St. Cyprian to the 4th Lateran Council
Last week I read St. Cyprian’s treatise On the Lapsed. It was an interesting read. Cyprian, who was martyred in 258 AD, was Bishop of Carthage during the heavy persecution of the Church under Roman Emperor Decius, wrote this treatise after the persecution had ended. During the persecution many Christians had apostatised and there was a controversy about whether those who compromised the faith should be allowed back into the Church and admitted to the Lord’s Supper.
Cyprian wrote a good deal on this subject in his correspondence with other Bishops, so I already had a good idea of where he stood on that subject. What I found most interesting in the treatise, which is written to the church at large, was what Cyprian said about children and Communion.
It is clear in Cyprian’s paper that very young children participated in the Eucharist. They were allowed to the Lord’s Table and received both the bread and wine. Cyprian thought nothing of the fact that toddlers took part in Communion, and he surely expected no one else to see his statement on the matter as controversial.
Paedocommunion was clearly the common practise of the church during Cyprian’s life time. It was the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD) that officially denied young children access to the Lord’s Supper. It was the Fourth Lateran Council that insisted on a confession of faith, instead of baptism, before one could receive the Eucharist. It seems clear that from the time of Cyprian (and before) until this medieval church council, children in the Western Church, like those in the Eastern Church still do today, received both the bread and wine.
This makes me say hummm. You can read an interesting historical article on this matter here.