For a child to be baptized he/she doesn’t need knowledge for it but that doesn’t happen to receive the host. Isn’t that contradictive? They’re both sacraments…
That is indeed the current discipline of the Latin Church. It’s not exactly a contradiction, but it is inconsistent, in my opinion. The ancient tradition even in the western church was to baptize, chrismate (confirm) and commune infants as one rite of christian initiation. The current discipline in the Latin church began to develop in the 12th century. (See this article about this development: preachersinstitute.com/2012/12/08/infant-communion-the-ancient-western-tradition/)
Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, however, continue to practice the ancient tradition.
Just as you do not need to understand how your food is digested to be nourished by it, you do not need to understand the Eucharist to receive grace. And none of us fully understand the Eucharist anyway. Why should little ones be denied it?
Just talking off the top of my head here, but baptism and the Eucharist are significantly different. There is a huge responsibility one has to be reasonably sure that one is not in a state of mortal sin while receiving the Eucharist. Whereas baptism happens one time and by its very nature washes away all prior sin. So in the case of baptism it doesn’t “matter” what the state of one’s soul is prior to receiving, but in the case of the Eucharist it matters a great deal, because one has to be worthy of receiving it.
If you’re saying we should give the Eucharist to children immediately after the baptism, I can see your logic. And I certainly can understand your desire to extend the Eucharist to everyone. But the problem is that the logical extension of that practice would be to continue giving the Eucharist to children indefinitely, years before they are catechized and confirmed. It would be reckless to expose them to the possibility of receiving unworthily.
1 Cor. 11:27-29
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.
I think this is as good a reason as any as to why the Church should require children to reach a certain age at which they can be presumed to have the requisite intellectual capacity to sufficiently discern the body.
John, thanks for replying. If I may address some of the points you raised:
Not sure if you are aware, but the practice in Eastern Catholic Churches is that infants receive Holy Communion immediately after baptism and christmation (confirmation), and continue to receive communion thereafter. At some point, when parents and the parish priest discern they are ready, they will begin going to confession, generally around age 7-8. So your worry that they will be receiving unworthily really isn’t an issue.
By the way, just for the record I didn’t express a desire to extend the Eucharist to “everyone” - just a desire to return to the ancient tradition of both east and west of communing children.
There is a difference. With baptism there is no fear of spilling because the matter of the sacrament is poured intentionally. With the Eucharist there is fear of spilling because the matter of the sacrament is eaten, and might be spilled or spit up unintentionally.
That said, I am sympathetic to lowering the age of First Communion. Pope St. Pius X talks about this issue and its history in Quam Singulari.
Sorry, I read too much into it.
I couldn’t disagree more. The very idea that one must have some sort of theological understanding of the Eucharist flies in the face of some of the weakest among us. The mentally handicapped. Not only that but the Church in certain diocese and in the US has made it quite clear that one must go to confession at the ambiguous “age of reason” which is around 7 or 8. So technically a 4 year old could not receive unworthily because they are not in a state of sin by the very nature of their age. The requirement is “state of grace” not state of graduation of informed theology. Many many many Christians received the Eucharist as infants for over a thousand years.
Even today it is still done by some rites of the Catholic Church in union with Rome.
Personally I would like to see us return to such a reverent and Holy understanding of the Eucharist. Especially since children are so impressionable. It makes sense to me to ingrain in them such importance from infancy on. You need the Eucharist like you need food and air. And just as we offer this to infants so should we offer our spiritual bread as well.
That being said, I respect the right of our Bishops to set age requirements for the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. Though I may not agree, I obey.
Both the Latin discipline of withholding the Eucharist until an age of reason, and the Eastern practice of giving the Eucharist to infants are legitimate. In fact, if an Eastern Catholic Infant is in a Roman Catholic parish, by cannon law, the priest must give him the Eucharist. So they are both legitimate. Personally however, despite being a Roman Catholic, I have a tendency to favor the Eastern view.
Yep. We need all Catholic Churches. They all proclaim the truths and teaching of our Faith.
Rather than worrying that some children are being deprived of the Eucharist or that some other children are not allowed to mature enough to appreciate what they are given, we should rejoice that our children get to participate in expressing the fullness of understanding about what the Eucharist means to us. Some will do this by receiving; others by waiting.
To be quite honest, that is not a valid point. I have asked Greek priests before and that is never an issue. Usually a drop of blood or a speck of body will be consumed very easily - very rarely is there ever any issue.
And to the above poster, that is a very subjectivist mentality. In the end, despite technical and political language, either the East is communing people improperly or the West is depriving the Eucharist to children (but in the latter instance that is not to say they are not having grace dispensed to them through other means). There is something to be said about the fact that the Latin Church use to previously commune infants and if an Eastern Catholic attends the priest is required to commune an infant under Eastern authority that has been previously communed.
Yes, quite correct.
I shoud, however, note that not all of the Oriental Churches have restored the practice of infant communion. The Maronites, unfortunately, have not. IIRC, this is also the case for the Chaldeans. I’m note sure about Syriac CC, but I suspect it’s the same. And as far I’ve been told, the same is true even for the Syro-Malankara who are otherwise the least latinized of all.