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Thoughts on Infant Communion and Earlier First Communion

March 30th, 2007
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I’ve recently been involved in an instructive discussion and debate on the subject of an earlier age for first communion and the subject of infant communion; that is, the practice of giving Holy Communion to infants in arms, i.e. babies. This is distinct from the issue of an earlier age for first communion, which I wholeheartedly support. Here are some of the conclusions I reached in this discussion.

Those who advocate infant communion have failed to demonstrate from
the plain words of Scripture that we have a clear example, command or
promise for the practice … the litmus test wisely used in the
Lutheran Confessions for establishing binding doctrine in the Church.
The arguments made for it are predicated on logical syllogisms and
conclusions that require a great deal of packing clear texts with
meanings and interpretations that strike me as ex post facto arguments
for conclusions already reached. In other words, we have a strong sense
that infants should be communed, now let’s try to gather reasons for
it. I have noticed a consistent disregard for the specific gifts,
benefits and purposes of each of the means of grace. There is a sort of
“lumping together” of the means of grace that is wrong.

I’ve read nothing on this subject to convince me that the plain
sense of the Sacred Scriptures as Lutheranism has interpreted and
applied it is incorrect. I do not regard the practice of infant
communion at some times and places in the Church’s history before the
Reformation to be normative for us. The Early Church often erred and
made mistakes in its practice. Eastern Orthodoxy is no teacher for us
on this point. We do not accept the Lutheran Confessions "in so far as"
they can be shown to be in agreement with the Early Church. This is
what I’m sensing behind some of the arguments appealing to the Early
Church.

Our Confessions simply preclude infant communion as the plain words
of the Confessions make clear. An argument from silence on these
matters simply will not suffice. I do not understand how a person who
claims to have a "quia" subscription to the Confessions can also hold
to the practice of infant communion.

We only administer the Sacrament to those who know what it is and
why they desire it. We do not force feed the sacrament to those who do
not. For, if we force those to receive it who are unable we may well be
giving the Sacrament to those who may "not believe the words or doubt
them" and therefore may be "unworthy and unfit." (SC VI).

We Lutherans recognize that the "people who come to the Lord’s
Supper ought to know more and have a fuller understanding of all
Christian doctrine than children and new scholars." (LC Short
Preface.5).

Our Confessions clearly indicate that anyone who desires the
Sacrament must be able to recite the "three parts" and that "a person
must know what to say about our Sacraments, which Christ Himself
instituted: Baptism and the holy body and blood of Christ. They should
know the texts that Mathew and  Mark record at the close of their
Gospels, when Christ said farewell to His disciples and sent them
forth." (LC Short Preface.20).

Force feeding infants the sacrament violates these words from our
Confession: "No one should by any means be forced or compelled to go to
the Sacrament, lest we institute a new murdering of souls." (LC V.42).

My opinion is that whenever children are capable of reciting the
"three parts" (the texts proper of the Ten Commandments, Creed and
Lord’s Prayer) and the instituting texts for our Sacraments as Christ
has given them: Baptism and the Supper, in a simple manner confessing
their sin, their Savior, and what the Lord’s Supper is and what it
gives, then they are ready to receive it. This is what the teaching of
the Lutheran Confessions is. See Large Catechism, short preface, par.
20.

Connecting first reception of the Lord’s Supper to confirmation was
a
mistake made in the Lutheran Church, brought in during the age of
Pietism in the 18th century. I believe we need to separate confirmation
from first communion, for we have effectively turned the Blessed
Sacrament into a "reward" for passing confirmation or as a carrot to
make kids "take confirmation." I’m very grateful that the new Lutheran
Service Book agenda provides a rite for first communion.

Infant communion? No.
Earlier age for first communion? Yes.

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Categories: Lutheranism
  1. Matt
    March 31st, 2007 at 00:59 | #1

    I think the matter is even more simple. I used to think there were some merits to the arguments made in favor of infant communion until a classmate of mine just simply asked, “What does Jesus say to do? Take – Eat and drink.”
    This may be somewhat over simplifying the case (and leaving still other issues to be addressed), but if one cannot take and eat it is impossible then to follow our Lord’s command and institution.
    McCain: And force feeding the Sacrament to somebody is not “taking” and “eating” and “drinking.”

  2. wmcwirla
    April 1st, 2007 at 09:25 | #2

    As long as the Eastern half of Christianity communes infants, the question inevitably is going to come up in the West.
    The Eastern and Western traditions have different understandings of 1 Cor. 11:28, which is the key verse in this discussion. Also in the background is the necessity or non-necessity of the Lord’s Supper based on the interpretation of John 6:53ff. Arguments for and against from church history tend largely to be arguments drawn from relative silence.
    Our Lutheran tradition stays squarely in the western catholic tradition, as the original post points out, requiring some level of cognitive awareness as to what one is receiving and why. I think the Large Catechism is clear when it says, “For we do not intend to admit to the sacrament and administer it to those who do not know what they seek or why they come” (LC V.2).
    For what it’s worth, the kids in our preschool are able to learn the three chief parts of the small catechism with no difficulty. The children who are regularly in the liturgy know the words of institution by age six or so. Neither Scripture nor the Lutheran Confessions specifies any particular “age of discernment.” Some in our circles have attempted to use the psychology of child development, but I shudder at the thought of the psychologists informing ecclesial practice.
    [McCain: Luther's famous "seven year old child" who frequently comes up in his writings, "A seven year old child knows what the church is." etc. Interestingly, he made these comments after he had children. I believe Luther is referring to his experience with children. I would have no problem with a seven year old receiving the Lord's Supper, who may well have a more simple, clear and firm faith in it than a 17, 27, 37, 47 or 67 year old].
    I think when a child knowingly asks for the Sacrament, understanding what he is receiving and why, he should be communed without a lot of fanfare. Admission of our baptized children to the Lord’s Supper should be as natural an outgrowth of their Baptismal regeneration as their movement to solid food from their mother’s breast. (Though today, I suspect there is likely a party and plenty of video documentation of this event too.) I frankly do not understand the hoopla over “first communions.” It should be as natural as…well, eating and drinking, as the words of our Lord say.
    I would liken this practice to the OT Passover in which the child asks the father “what does this mean?” while partaking of the Passover with the rest of Israel (Ex. 12).
    [McCain:this is the only part of the Passover analogy that I believe pertains. Similarly, when children are asking, and understanding, what the Lord's Supper is, commune them. Infant commuion strikes me as dangerously close to an ex opere operato view of the Supper. Thanks for the great comment].
    I think the greatest danger in our traditional practice of “confirmation,” is that it creates the impression that you earn’s your way to the Lord’s Supper via a series of hoops and hurdles. It also has the look and feel of a “graduation,” implying that nothing more need be learned, which is all too often the case. We need to remember that “confirmation” originally was the bishop’s anointing immediately after Baptism to confirm the Baptism. The Lutheran Confessions (Apology XIII) puts the later rite of confirmation within the category of manmade rites without the command and promise of God.

  3. April 2nd, 2007 at 10:15 | #3

    When I was growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, the “age of reason” taught was 7 years old. The thinking was at that age one could be aware of sin, and therefore need the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), and consequently Holy Communion. I received my first communion at age 7.
    [McCain: As an aside, I'm fascinated to learn this. It could well explain Luther's not infrequent reference to a seven year old child in his writings].
    In my congregation, when a child expresses interest in the Sacrament of the Altar, I give their parents a Small Catechism and urge them to instruct their child as they believe their child can understand. I am available to consult with the parents during the process. When the parents believe that their child has learned the basics of our teaching on Baptism, Absolution and the Eucharist, I meet with the family and have an informal examination of the child’s understanding with the parents there (thereby relieving anxiety). When the child expresses a desire and a basic understanding, they are admitted to the Table.
    I was taught not to make a “big deal” about the child’s first communion. I accepted that teaching uncritically. I have not examined the rite in the Agenda of the LSB yet, and will be thankful to use it when the occasion arises in the congregation I serve.
    I agree with you about infant communion.

  4. wmcwirla
    April 2nd, 2007 at 15:30 | #4

    I too am increasingly convinced that Luther’s hypothetical “seven year old child” who knows how to confess the Church is much more than merely hypothetical. Most of our seven year olds, properly catechized from infancy by their parents, could meet the basic standards of the Catechism or Luther’s “20 questions.”

  5. Michael Paul
    April 2nd, 2007 at 20:29 | #5

    This discussion is helpful for me. Any suggestions for something good to read on what confirmation is or whould be? Thanks!

  6. Michael L. Anderson
    April 3rd, 2007 at 06:46 | #6

    I frankly do not understand the hoopla over “first communions.” It should be as natural as…well, eating and drinking, as the words of our Lord say.
    Not to mention breathing. The Book of Job relates that the angels shouted boisterously (i.e., partied) at the laying down of the foundations of the earth (Job 38:7). The merry-making is not as evident at the fabrication of man, that “living soul” infused with God’s sustaining Breath (Gen 2:7). Apparently the angels were not particularly astonished at man, the creaturely image of God, getting about quite nicely and quite naturally, as a result.
    Of course, this admittedly all turns on an argument from (angelic) silence.
    I think the arguments of the lead post are persuasive, as to the Confessional testimony concerning paedo-communion. As to the “hoopla” of first communion, I suspect the celebrating of the little penitent at the rail should once again be left to the angels (Lk 15:10), who … compared to poor fallen man and his debasing tendencies … know how to party hard, but circumspectly, and all to the full glory of the Lord God our Redeemer.
    Spare me the flashbulbs, willya?

  7. wmcwirla
    April 3rd, 2007 at 08:47 | #7

    Try and get a hold of Arthur Repp, Confirmation in the Lutheran Church (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964). It is the most exhaustive study in the Lutheran tradition of which I am aware.
    This was a joint study of Lutherans in America, back in the day when we could still do joint studies. The studies recommendations are informed by the psychology of child development, but the history and practices it describes are very helpful to understanding how we went from Apology XIII which dispensed with confirmation to the practices we see today.

  8. April 3rd, 2007 at 09:41 | #8

    Here are a couple of arguments that have given me pause on the topic:
    [1] “All,” including weaned infants, ate and drank Christ in the wilderness (1 Co 10.1-4). Paul repeats the “all” five times. Paul twice expressly commends this as an example to instruct the Christian church (1 Co 10.6,11).
    [McCain: Thanks for sharing these. I've heard similar points. I'll put in my responses. As to this one...analogies only go so far. St. Paul expressly indicates all who communion should examine themselves and discern the body and blood of Christ. If he had not said these things, the point would be much stronger. As it is, he did, and thus, this first point is invalid].
    [2] Why can infants have the faith to be baptized, but not the faith to receive Christ in the Supper without judgment? Why can’t godparents (or other representatives) speak for children in the Supper?
    [McCain: Because Baptism is Baptism and the Lord's Supper is the Lord's Supper. This point illustrates what happens when we try to "homogenize" the sacraments and begin with a general concept of "sacrament." Each is what it is, and gives what it gives, to those for whom it is given].
    [3] Even assuming that weaned children do not have the ability to examine themselves, commands do not apply to those who cannot fulfill them. St. Paul commands the church at Corinth, e.g., to “act like men” (1 Co 15.13). This command, however, does not even presumptively apply to women or children.
    [McCain: There is no exception granted by the Apostle in his comments about examination and discernment].
    [4] Christ is our passover (1 Co 5.7). All weaned children ate the passover with their family. The passover meal was not limited to the children who asked “what does this mean.”
    [McCain: Can we prove that in fact all weaned children ate the passover? In fact it was only those who inquired what it meant, they were instructed, they understood and then they ate. That's one point. The other point is that the Passover and the Lord's Supper are not the same thing. Passover meals never deivered forgiveness of sins, life and salvation via the body and blood of God].
    [5] Samson’s mother was prohibited from drinking wine, because Samson was to be a Nazirite “from the womb” (Judges 13.7). So children in the womb partake of what their mother’s partake. If so, then the argument against infant communtion would then also seem to require that pregnant women be forbidden from communion as well.
    [McCain: There is no promise given to us that the body and blood of Christ is physically digested by the human body, in fact, this is a point explicitly denied in the Lutheran Confessions, which rejects such speculation as Capernaitic eating. This is truly a grasping at straws].

  9. April 3rd, 2007 at 16:50 | #9

    Here is some evidence which shoots my own theory in the foot, which is really the best kind of evidence, in my estimation. Regarding admission of children to the Passover, things may not be as tidy in the rabbinical tradition as they would appear to be in Exodus 12.
    The Mishnah (M. Avot 5.21; M. Niddah 5.6) states that thirteen is the age when one’s vows become legally binding and when one must fulfill one’s religious and ethical duties. There appears to have been a one or two year period of preparation for the fast of Yom Kippur (M. Yoma 8.4), which may or may not have applied to the other feasts as well. A young “child” was exempted from the annual obligation to go up to Jerusalem for the three major feasts. The school of Shammai defined a “child” as “one who is not able to go up to the Temple riding on his father’s shoulders” and by Hillel as “one who is not able to go up holding his father’s hand.” The Essenes extended the minimum age of participation in the Passover to twenty years of age! [”And every man who has come upon its day shall eat it in the sanctuary of your God before the Lord from twenty years old and upward; for thus is it written and ordained that they should eat it” (Jubilees 49.17)] You’ve gotta love those Essenes for their rigor!
    Some speculate that Jesus’ appearance in the temple at the age of 12 (Luke 2:41ff) would have been His preparatory year prior to the 13th year in which He would have been obligated (see J. Jeremiah Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, p. 76).
    As long as we are talking ages, here is the Mishnah quote (Avot 5.21) on the various ages of life:
    “Judah ben Tema used to say, “At age 5 to Bible, 10 to Mishnah, 13 to religious and ethical duties, 15 to Talmud, 18 to the wedding canopy, 20 to responsibility for providing for a family, 30 to fullness of strength, 40 to understanding, 50 to counsel, 60 to old age, 70 to ripe old age, 80 to remarkable strength, 90 to a bowed back, and at 100—one is like a corpse who has already passed and gone from this world!”
    It’s good to know that I’ve reached the “age of counsel” this year. Perhaps that qualifies me for “pastoral counseling.”
    Of course, this is post-exilic Judaism and also begs the question of the relationship of Scripture versus Tradition. It does bear witness to the practice of Judaism at the time of the apostle Paul, however, and needs to be taken into account, historically speaking, when considering the practices of the early church.
    I still find the practice of infant communion among the Eastern Orthodox to be puzzling. They are not exactly known to be innovators when it comes to practice. And they also would not be ones to take the admonition of 1 Corinthians 11:27ff lightly. Our EO brothers and sisters are hardly theological liberals. If this is an innovation on their part, when and where did it begin? If communing infants was the rule, when and why did it stop? There’s a piece missing in the historic puzzle.

  10. April 6th, 2007 at 13:53 | #10

    It’s not the “Eastern half” of Christianity. It’s the “Eastern 11%,” if demographic information is to be believed
    Two things:
    1. I think if Jesus wanted newborn babes to commune, he wouldn’t have instituted the Sacrament with bread and wine. Churches that practice infant communion invariably have to creatively manipulate what Christ instituted in order to commune infants; either by giving them but a fleck of bread, withholding the bread, or making a bread-wine paste.
    2. A lot of the arguments against infant communion could be applied to infant baptism. I don’t think you want to have “Well, Baptism isn’t Communion” as your default reason why ex opere operato is bad when applied to Communion and fine when applied to Baptism.

  11. wmcwirla
    April 12th, 2007 at 09:55 | #11

    Here is some helpful historical background from the New Advent Enclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04170b.htm), my online resource for all things Roman Catholic:
    begin quote ———-
    I. ANCIENT PRACTICE
    It is now well established that in the early days of Christianity it was not uncommon for infants to receive Communion immediately after they were baptized. Among others St. Cyprian (Lib. de Lapsis, c. xxv) makes reference to the practice. In the East the custom was pretty universal, and even to this day exists in some places, but in the West infant Communion was not so general. Here, moreover, it was restricted to the occasions of baptism and dangerous illness. Probably it originated in a mistaken notion of the absolute necessity of the Blessed Eucharist for salvation, founded on the words of St. John (vi, 54). In the reign of Charlemagne an edict was published by a Council of Tours (813) prohibiting the reception by young children of Communion unless they were in danger of death (Zaccaria, Bibl. Rit., II, p. 161) and Odo, Bishop of Paris, renewed this prohibition in 1175. Still the custom died hard, for we find traces of it in Hugh of St. Victor (De Sacr., I, c. 20) and Martène (De Ant. Ecc. Rit., I bk., I, c. 15) alleges that it had not altogether disappeared in his own day. The manner of Communicating infants was by dipping the finger in the consecrated chalice and then applying it to the tongue of the child. This would seem to imply that it was only the Precious Blood that was administered, but evidence is not wanting to show that the other Consecrated Species was also given in similar circumstances (cf. Sebastiano Giribaldi, Op. Mor., I, c. 72). That infants and children not yet come to the use of reason may not only validly but even fruitfully receive the Blessed Eucharist is now the universally received opinion, but it is opposed to Catholic teaching to hold that this sacrament is necessary for their salvation (Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, can. iv).
    II. PRESENT DISCIPLINE
    The existing legislation with regard to the Communion of children has been definitely settled by the Fourth Lateran Council, which was afterwards confirmed by the authority of the Council of Trent. According to its provisions children may not be admitted to the Blessed Eucharist until they have attained to years of discretion, but when this period is reached then they are bound to receive this sacrament. When may they be said to have attained the age of discretion? In the best-supported view of theologians this phrase means, not the attainment of a definite number of years, but rather the arrival at a certain stage in mental development, when children become able to discern the Eucharistic from ordinary bread, to realize in some measure the dignity and excellence of the Sacrament of the Altar, to believe in the Real Presence, and adore Christ under the sacramental veils. De Lugo (De Euch., disp. xiii, n. 36, Ben. XIV, De Syn., vii) says that if children are observed to assist at Mass with devotion and attention it is a sign that they are come to this discretion.
    begin quote ———-
    I notice that even Rome concedes that infant communion is the more ancient practice and traces the change to the Council of Tours in AD 813. This article repeats what is commonly asserted, that the Fourth Lateran Council formalized not giving communion to very young children, but I cannot find this in any of the canons of the council.
    It would appear that the line is drawn around one’s interpretation of John 6 and the necessity of the Body and Blood of Christ for salvation, and 1 Corinthians 11 and what constitutes self-examination and the “discerning the body of the Lord.”
    [McCain: Good information. It would be misleading actually to think that the most ancient practice in the church is baby-communion. St. Cyprian didn't happen along until roughly two hundred years after Christ. I've been more than a little troubled that the argumentation for infant communion seems to be hinging more on the practice of the Early Church since the third century. There is reason to believe that in fact the most ancient practice was not to commune infants. But in either case, simply because they did something in the first few centuries of the church's history strikes me as shaky foundation for a church practice. There is no reason to commune infants, in my opinion, and every reason not to based on Scripture. I'm always suspicious about any interpretation of Scripture that requires the person making their case to spend so much time convincing me that the plain sense of the text is not really what it means. I've seen a lot of that too in some of the baby-communer's arguments.]

  12. April 12th, 2007 at 14:00 | #12

    Silence is golden because you can make out of it whatever you will, one way or another.
    The facts are 1) Scripture is silent with respect to age of communion. Any conclusions one draws will be made by assuming some sort of analagous practice with the Passover; 2) much hinges on the interpretation and application of 1 Cor. 11:27ff and John 6:53-56. The East goes one way; the West goes another; 3) the East communes baptized infants; 4) the West does not.
    If infant communion was the norm in the apostolic church, how and when did it cease? The evidence cited above indicates an official pronouncement at the Council of Tours in AD 813.
    If infant communion was not the norm in the apostolic church, how and when did it begin in the East?
    Or perhaps there were a diversity of practices, borne out of the silence of Scripture, which would have put it in the class of (dare I use this word?) adiaphora.
    [McCain: Here is an article on the question of whether or not infant communion was in fact practiced in the early Church, and where:
    The Antiquity of Infant Communion
    ROGER T. BECKWITH
    (From “Age of Admission to the Lord’s Supper,” The Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2 [Winter 1976], pp. 125-27.)
    Infant communion certainly cannot be traced back as far as infant baptism. The first definite reference to infant baptism is in Irenaeus, about 180 A.D., who speaks of “all who through Christ are born again to God, infants and children and boys and young men and old men” (Against Heresies 2:22:4, or 2:33:2), “born again to God” being a technical phrase meaning baptism, well attested in other parts of Irenaeus’s writings. Considering the small compass of the patristic literature before the time of Irenaeus, this reference is significantly early, and may well reflect a practice originating in New Testament times. (For references see Joachim Jeremias, Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries [E.T., London, S.C.M., 1960], p. 73. This work and its sequel, The Origins of Infant Baptism [E.T., London, S.C.M., 1963] collect all the evidence for the antiquity of infant baptism.)
    The earliest definite reference to infant or child communion, on the other hand, is in Cyprian (On the Lapsed 9, 25) about the year 251, after the voluminous writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, and Origen had appeared, without any reference to such a practice; and there is both earlier and contemporary evidence that this was something of a novelty. Cyprian was a Western Father, writing in the Latin-speaking seaboard of North Africa opposite Italy; but about sixteen years earlier Origen, by then permanently resident in Palestine, states that children (parvuli) are not given communion, and what he says may well apply not only to Palestine but also to his homeland of Egypt. His words are these:
    Before we arrive at the provision of the heavenly bread, and are filled with the flesh of the spotless Lamb, before we are inebriated with the blood of the true Vine which sprang from the root of David, while we are children, and are fed with milk, and retain the discourse about the first principles of Christ, as children we act under the oversight of stewards, namely the guardian angels (Homilies on the Book of Judges 6:2).
    Though Origen’s language is highly metaphorical, it is difficult to understand him as speaking of anything but literal children and the literal sacrament. Literal children, if they have learned the first principles of Christ, do not have to wait before feeding on Christ spiritually, though they may have to wait before feeding on him sacramentally. Adults young in the faith do not have to wait before feeding on Christ spiritually, and though they might have to wait before feeding on him sacramentally (especially in the early church, with its long course of catechizing for adult converts), this would only be if they were waiting to be baptized as well, and Origen makes no allusion to baptism. So it seems that he is speaking of literal children, already baptized, but waiting for admission to the Lord’s supper. (Earlier evidence on Egyptian practice is possibly provided by Clement of Alexandria, who writes, “Those who are full grown are said to drink, babes to suck. ‘For my blood,’ says the Lord, ‘is true drink’” [Pedagogue 1:6:36, quoting Jn. 6:55]. Clement is not speaking of the Lord’s supper, but since he understands the symbolism of John 6 as suitable only to adults, he probably understood the symbolism of the Lord’s supper in the same way. The Pedagogue was written about 190-195 A.D.)
    Contemporary with Cyprian is the author of the Syrian Didascalia, but his evidence agrees with Origen’s. He writes:
    Honour the bishops, who have loosed you from your sins, who by the water regenerated you, who filled you with the Holy Spirit, who reared you with the word as with milk, who bred you up with teaching, who established you with admonition, and made you to partake of the holy eucharist of God, and made you partakers and joint heirs of the promise of God. These reverence… (Didascalia Apostolorum, ch. 9, R. H. Connolly’s edition, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1929, p. 94)
    The order here is surely significant. The bishop’s flock had first been baptized, then been reared with a long course of teaching, and finally, in maturity, been admitted to communion.
    Now, many patristic scholars today are inclined to regard evidence from Syria and Palestine, where the geographical and linguistic links with Palestinian Judaism and with primitive Jewish Christianity were strongest, as more likely than any other to have preserved traditional links with the Christianity of Jesus and his earliest followers, comparatively unaffected by outside influences. If so, the evidence of Origen and the Didascalia on the practice of Palestine, Syria, and Egypt is not only the earliest evidence bearing on our subject, but is on other grounds also more likely than Cyprian’s to reflect the ancient Christian custom. …in the remotest antiquity it appears that infant communion did not exist.]

  13. April 12th, 2007 at 17:55 | #13

    The Origen quote is ambiguous and typically metaphorical. The Syriac version of the Didascalia is more informative and would concur with the Jewish practices I cited above.
    If this is the case, then there are still several questions to be answered:
    1) If Beckwith is correct, how did infant communion suddenly arise in the 3rd century? The withdrawal of infants from communion seems much more likely than their sudden inclusion after two centuries of exclusion.
    2) If the ancient, universal practice did not admit infants, when did the East first begin to admit infants to communion and why?
    3) Was the practice alluded to in the Syriac Didascalia the universal practice of the Church or a local practice? Was there a uniform practice at all?
    Since Beckwith indicates that Cyprian is contemporary with the Didascalia, we would have evidence of two different regional practices within the Church. Curiously, Cyprian is a Western father while the Syriac Didascalia would reflect Eastern practice!
    Beckwith seems to wring much more from the Didascalia than may actually be there. I don’t see why the passage cited should be read as a temporal sequence, especially given the first member of the sequence. (Remember Mt 28:19-20 and the common sequential error there with the two present participles “baptizing” and “teaching.”)
    Curiously, even Calvin, who was strongly opposed to infant communion, acknowledges that it was the practice of the ancient church. This is also why I cited the Roman New Advent Enclopedia on this. From a Western perspective, Rome is admitting that the Eastern practice is the more primitive and the Western practice is a later development.
    Of course, antiquity proves nothing other than that something is old. There are errors old and new. Historically, I would really like to see something definitive on why the practice was begun or abandoned, whichever way it went.
    [McCain: I think the best we can ever do on this question is speculate and argue from a lot of silence. I've grown increasingly concerned that the approach of those advocating force-feeding infants Holy Communion is retrofitting the Scriptures with meaning based on EC practice, which we know was wrong on any number of points. Further, it would not be surprising to me that as the Church grew increasingly wobbly it went wrong on infant communion. The practice of the EC is finally irrelevant. The plain sense of Scripture simply rules out the reception of Holy Communion by those incapable of discerning the body and blood of Christ. And, no, "discerning the body" is not merely Paul's way of referring to the Church.]

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