The Byzantine Forum
Newest Members
ajpewell, Lobster Johnson, IntraArcana, LNL, David Figueroa
5,681 Registered Users
Who's Online Now
0 members (), 90 guests, and 185 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Latest Photos
Byzantine Nebraska
Byzantine Nebraska
by orthodoxsinner2, December 11
Church of the Holy Trinity (UGCC) - Brazil
Church of the Holy Trinity (UGCC) - Brazil
by Santiago Tarsicio, March 17
Papal Audience 10 November 2017
Papal Audience 10 November 2017
by JLF, November 10
Upgraded Russian icon corner
Upgraded Russian icon corner
by The young fogey, October 20
Russian Greek Catholic Global Congress
Russian Greek Catholic Global Congress
by likethethief, June 12
Forum Statistics
Forums26
Topics34,920
Posts413,193
Members5,681
Most Online3,380
Dec 29th, 2019
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
K
Member
OP Offline
Member
K
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
Glory to Jesus Christ, glory to Him forever!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Recently my wife had a conversation with a friend regarding the subject of infant communion. Our friend is Latin rite Catholic and we are Eastern rite Catholics (formerly protestant). It was evident to my wife that throughout the conversation, our friend didn't think paedocommunion was "proper". Our friend doesn't think infants/young children should receive the body and blood because they aren't fully aware of the true meaning of it. My wife told her that this was the ancient practice of the church and was then told that it must have been changed for a good reason otherwise they would still do it today. I admit, my wife and I felt a bit slighted by the comment, though I'm absolutely certain our friend would never intend to do that.

So my wife asked me why the West discontinued this practice, and the only things that I could remember off-hand was that it was due to several factors such as; rapid growth of christianity and not enough bishops to dispense the mysteries, reasons of sanitation and for fear of spilling, etc. From what I was also able to read is that the one of the canons (21?) from the Fourth Lateran Council states, "All the faithful of both sexes shall after they have reached the age of discretion faithfully confess all their sins at least once a year to their own (parish) priest and perform to the best of their ability the penance imposed, receiving reverently at least at Easter the sacrament of the Eucharist...." From what I understand, the Councils of Bordeaux and Trent re-affirmed the non-practice of paedocommunion.

With the "age of discretion" being the focal point here. It seems to me that the positions of East and West are at odds with one another. In the Latin rite, a person must reach a certain age and they must confess their sins before receiving the Eucharist which, therefore, seems to indicate that (a) one must have an understanding of what one is about to receive (age of discretion), and (b)they must confess so as to not receive the eucharist in an unworthy manner (confession). If points "a" and "b" are correct, then the opposite must be false (e.g. infants don't understand communion properly, and they haven't confessed their sins). So either the West is correct and the East is wrong, or the West in wrong and the East is correct. Please bear with me during this as I'm still trying to work out my thoughts.

I would truly be thankful if any of you would let me know if I'm misunderstanding the positions in anyway (which is most likely the case blush), or point me in the direction of some good books or links pertaining the issue of paedocommunion.

Humbly in Christ,
Aaron

Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 147
G
Member
Offline
Member
G
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 147
Its a disciplinary matter between eastern and western practice. Neither is "incorrect". In the west, theology developed that placed emphasis on knowing and understanding what is going on when one recieves Communion. The east retains the ancient patristic practice of not requiring this knowledge for first hand receiving. In the early days, catechumens were not instructed on the meaning behind the Sacraments. If I remember from my ecclesiology class last semester, there was an issue where non beleivers were making accusations against the Church to the imperial authorities (pre-constantine) based on the beliefs about the Sacraments , so the Early Church did not instruct catechumens (as mentioned above) on that knowledge. After being baptized and recieving first communion, the new memeber of the Church would enter a period of instruction known as "mystagogia" where they would learn about the Sacraments and their meanings. This is retained in the Divine Liturgy of St. Chrysostom in the prayer before communion where we say "I will not speak of the Mystery to Your enemies, nor give You a kiss as did Judas...". At least this is what I think I remember for the reason behind it.

Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,640
Member
Offline
Member
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,640
Originally Posted by Krotoski
From what I was also able to read is that the one of the canons (21?) from the Fourth Lateran Council states, "All the faithful of both sexes shall after they have reached the age of discretion faithfully confess all their sins at least once a year to their own (parish) priest and perform to the best of their ability the penance imposed, receiving reverently at least at Easter the sacrament of the Eucharist...." From what I understand, the Councils of Bordeaux and Trent re-affirmed the non-practice of paedocommunion.
Lateran didn't criticize the Eastern practice, the Council emphasized confession among those who have "reached the age of discretion" specifying that the confession should be to their "own (parish) priest" and stated the bare minimum of receiving "at least at Easter". There is no contradiction here - infants have no need to confess before receiving, since they haven't reached the "age of discretion".

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
K
Member
OP Offline
Member
K
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
Originally Posted by Michael_Thoma
There is no contradiction here - infants have no need to confess before receiving, since they haven't reached the "age of discretion".



Fr. and GM,

Thank you for your replies as they will help me to think about this issue in a different way.

I think that your sentence above is exactly what I'm trying to understand. If infants have no need to confess before receiving, why aren't they allowed to partake at the Lord's Supper in the Roman Catholic Church's? What I see in the West's teaching is that they don't allow it because these infants don't have a proper understanding, or comprehension, of the importance of what's taking place, and that they need to confess their sins prior to communion as well (as this is what is done before 1st communion, except in cases of death and such).

It also seems to be more than a disciplinary matter. If the reason for discontinuation was beacause of church growth, sanitation, spillage, etc., and they just haven't gotten back to re-evaluating this position, I think I could understand that answer better than the other reasons given.
I know that some Latin rite church's will allow infant communion, but there are many other's that don't precisely because of the stated reasons above.

It is true that the Council was not criticizing the Eastern teaching, rather they were affirming something that was being taught already.

It still seems to me that theology behind infant communion is starkly different between East and West. I don't mean to drive a wedge between the two and it's most likely the case that I'm focusing on these points too much and not seeing it "from afar" so as to expand my understanding.

Also, if anyone knows of any books on this topic that would help me to understand this issue I would truly appreciate it.

In Christ,
Aaron


Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 580
M
Member
Offline
Member
M
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 580
Quote
It still seems to me that theology behind infant communion is starkly different between East and West. I don't mean to drive a wedge between the two and it's most likely the case that I'm focusing on these points too much and not seeing it "from afar" so as to expand my understanding.

From an Orthodox point of view, I don't think it is "the theology of infant communion" that is the issue.
In Orthodox understanding one of the chief definitions of an Orthodox Christians is that only an Orthodox Christian can receive communion in the Orthodox Church.
Thus, for the infant to truly be a member of the Orthodox Church, the infant has to be baptised, chrismated and receive communion.

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 6,675
Likes: 3
Moderator
Member
Offline
Moderator
Member
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 6,675
Likes: 3
AAron:

I think the answer to your question lies with the order of the Mysteries of Christian Initiation. In the West, Chrismation/Confirmation was reserved to the bishop alone while in the East it was delegated to the priest who represented the bishop in a parish. So the natural, patristic order was Baptism, immediately followed by Chrismation/Confirmation, immediately followed by Holy Communion.

This was all true until 1910 when Pope St. Pius X granted an indult to the Latin Church to allow those not yet confirmed but who had reached the "age of discretion/reason" to begin to receive Holy Communion. So the Apostolic order was broken and it became part of one's initiation to receive the Mystery of Penance/Confession before one's First Holy Communion.

I've stated before that my own great-grandmother related that she did not receive Holy Communion until after she had been confirmed at the age of about 12. That would have been about 1888.

So your friend is not only wrong about the Church changing practice to disallow infants Holy Communion--because that isn't what happened--but also ill-educated in the practice of the early Church that the Eastern Church has faithfully preserved.

In Christ,

BOB

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
K
Member
OP Offline
Member
K
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
BOB,

Yes, I believe that the order of the Mysteries is certainly involved here as you say. The order is effected by the idea of this "age of discretion/reason" which is ultimately my sticking point. I don't think that there's anything wrong/incorrect to have young children who have reached a certain maturity level to start going to confession before receiving the Eucharist, but I do have a problem understanding why infants are not allowed to receive the Eucharist prior to this "age of discretion/reason".

Again, my understanding is that the Latin rite churches believe that a person (this includes infants, young children, young adults, etc.) must reach this "age" before partaking of Holy Communion. If they haven't reached this "age" then they are not allowed to partake. If they are not allowed to partake, there must be a reason. What is this reason (let's call it reason 'X')?
If the Eastern churches don't agree with reason 'X' (which they obviously don't because if they did, then they wouldn't allow infant communion), than they must believe that it's because it is wrong. If the East believes reason 'X' is wrong and the West believes reason 'X' is correct, how can the two sides be "in communion" with one another (no pun intended)?

I apologize if I'm not understanding the posts correctly, or if my reasoning is not logical, so if you need to get rough with me, feel free. shocked

In Christ,
Aaron

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 6,675
Likes: 3
Moderator
Member
Offline
Moderator
Member
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 6,675
Likes: 3
AARON:

I think you need to step back and take a look at the history involved. Up to 1910, the Latin Church followed the Apostolic practice. One had to be confirmed to receive the Eucharist. So far, no confusion.

This idea of an "age of reason" or "age of discretion" was an explanation the came up for altering the prior practice.

Pope St. Pius X wanted children to have the advantages of receiving the Eucharist so he granted an "indult"--a permission to receive apart from Apostolic practice. Bishops were supposed to get around to confirming but--the weight of practice shows--they didn't move from the custom of confirming at about the age of 12 as had been Latin Church custom.

Your confusion comes up because of the disconnect caused by being made aware of the Apostolic custom through the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome--which, BTW, is one of the reasons the Latin bishops gave our Eastern brethren such a hard time in the last century, but that's another discussion.

Strictly speaking, I'd have to say that if it takes someone being fully aware of what they are doing and Who they are receiving as the measure by which we should receive, then the elderly who are in Alzheimer's should not receive as one group beyond infants and young children. But then all of us who, regardless of our preparation, simply don't fully appreciate Our Lord when He comes, should stay away. We know that's not what the Good Lord intended.

The problem you run into with Latin Catholics is that they assume that their practice is the only "correct" practice. They assume that their practice is the way things have always been done. And they assume that anyone outside Rome's communion has gone off in the wrong direction--first because they are not "under" Rome and second because that must certainly have had something to do with their lapsed practices (that are preceived as strange and therefore wrong).

In Christ,

BOB

Last edited by theophan; 10/04/08 12:47 PM.
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
K
Member
OP Offline
Member
K
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
BOB,

So when did the Western Church stop the practice of infant communion and why? This is what I found on NewAdvent.org

Communion of Children

In order to get some insight into the historical aspect of this subject it will be useful to dwell upon (1) the ancient practice, and (2) the present discipline of the Church in regard to the Communion of children.

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).

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.

Thus it is seen that a keener religious sense, so to speak, is demanded for the reception of Communion than for confession. Moreover, it is agreed that children in danger of death ought to be admitted to Communion even though they may not have the same degree of fitness that would be required in ordinary circumstances. In answer to a question as to whether a certain episcopal ordinance should be upheld that fixed a definite age-limit under which children could not be admitted to First Communion, the Congregation of the Council replied in the affirmative, provided, however, that those children adjudged to have reached the discretion required by the Councils of Lateran and Trent might not be excluded (21 July, 1888). This reply bears out the interpretation already given of "the years of discretion" and it may be said in the words of the Catechism of the Council of Trent (pt. II, c. iv, q. 63) that "no one can better determine the age at which the sacred mysteries should be given to young children than their parents and confessor".


I see before that I was confusing the order of the mysteries, but my main question is to the one above. Why did the Western Church decide that infants should be prohibited from Holy Communion even though, as they concede, they benefit from it? What made the councils decide to have them wait until they reached a certain age?

In Christ,
Aaron

Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 147
G
Member
Offline
Member
G
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 147
New advent isn't the most scholorly source for this. It would not surprise me if it under exagerated the widespreadedness of infant communion in the pre-charlamange west.

Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
K
Member
OP Offline
Member
K
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
Originally Posted by GMmcnabb
New advent isn't the most scholorly source for this. It would not surprise me if it under exagerated the widespreadedness of infant communion in the pre-charlamange west.



GM,

I thought they underplayed it's widespread practice as well.

Aaron

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 6,675
Likes: 3
Moderator
Member
Offline
Moderator
Member
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 6,675
Likes: 3
Aaron:

Good questions. But I think your question springs from your wife's conversation with her friend.

I've seen ancient communion utensils--for lack of a better term--in the form of spoons and straws that were supposed to be used for the communion of children. Whether they were in general use, who can say?

The Councils you cite are later traditions, so what the more ancient practice was is still something that is open. And, then, it may be another instance where East and West developed along parallel lines.

I think, though--unless I misread you--that the principle concern is the varying practices that your Latin friend challenged. Again, whenever we look at the world through our own lense alone, we get ourselves into problems. I don't believe that anyone's practice is the ultimate or only proper way to live the Life of Christ. Certainly we see much diversity in these areas and the diverse practices have long standing use.

Consider the use of the Oil of the Sick as another example. In the Latin Church it is unheard of to have the laity possess this consecrated oil at home for use whenever sickness occurs. It's also unheard of that a layman could or would anoint a member of his household or himself in the event of illness. But the Russian Orthodox parishes I have attended have given a small vial to each person who attends the Service of Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday. I'm told the believers keep this at home in a special place around their icon corner.

So maybe this is just something that can't easily be explained by appeals to history. In any event, let no one disturb your peace.

In Christ,

BOB

PS: You might relate to your wife's friend that Eastern Catholics have the right to have their children communed in a Latin parish when they are away from their parish and let the priest know in advance. This is another topic that's been discussed here.

Last edited by theophan; 10/05/08 03:18 PM. Reason: spelling
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
K
Member
OP Offline
Member
K
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 90
BOB,

Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to my feverish questions, I am truly grateful.

I think initially that my principal concern was to find out a bit of history on this subject and when and why it happened, but it's morphed a bit and now I'm curious as to why it still is.

If anyone can recommend some good reading on this subject, I would greatly apprecite it. I've started reading, "Eucharist, Sacrament of the Kingdom", by Fr. Alexander Schmemann (may his memory be eternal), but since I'm only on the first few pages I don't know how much it will reveal about paedocommunion.

In Christ,

Aaron

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 1,125
E
Za myr z'wysot ...
Member
Offline
Za myr z'wysot ...
Member
E
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 1,125
Originally Posted by Krotoski
Why did the Western Church decide that infants should be prohibited from Holy Communion even though, as they concede, they benefit from it? What made the councils decide to have them wait until they reached a certain age?
Aaron,

As I understand it, the practice began about the 10th Century. First, it was decided that infants should only receive the Precious Blood. Then, about 40 years later, it was decided that no one but the priest should receive the Precious Blood. Since this was the only form infants were allowed to receive, they would now be excluded completely from receiving Holy Communion.

It seems that this legislation was the result of a shift of theological focus from the Eucharist as spiritual food to the Eucharist as the True Presence of Christ.


Peace,
Deacon Richard

Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,943
Moderator
Member
Offline
Moderator
Member
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,943
It is interesting and perhaps pertinent that this shift traced to the tenth century occured in the years leading up to the great schism of East and West.

Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  Alice, Father Deacon Ed, theophan 

Link Copied to Clipboard
The Byzantine Forum provides message boards for discussions focusing on Eastern Christianity (though discussions of other topics are welcome). The views expressed herein are those of the participants and may or may not reflect the teachings of the Byzantine Catholic or any other Church. The Byzantine Forum and the www.byzcath.org site exist to help build up the Church but are unofficial, have no connection with any Church entity, and should not be looked to as a source for official information for any Church. All posts become property of byzcath.org. Contents copyright - 1996-2020 (Forum 1998-2020). All rights reserved.
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.5