the mystical lavida (tongs) the hands of the Theotokos, who give the burning coal to righteous Symeon” .
On the occasion, then, of these words, we recall the verses from the service of the prayers for Communion which say: “Tremble, O mortal, beholding the divine Blood, for it is to the unworthy as a Live Coal.”  Rather let this burning coal of your all-holy Body and your honorable Blood be unto the sanctification and enlightenment and nourishment of my humble soul and body”. 
2. The Panagia, the “lavis” (tongs), in works of the Fathers and Ecclesiastical Authors.
From the moment the Church ordained with particular expressions her experience concerning the two natures of Christ in the hypostasis of God the Logos (Word), at the 4th Ecumenical Synod of Chalcedon, as, also, concerning the Ever-virginity of the Theotokos in the 5th Ecumeical Synod, the Panagia, as our study affirms, is called “lavis” (holy tongs).
In the work of Methodius of Olympos, entitled “On Symeon and on Anna, on the day of the Meeting: and on the holy Theotokos” (5th-6th centuries) , the author writes “While the old man was thus exultant, and rejoicing with exceedingly great and holy joy that which had before been spoken of as in a type by the prophet Isaiah, the holy Mother of God now manifestly fulfills.” And indeed receiving from her spotless and immaculate sacrificial altar the One Who took on flesh, the life-giving and inexpressible burning coal, as a lavida (tongs) yoked to her holy hands, she proposed to the righteous man, such things, I think, and saying at the same time commanding: Receive, O honorable presbyter, most excellent of priests, receive the Lord”.  In the same discourse the Ever-virgin Mary is called the “lavis of the purifying burning coal”. 
In the expository work of saint Sophroniou of Jerusalem (6th-7th centuries) entitled “Discourse containing all of the ecclesiastical history and detailed narration of all things performed in the divine liturgy,” we read: “The lavis (tongs) according to the prophet Isaiah saying: “There was sent to me one of the Seraphim” signifies also the Ever-virgin Mary, bearing too this heavenly bread”. 
The same designation saint Andrew of Crete (7th-8th centuries)  also attributes to the Virgin Mary in his work “On the falling-asleep of our Super-holy Lady Theotokos”. But also in his work “On the holy birth of our Super-holy Lady Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary”, calling the Panagia “Lavis” (holy tongs). 
Saint John Damascene (7-8th centuries) in his work “Canon to saint Blasio” he invokes the Theotokos saying: “We know you to be the noetic (intelligible) lavida (tongs), bearing the true burning coal, Christ, in your bosom, O Holy Lady.” 
George Nicomedias (9th century), in his work “Discourse on the Entrance of the Super-holy Theotokos”, calls the Panagia “the prophetic lavis […] bearing the burning coal, which cleanses the lips; protected by the seraphim and preached by the Holy Spirit.” 
The emperor Leo VI the Wise (9-10th century), in his work “When riding on a spotless cloud, by the hands of presbyters, as a shadowy Temple being transferred, the glory of the sun entered” he invokes the Panagia, saying: “lavis” , “lavida” purple , emphasizing below: “For as upon a throne the Despot would rest in you, and as in the lavida the One without a home was circumscribed: and He fit in a house He Who fit nowhere” . But also in his “Homily” “On the Falling-asleep of the All-holy Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary: when from the earthly and mortal world she arose to the all-bright and never-ending heavens”, Leo stresses: “Rejoice, lavis (holy tongs) bearing the homeless burning coal, through whom, touching our lips defiled by sin, we are cleansed.” 
Iakovos the Monastic (circa 11th century) in his work “On the Annunciation of the Super-holy Theotokos, chosen by the divine Scriptures” speaks concerning the Mother of God saying: “the lavis (tongs) bearing the purifying and illuminating burning coal”.  In his same work “On the birth of our Super-holy Lady Theotokos” he calls the Panagia “the mystical spoon (lavida)”,  while in his Discourse “Concerning ‘and Mariam rising up in those days, hastened to the highlands” speaks of the Mother of God, the Theotokos as being “the seraphimic tongs (lavida)”. 
Saint Neophytos the Recluse (12th-13th century) refers to the pre-imaging of the Panagia as a lavida (spoon), according to the vision of the Prophet Isaiah, twice in his work “On the occasion of his two discourses On the Candlemas. The first is found in the Book of Catechumens: “She came like a tong (lavis) holding the luminous coal, in order to devour in fire the coals of sin from their roots and enlighten those who love purity just like He loves purity having been born of her.  And the second reference of the saint appears in his Interpretation of Canons of Despotic Feastdays: “Again unto us race of mortals throughout the ends of the world came joy in the bosom of the one bearing the infant boy, who as the divine spoon (lavida), bore unconsumed by the divine burning coal. 
The “most wise and most holy” Germanos II Patriarch of
The Dean of Hesychasm, saint Gregory Palamas (13th-14th century), in his homily “On the Annunciation (Evangelization) of our All-super-pure Lady the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary”, says concerning the Panagia […] “the lavis (spoon), who conceived the divine fire without being consumed.”  But also in his homily entitled “On the All-venerable Dormition (Falling-asleep) of our All-pure Lady the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary”,  as well, also, in the “On the Entrance to the Holy of Holies and the in those god-like life of our Super-pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary” he calls the Panagia “lavis” (tongs)” .
From the above considerations the connection between the Theotokos and the Eucharist is most evident. The symbolism with the Holy Lavida (Spoon) comes into contrast with the spurning of the way the Divine Eucharist is administered, as if it were concerning the transmitting of corruptible food and drink. “The Super-holy Theotokos, therefore”, who is “called […] also “mystical lavida” (spoon) […] conceived and held within Her, just as the Holy Chalice does, the ‘burning coal -- Christ”.  Thusly the believer also receives Christ from the liturgizer and becomes a God-receptor.
3. The Holy Lavida or little spoons of the market?
“When the Metropolitan of Chios Panteleimon Faustini (+1962) served as “a preacher of
There the nurses brought him a large plate with many little spoons.
- Why did you bring these things? He asked them.
- The doctors told us for you to commune the patients with these, beginning from the least sick people advancing to the more severely ill.
- Those are not needed, the priest answered with faith. I have the Holy Lavida (Spoon).
- Truly, at the Holy Liturgy he communed canonically the sick and later he approached the Beautiful Gate in order to consume the remaining gifts. He did this so that all might see him, and for the doctors to learn that the Holy Communion is fire which burns all things”. 
4. A theological interpretation of the historical givens concerning the Holy Lavida (Holy Spoon).
George Zaravelas mentions: “The term “lavis” (spoon) is known from very early on in the liturgical tradition of the Church. Its initial meaning does not describe the contemporary vessel, but characterizes metaphorically the liturgizer, who receives with his hands the Honorable Gifts, sanctifies them with the grace of the Holy Spirit and urges the faithful towards reception.” This approach Germanos of Constantinople (8th century) also adopts in his work “Ecclesiastical history and Mystical contemplation”, when he refers to the particular term. The use of the term “lavida” (spoon), consequently, until at least the 8th century, in accordance always with Zaravela, “is not attributed to the material liturgical vessel, but to the priestly fingers and hands, which carry the Honorable gifts”. 
It appears, at all events, that the use of the spoon from the beginning, as Holy Lavida (Spoon), occurs already from the time of saint John Chrysostom, 4th -5th century, when the Golden-mouthed calls the faithful to the Reception (without reference to “by the hands”) stressing: “Do not see that it is bread, nor that what you see is wine: for it is not like the rest of food and drink that passes through: woe unto such blasphemy! Do not think thusly: “but, just as wax having been lit by flame is neither completely consumed nor is anything left over: here, too, therefore, think that you are burned together with the mysteries by the essence of the body. Therefore, also, when approaching, do not think that in receiving the divine body you receive from man, but as from these the Seraphim with the lavida (tongs) of fire, which Isaiah saw, know that you are receiving the divine body, and as from his divine and spotless side touching our lips, thus we receive the salvific and redeeming blood.” 
But apart from the manner of the administering of the bread (“burning coal”) from the practical sense, Communion is related to the one and unique Lavida (Spoon) which reveals the Panagia, the Ever-virgin Mary. Besides, the Theotokos leads to salvation, while the thought concerning spoons during the administering of the Eucharist is absolutely identified with corruption and death. After all, even just the mention of individuality (by the particular spoons) completely distorts the concept of Divine Communion.
We read in this regard, the Holy Lavida (Spoon) and that which was said: “The lavida is an imperfect material object. It does not partake of the incorruption of the resurrected and deified Body of Christ, Which is really and truly present to us with the Eucharistic gifts. Of itself alone the lavida is a simple spoon, a vessel. Its value flows from its use, because it is the means by which the Body and Blood of Christ is offered to the people. Many years ago an older way was substituted for the present manner of reception.” 
Responding to the above, we want to underscore that the “value of” the Lavida (Spoon) “does not flow out from its use”. It is not a utensil, a tool, but it is charismatic. The “Lavida” (Spoon) symbolizes in practice, that is, the Panagia, who was chosen by God, and through her the faithful are made worthy of the Reception of the Spotless Mysteries. So that, in no case does the “Lavida” constitute “a simple spoon” or “vessel”, but the Theotokos “bridge” who “takes those from earth to heaven.” 
Therefore, the conclusion that we reach is that whoever separates the teaching regarding the Mother of God, the Theotokos, from Virginity, saying that Christ also could have been born from a married woman,  it naturally follows, for him to believe also in the introduction of individual spoons for the Reception of the Divine Gifts.  Truly, the Holy Lavida (Spoon) the Ever-virgin Panagia, while Christ-nihilism maintains the corruptibility of Christ.  The polemic, that is, against the Theotokos’ Ever-viginity is identified completely with the alienization of the position of the Orthodox dogma concerning the change in the manner of Communion, without any practical need for this to exist, except only unbelief.
The use of multiple spoons would have occurred in the case where Christ, were not God, that is, Savior, but a common man and, as such, had been born within the law of corruption, that is, from a married woman.  Corruption brings the fall, that is, original sin, while Virginity brings uniqueness, that is, salvation. For this reason the Holy Lavida is one and unique from the primitive Church until today, whether the administering of the Spotless Mysteries occurred initially from the hands themselves of the liturgizing priest or whether by spoon. The change, after all, took place for reasons purely shepherding-practical and in no wise looked to the “protection of health” on account of the manner of Reception of the Incorruptible Body and Blood of Christ.  The issue, though, of maintaining the division, which unfortunately is expressed in our days, reveals the great divide of their followers from the Orthodox dogma and ethos, that is, to the prayers and hymns to the Theotokos’ Ever-virginity.
In closing, we cite the following manufactured-translated hymns from the hymnology of the Orthodox Church, absolutely related to our previously mentioned remarks, concerning the Mother of God”: “Just as the burning coal is in the fire, which you can not grasp because you are burned, thus also would Christ be to us…if it were not for you Mariam: for God ordained you to be a mystical tool of mortals, so that they might take hold of the fire and place it within themselves. Just as what occurred to you as well, in whom the life-giving fire closed himself in you…” 
Anastasios Om. Polychroniadis
Dr. of OrthodoxTheology
 Slow Katavasia, 9th Ode, 3rd tone
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 PG 18, 364AB. Βλ. Δημήτριος Παπανεοφύτου, Η χρήση των Πατέρων στα έργα του Αγίου Νεοφύτου του Εγκλείστου, Διπλωματική Μεταπτυχιακή Εργασία, Τμήμα Ποιμαντικής ΑΠΘ, Θεσσαλονίκη 2010, σ. 63, http://ikee.lib.auth.gr/record/127560/files/GRI-2011-7435.pdf, ανάκτηση 10/6/2020.
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Πατερικών Ωδών, Προσηγοριών και Επιθέτων, σ. 256.
 PG 97, 869D⸱ πρβλ. Χριστοφόρος Κοντάκης, Εις την Θεοτόκον Συναγωγή Πατερικών Ωδών, Προσηγοριών και Επιθέτων, σ. 256.
 PG 96, 1401C⸱ πρβλ. Χριστοφόρος Κοντάκης, Εις την Θεοτόκον Συναγωγή Πατερικών Ωδών, Προσηγοριών και Επιθέτων, σ. 316.
 PG 100, 1425B⸱ πρβλ. Χριστοφόρος Κοντάκης, Εις την Θεοτόκον Συναγωγή Πατερικών Ωδών, Προσηγοριών και Επιθέτων, σ. 363.
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 PG 127, 644A⸱ πρβλ. Χριστοφόρος Κοντάκης, Εις την Θεοτόκον Συναγωγή Πατερικών Ωδών, Προσηγοριών και Επιθέτων, σ.454.
 PG 127, 576C⸱ πρβλ. Χριστοφόρος Κοντάκης, Εις την Θεοτόκον Συναγωγή Πατερικών Ωδών, Προσηγοριών και Επιθέτων, σ.467.
 PG 127, 677C⸱ πρβλ. Χριστοφόρος Κοντάκης, Εις την Θεοτόκον Συναγωγή Πατερικών Ωδών, Προσηγοριών και Επιθέτων, σ.467.
 Άγιος Νεόφυτος ο Έγκλειστος, Βίβλος των Κατηχήσεων, Συγγράμματα, τόμ. Β΄, σ. 211⸱ πρβλ. Δημήτριος Παπανεοφύτου, Η χρήση των Πατέρων στα έργα του Αγίου Νεοφύτου του Εγκλείστου, σ. 63.
 Άγιος Νεόφυτος ο Έγκλειστος, Ερμηνεία Κανόνων Δεσποτικών Εορτών, Συγγράμματα, τόμ. Ε΄, σ. 213⸱ πρβλ. Δημήτριος Παπανεοφύτου, Η χρήση των Πατέρων στα έργα του Αγίου Νεοφύτου του Εγκλείστου, σ. 63.
 PG 140, 689C⸱ πρβλ. Χριστοφόρος Εις την Θεοτόκον Συναγωγή Πατερικών Ωδών, Προσηγοριών και Επιθέτων, σ.520.
 PG 151, 176D-177A⸱ πρβλ. Αλέξανδρος Τσόρλος, Πρεσβύτερος, «Ο δογματικός χαρακτήρας των ομιλιών του αγίου Γρηγορίου του Παλαμά», Διπλωματική Μεταπτυχιακή Εργασία, Τμήμα Θεολογίας ΑΠΘ, Θεσσαλονίκη 2014, σ. 53, http://ikee.lib.auth.gr/record/134885/files/GRI-2014- 12889.pdf, ανάκτηση 11/6/2020: «Το πρόσωπο της Υπεραγίας Θεοτόκου προφητεύτηκε αιώνες πριν να γεννηθεί. Γι’ αυτό και στις ομιλίες του Παλαμά υπάρχει μια αναπτυγμένη παλαιοδιαθηκική τυπολογία με θέμα το πρόσωπο της Θεοτόκου. Οι δύο πιο ενδεικτικές προεικονίσεις, που συναντούμε, είναι η καιομένη και μη καταφλεγομένη βάτος, που είδε ο θεόπτης Μωυσής και η λαβίδα στο όραμα του προφήτη Ησαΐα, με την οποία το Σεραφείμ πήρε τον άνθρακα από το θυσιαστήριο. Η Παρθενομήτωρ, λοιπόν, είναι εκείνη η βάτος και αυτή η λαβίδα, που συνέλαβε απυρπολύτως το θείο πυρ, όπως είδαμε στο μυστήριο της θείας ενανθρωπήσεως». Translation:-- The person of the Super-holy Theotokos was prophesied centuries before she was born. For this reason even in the homilies of Palama there is developed Old-Testament typology having the Theotokos as its subject. The two most indicative pre-imagings that we encounter, is the burning but not consumed bush, which the God-seer Moses saw the lavida (spoon) that Isaiah saw in a vision, by which the Seraphim took the burning coal from the sacrificial altar. The Virgin Mother herself, therefore, is the bush and she is the lavida (spoon), which conceived the divine fire without getting burned, as we saw in the mystery of the divine incarnation”.
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 Αλκιβιάδης Καλύβας, «Σχόλια για τη χρήση της λαβίδας», 28/5/2020, https://orthodoxia.info/news/%cf%83%cf%87%cf%8c%ce%bb%ce%b9%ce%b1- %ce%b3%ce%b9%ce%b1-%cf%84%ce%b7-%cf%87%cf%81%ce%ae%cf%83%ce%b7- %cf%84%ce%b7%cf%82-%ce%bb%ce%b1%ce%b2%ce%af%ce%b4%ce%b1%cf%82/, ανάκτηση 8/6/2020.
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 Χρυσόστομος Σταμούλης, Έρως και Θάνατος, Ακρίτας, Αθήνα 2009, σ. 373-375⸱ πρβλ. για μία εμπεριστατωμένη κριτική σε μηδενιστικές θέσεις του ανωτέρω βιβλίου: Ιωάννης Κουρεμπελές, Ηδονοδοξία, Κριτική στη μεταπατερική θεώρηση της Παρθενίας της Θεοτόκου, Αλτιντζής, Θεσσαλονίκη 2019, σ. 63.
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 Ιωάννης Κουρεμπελές, Ηδονοδοξία [The Pleasure-loving View], σ. 268-269.
 Ιωάννης Κουρεμπελές, Ηδονοδοξία, σ. 56-57.
 Κώστας Νούσης, «Η σύγχρονη αίρεση της θεοκοινωνιοφοβίας» or “The Contemporary Heresy of god-communing-phobia”, 25/5/2020, https://www.romfea.gr/katigories/10-apopseis/37245-i-sugxroni-airesi-tis-theokoinoniofobias, ανάκτηση 7/6/2020.
 Θεόφιλος Πουταχίδης, Φκειάνω μίαν σημαία, Ινφογνώμων, Αθήνα 2018, σ. 76.