My daughter attend a Catholic elementary school. In the coming weeks, there will be many festivities surrounding First Communion. Her second grade class has been preparing for First Communion for several months, and there are special sessions, prayers, banners, and parties to go along with the actual Rite of Communion. We have explained to some teachers and parents that our daughter received Communion the day after she was baptized, and that Orthodox children are regular communicants from the very beginning of their inauguration into the Communion of the Holy Spirit and the Communion of Saints.
Elsewhere, I have written about this issue from the perspective of the Church responding to God’s invitation to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit over and over again, as everyone in the Church labors to become Christ-bearers for the life of the world. This is, more or less, the Eastern Christian perspective. Comprehension of the tenets of faith is important, but ultimately, communion with God is a gift to be received, even for those who do not appear to fully understand.
My question for friends in the Western tradition: can you imagine your Church celebrating the communion of infants who have been fully initiated into the Church? Can liturgical scholarship form parish practice? Or is the power of First Communion as a crucial rite of passage too formidable for the communion of infants and small children to be restored in the West?
I write this with a desire to understand – not to byzantinize.