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Communion (Eucharist)

Communion is one of the deep mysteries of the Christian faith, yet it's been surprisingly trivialized in the modern church. Substituting grape juice for wine, administering it separately from the worship service (and far less frequently than once a week), and transforming it from an outward celebration to an inward solemnity have all displaced the far more important issues of who should partake and why.

If baptism is admission into the covenant body, communion is maintenance within it. When we eat the Lord's Supper we are mystically and spiritually joined to Christ and His Church. John Calvin taught that Christ is really present within the elements (wine and bread), though not in any physical sense; He spiritually satisfies our hunger for Him when we partake.

Today, only the Orthodox Church has a continuous history of providing the Eucharist to infants. The Roman Catholic Church stopped the practice in the 13th century (believing the elements to be the true body and blood of Christ, so not a crumb or drop could be wasted), and most of the Reformed churches have never allowed infants to the table. However, many have begun to revisit the idea, suggesting it is far more consistent with covenantal principles to allow infants and young children to partake than to fence them off until they can be confirmed or make a "profession of faith." If they have been baptized into the Body, the argument goes, why shouldn't they be offered the attendant blessing of the Lord's Supper? Are they only half-members until they can recite their catechism? Or was Jesus mistaken when He chastised the disciples and blessed the children?

In contrast to the superstitious fear of the medieval Church, keeping children from the Lord's table is at least rooted in good intentions. If anyone partakes "unworthily" as Paul says, without discerning the Body (1 Cor. 11:29), he is cursed; barring children is intended as a safeguard lest any of them eat or drink condemnation on themselves. However, we believe that by "discerning the Body," Paul means when we celebrate the Eucharist we should be aware we are doing so as a unified body, not as a group of disconnected individuals. By excluding our children, we automatically treat them as though they aren't part of the Body of Christ, even though (among Reformed Christians, at least) they have been baptized into it. If keeping children and infants from communion is keeping part of the Body of Christ from communion, then it could be said those in their way are the ones in true danger of partaking unworthily, since they cannot properly identify the Body.

The debate for paedocommunion is by no means closed, but it is one that we cannot justifiably ignore. If the Church has for centuries wrongly barred a significant portion of the Body of Christ from the blessing and grace of the Lord's Supper, it is imperative that she rectify her mistake and re-admit them. If she has made no mistake, it is important to know that, too, and put the question to rest.

We believe it is only right that the children we baptize should be permitted to join their fellow members in communion with each other and with Christ. They ought to grow up assured of their place in the kingdom, not wondering about their status. Just like we remind our children verbally of their baptism, we should allow them to remember it for themselves through the partaking of the elements.

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