Communion of Baptized Infants

I n f a n t    C o m m u n i o n

The Church was promised by Our Lord Jesus Christ (in the person of His Disciples) that when The Holy Spirit should come He would lead Her "into all truth" (John 16:13).  Saint Paul, writing to Saint Timothy, declared The Church to be the "pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15). Dr. Martin Luther wrote that "the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, built on the rock, and called holy and irreproachable (Eph. 2:21)." The Holy Spirit thus exercises a ministry of teaching and oversight in The Church, as demonstrated throughout Her history, and protects Her from error and preserves Her in the one true Faith.

History demonstrates that all who have gone into schism from The Church have eventually fallen into error. The schism of the Church of Rome has, perhaps, produced the most errors. These made The Reformation necessary, where Fr. Martin Luther and Archbishop Laurentius Petri (and his brother, Olavus) tried to both correct the many abuses propagated by the Papacy and to return the Church in the West once again to Orthodoxy.

One of the most serious errors fostered by the Papacy and unfortunately perpetuated by the Protestant Reformation has been the denial of Holy Communion to infants and young children. That denial is most likely the result of Rome's rite of Confirmation, which, although the sacramental nature was denied by most Protestants, was essentially retained by the Reformers.

The New Testament makes it clear that the proper understanding of Holy Communion flows out of a proper understanding of The Church. The Fathers of the Early Church consistently defined The Church as the Eucharistic Community gathered under the direction of the Bishop to manifest the total presence of Christ Jesus, especially in the celebration of The Holy Eucharist. St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, expressed this understanding when he wrote, shortly before his martyrdom (c. A.D. 110):
Where the Bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. Without the Bishop's supervision, no baptisms or love feasts [celebrations of Holy Communion] are permitted.
-- Smyrneans 8:2

The Reformers attempted to reclaim this understanding when they declared The Church to be the congregation of believers among whom the Gospel is rightly proclaimed and the sacraments are rightly administered in accordance with the Gospel (Aug. Conf. VII). Dr. Martin Luther, in fact, called The New Testament the book of the Holy Communion.

In The Didache, where we find the oldest surviving liturgy, we find a reflection of The New Testament emphasis upon the Oneness of The Church in The Offertory Prayer:
. . . as this piece [of bread] was scattered over the hills and then was brought together and made one, so let Your Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into Your Kingdom. For Yours is the glory and power through Jesus Christ forever.
The Church at worship is One Loaf; there is no stress or emphasis on individuals in the Eucharistic Community! The ecclesia is made up of many kernels, but when the members of The Body of Christ meet for worship, at least according to The New Testament and the witness of the Early Church, the individual becomes part of the whole. The ecclesia knows of no individualism. The newly baptized, including infants (according even to the witness of the Protestant Reformers), "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayer" (Acts 2:42). ALL the Faithful, regardless of age, continued steadfastly in participating in The Sacrament of Love (Holy Communion)!

When we come to fully understand the Biblical presupposition that true worship is the means by which the Holy Spirit bestows His gifts, then we will also understand that no organization, even if it is named Church, has the right to tell children that they must wait until they can eat and drink "worthily" by the standards which that organization has itself created.
Even though they [infants] do not hear the word through which faith comes in the same way that older people do, they still hear it as little children do. The older people grasp it with their ears and their reason but often without faith; children, however, hear it through their ears without reason and with faith. And the less reason one has, the closer faith is.
-- Dr. Martin Luther (WA 17II, 87)

If the full Eucharistic Liturgy is denied a baptized Child of God, we are committing the mortal sin of "despising the little ones."
Moreover, belief in the divine Scripture declares to us that among all, whether infants or those who are older, there is the same equality of the divine gift. . . . For as God does not accept the person, so does He not accept the age.
-- St. Cyprian, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V, pp. 352-354

From the earliest days of The Church, Chrismation (Confirmation) was seen as an integral part of Holy Baptism wherein the individual is sealed with The Sign of The Holy Cross and confirmed in The Faith with the gifts of The Holy Spirit. This is the individual's Pentecost. As The Holy Spirit descended visibly upon The Apostles in tongues of fire, so here He now descends invisibly with the same power and certainty.

In administering Holy Confirmation, The Church follows the example of The Apostles.  For in the 8th Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we read:
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that the Samaritan people had accepted the word of God, they sent to them Simon Peter and John, Who, when they went down, prayed over them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet it had not come upon them although they had been baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
-- Acts 8:14-17

The newly Baptized becomes an "anointed one" after the likeness of The Anointed One (Jesus The Christ). Both in Scripture and in the Early Church Chrismation is considered an integral part of Baptism; both were normally administered together (and often called Illumination) by The Bishop. Illumination is the only way for a person to be admitted to the inner core of The Faithful.

As Dr. Luther affirms in his Large Catechism (V,87), because children have been baptized and fully incorporated into The Church, they should also participate in the fellowship of Holy Communion.
Darum wisse ein jeglicher Hausvater, daß er aus Gottes Befehl and Gebot schuldig ist, seine Kinder solches zu lehren oder lernen (zu) lassen, was sie können sollen. Denn weil sie getauft sind and in die Christenheit genommen, sollen sie auch solcher Gemeinschaft des Sakraments geniessen . . .
After a stirring sermon, St. Peter was asked what to do in response to his word. He replied:
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins [Baptism, using water, symbolizes the cleaning power of God in a person's life!] and you shall receive the gift of The Holy Spirit [the individual is made a complete Christian by the Seal of The Holy Spirit -- commonly called "confirmation" -- bringing the power and strength of God The Holy Spirit into the newly forgiven person's life].
-- Acts 2:38

As the order of presbyters arose in The Church, they came to be the usual ministers of Baptism, while the Bishop continued to confirm -- but both rites continued to be performed on the same occasion, and were immediately followed by the newly baptized receiving Holy Communion.

As The Church grew and dioceses expanded in size, it became impossible for the Bishop to be present at every Baptism. Since The Church has always considered Baptism to be normally necessary for salvation (Aug. Conf., Art. IX), it could not be delayed unnecessarily. Hence the problem: Should Baptism be delayed until the Bishop could come, or should Baptism and Confirmation be separated?

In The East, Baptism and Confirmation continued to be administered together, the Priest being authorized to confirm as the Bishop's "deputy," using oil (Chrism) consecrated by the Bishop for this purpose. Thus no delay was occasioned and Baptism and Confirmation were not separated.

The Church of Rome, however, elected not to delegate Confirmation to the Priest. Thus, having to wait for the periodic visit of the Bishop, Baptism was separated from Confirmation. Yet for centuries, in both East and West, Baptism and Confirmation continued to be administered at the earliest possible age. In both, Holy Communion was the normal and immediate concomitant of Illumination.

A proper understanding of The Holy Breaking of Bread and of The Church as a worshiping eucharistic fellowship, together with the testimony and witness of the ancient Church (Western as well as Eastern), decides in advance the so-called question of infant's Communion.  It  is  not optional!     Children, by virtue of their incorporation into The Body of Christ Jesus our God and Savior, are entitled to Holy Communion!

As Eustratios Argenti, a great Orthodox writer of the 18th Century, wrote:
They [the Papists] have driven away from the Holy Table and from the Mystical Supper of The Lord those very children whom Christ took in His arms and blessed, and concerning whom He gave commandment that they should be suffered to come to Him; Yet the rebuke which shamed the Apostles has proved of no avail against the Papists. Christ's injunction in the Gospel of John, 'Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man . . . ' was not limited to any class or age, but applies to all alike. The Papists cannot deny that they once gave communion to small children as all the East has continued to do.
The arguments against permitting children to participate in Holy Communion apply equally to the Baptism of Infants; if admitted in one case, they must be admitted in the other!  Dr. Martin Luther admits that:
. . . there is no passage in Scripture for it [infant Baptism]. . . . From Scripture we cannot clearly conclude that you could establish child baptism as a practice among the first Christians after the apostles.
-- Dr. Martin Luther, Concerning Rebaptism (LW 40, 255-6)

Scripture is not the source of Infant Baptism! Yet both the baptism of infants and the communing of infants are doctrinally sound and Biblically correct. As the Early Church realized: There is no good reason to separate Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion. Faith is required of all three Rites; the Lutheran Reformers, who espoused and maintained Infant Baptism, insisted that infants had the necessary faith, as we have seen earlier. This faith, together with the word of Jesus, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you (John 6:53), should compel us to admit infants to Holy Communion!

Dr. Luther taught that even as the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the means by which infants and older children are brought into The Body of Christ (The Church), even so it is the same Sacrament of Baptism by which The Holy Spirit prepares them for worthy reception of  Our Lord's Sacred Body & Most Precious Blood (Holy Communion). The Evangelical Catholic Church, therefore, believes, as all Christendom once did, that none of Christ's little ones need to be deprived of the grace of The Holy Spirit in Holy Communion simply because they have not yet reached physical or mental maturity.
. . . When in I Cor. [11:28] Paul said that a man should examine himself, he spoke only of adults because he was speaking about those who were quarreling among themselves. However, he doesn't here forbid that the sacrament of the altar be given even to children.
-- Dr. Martin Luther, Table Talk #365; Luther’s Works, Vol. 54 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967], p. 58

We believe, teach, and confess, with The Church Catholic, that:
. . . all the worthiness of the guests of this heavenly feast [Holy Communion] is and consists in the most holy obedience and perfect merit of Christ alone, which we appropriate to ourselves by true faith [freely given to even infants by The Holy Spirit in Baptism], and whereof we are assured by the Sacrament, and not at all in our virtues or inward and outward preparation.
-- Formula of Concord, Epitome VII

The ability to discern The Lord's Body and Blood in the Holy Sacrament does not come from human reason, age, experience, education, or knowledge, but is rather the work of The Holy Spirit Who, in our Baptism, worked faith in Jesus and spiritual recognition of Christ (having lifted the "veil" [II Cor. 3:14] from our minds and enlightened our understanding).
. . . we reject and condemn as false, erroneous, and misleading . . . the teaching that even true believers, who have and keep a right, true, living faith, and yet lack the said sufficient preparation of their own, could . . . receive this Sacrament to condemnation.
-- Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VII

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