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Communion of the little ones #410240 01/14/15 03:05 PM
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eastwardlean? Offline OP
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I remember that a while ago this reflection by a Roman Catholic, Anna Nussbaum Keating, about the communion of small children sparked considerable interest on this forum.

http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/04/why-cant-my-son-receive-the-eucharist

I thought I'd pass along this recent post on the same subject by Stewart Clem, an Episcopal priest. Evidently, the issue is important to many Episcopalians too.

http://livingchurch.org/covenant/?p=4729

Covenant is an ecumenical blog with an Anglo-Catholic center of gravity. There are also a few Catholic contributors there (like myself.)

Caleb

Last edited by eastwardlean?; 01/14/15 03:06 PM.
Re: Communion of the little ones [Re: eastwardlean?] #410241 01/14/15 07:29 PM
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theophan Offline
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Caleb:

Christ is Born!!

The universal practice in both East and West was Baptism, Chrismation/Confirmation, Eucharist. In the West, the bishop traditionally confirmed and Eucharist followed. In the East the priest had the mystery/sacrament delegated to him. In any event the order was preserved until the beginning of the 20th century. Anglican practice would have followed the traditonal Western practice.

The Latin Church had a major shift in 1910 when Pope St. Pius X granted an "indult"--a dispensation from ordinary practice--that allowed Eucharist to be given before Confirmation. My great grandmother relatd to me when I was young that she had had to wait to receive her First Communion until after she was 12 years of age and the bishop came around to confirm in her parish.

This separation has caused some Latins to think of Confirmation as being--now--"optional." I'm not the theologian to discuss the implications for this idea and practice, nor am I competent to discuss the implications for ecumenical relations with our Orthodox brethren. Somehow I don't think this makes progress toward full communion easier.

Bob

Re: Communion of the little ones [Re: eastwardlean?] #410242 01/14/15 08:41 PM
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Thomas the Seeker Offline
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More gist for the mill: North American Lutherans largely clung to the pre 1910 RC practice into the 1970's. There was great controversy within the Lutheran Church in America (LCA--one of three antecedents to the ELCA)when the age of First Communion was lowered to "5th Grade". There was more controversy--this time in the ELCA--when Communion was offered to all the Baptized.

One would think that with all the anti-Romanism still lurking in ELCA parishes that they would have been eager to part from Reformation-era Roman practice and move toward the East, but no....

The reluctance is yet more evidence of how Zwinglianism and Calvinism "won" the Reformation on this side of the pond.

Last edited by Thomas the Seeker; 01/14/15 08:43 PM.
Re: Communion of the little ones [Re: eastwardlean?] #410243 01/15/15 07:07 AM
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eastwardlean? Offline OP
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Bob,

The proper order of the sacraments was an important issue in the discussion that followed. At any rate, it was important to me, and it was the main difficulty I raised in the comments. I agree with you that the out-of-sequence procedure that has become conventional in the Latin Church is problematic and represents something of an ecumenical obstacle.

I don't think it's quite accurate to say that Latin (and in this case Anglican) opinion has come to cast confirmation as 'optional.' In this exchange, some argued that the 'rite of confirmation,' as presently practiced in the BCP, is redundant because the baptismal rite already includes a post-baptismal anointing with chrism, along with the prayers of confirmation for the gift of the Holy Spirit. While different, the situation in the Latin Church is similar--many wonder if administering the sacrament of confirmation after communion isn't redundant too, and those baptized according to the Latin rite are also anointed with chrism after the baptism itself.

The author of the piece offers a sort of compromise position, which I do think is promising, and more or less indicates a way forward for the Roman Catholic Church too. If confirmation must precede communion, he says, then simply do them both earlier. I believe that many Latin dioceses in this country have begun doing that, coupling the sacraments again, so that when children make their first communion (at the age of discretion, they are also first confirmed.

Caleb

Re: Communion of the little ones [Re: eastwardlean?] #410244 01/15/15 09:26 AM
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theophan Offline
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Caleb:

I'm not offering an opinion on Anglican practice. But the opinion I posted about the Latin Church comes from my pastor, a seminary professor. This information from him follows an answer to a question placed in a Catholic newspaper where the author states the same thing.

Bob

Re: Communion of the little ones [Re: eastwardlean?] #410247 01/15/15 12:06 PM
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eastwardlean? Offline OP
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Bob,

I'm not sure I totally understand the opinion you're reporting.

If you mean that theological opinion has come to regard the sacrament as 'optional,' then I think it probably is a claim about redundancy, much like the Anglican argument I described above, on the grounds that eucharistic communion is already the fullness of initiation and that the newly baptized are already chrismated within the baptismal rite.

On the other hand, it may also be that your pastor meant to say that many lay people have come to treat the sacrament of confirmation as optional, since they can take communion every Sunday without it. For example, I have heard that in Italy and some other countries, most people only get confirmed if they are getting married.

At any rate, I'm not really sure we disagree. Putting the sacraments out of order has had a number of bad effects, not least of which is the meaning of confirmation itself. Once unmoored from the other mysteries of initiation, confirmation has come to acquire all kinds of other meanings. I think that's what's challenging about the conversation--when we talk about 'the sacrament of confirmation,' are we talking about the mystery itself or one of its misplaced meanings? Certainly many people agree that the 'coming of age/rational ratification ceremony' that many have made of it is both unnecessary and superfluous.

Caleb

Re: Communion of the little ones [Re: eastwardlean?] #410250 01/15/15 01:14 PM
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Caleb:

I don't fully understand my pastor's and the article writer's statement either. My wife and I were stunned to read the article and even more disturbed to hear this form our pastor. I really have no reason to pursue the rational so I let it drop.

By comparison, both my wife and I were taught (in the mid-1960s) that we could not be married in church without having been confirmed. So this really pulled us up short to try to understand what was going on.

Bob

Re: Communion of the little ones [Re: Thomas the Seeker] #410270 01/16/15 12:50 PM
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Thomas,

It seems that the question has produced in Lutheran circles some of the same debates that Anglicans are having over it.

Just a question: in the service books does the baptismal rite include an anointing with chrism after the baptism itself?

I think you are right that some Reformation polemics (and those maybe refracted through some modern concerns) work some interference in this debate. Clearly the status of confirmation itself can appear more negotiable in churches of Reformation origin. I suspect that has something to do with flexibility some Anglicans feel in simply dispensing altogether with any separate rite of confirmation.

But it also strikes me that the basic difficulty isn't so far removed from the reality in the Roman Catholic Church. Once you've put the sacrament after Communion, what exactly is Confirmation for? And if you're already anointing the neophytes with chrism immediately after baptism, is the thing you've been calling confirmation really still confirmation?

Caleb

Re: Communion of the little ones [Re: eastwardlean?] #410278 01/16/15 10:30 PM
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Thomas the Seeker Offline
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Originally Posted by eastwardlean?

It seems that the question has produced in Lutheran circles some of the same debates that Anglicans are having over it.

Just a question: in the service books does the baptismal rite include an anointing with chrism after the baptism itself?

Beginning with the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship the rubrics require that, following the administration of the Baptismal water, there is a prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the newly Baptized. The newly Baptized is then anointed with oil "N, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever." Note that Lutherans generally do not differentiate between oil for anointing the sick and chrism.
Originally Posted by eastwardlean?

Once you've put the sacrament after Communion, what exactly is Confirmation for? And if you're already anointing the neophytes with chrism immediately after baptism, is the thing you've been calling confirmation really still confirmation?

Bingo.

The cynical answer: A graduation exercise relieving sponsors of the commitments they made at Baptism, ensuring that the youths will disappear until they want a Wedding or Baptism of their own offspring, in no particular order.

Last edited by Thomas the Seeker; 01/16/15 10:30 PM.

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