An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Infant Communion

Receiving communion was the climax of the baptismal rite for infants as well as adults until the thirteenth century in the west. Canon law asserted that infants should not die without having received communion. Withholding communion from infants was not a reasoned decision but the result of efforts to protect the eucharistic elements from desecration or from superstitious uses. As early as the twelfth century in some areas infants received only the consecrated wine, for concern had arisen because infants had on occasion regurgitated the bread. In the thirteenth century increased scrupulosity led to withholding the chalice from the laity, which had the effect of excommunicating small children because they had already been denied the bread. In some areas, however, infants and small children continued to communicate until the Council of Trent declared that those lacking use of reason were under no obligation to receive the eucharist. Reformation churches were united in not communicating those who had not reached the age of reason and been catechized. In recent decades, it has been reasserted in various provinces of Anglicanism, and in other churches as well, that baptism is full initiation into the church and the only prerequisite for communion. The eastern church has an unbroken tradition of infant communion after baptism.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.