On Children Participating in the Holy Mysteries

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 1st cent.

Now the fact that even children, not yet able to understand the things Divine, become recipients of the holy Birth in God, and of the most holy symbols of the supremely Divine Communion, seems, as you say, to the profane, a fit subject for reasonable laughter, if the Hierarchs teach things Divine to those not able to hear, and vainly transmit the sacred traditions to those who do not understand. And this is still more laughable — that others, on their behalf, repeat the abjurations and the sacred compacts. But thy Hierarchical judgment must not be too hard upon those who are led astray, but, persuasively, and for the purpose of leading them to the light, reply affectionately to the objections alleged by them, bringing forward this fact, in accordance with sacred rule, that not all things Divine are comprehended in our knowledge, but many of the things, unknown by us, have causes beseeming God, unknown to us indeed, but well known to the Ranks above us. Many things also escape even the most exalted Beings, and are known distinctly by the All-Wise and Wise-making Godhead alone. Further, also, concerning this, we affirm the same things which our Godlike initiators conveyed to us, after initiations from the early tradition. For they say, what is also a fact, that infants, being brought up according to a Divine institution, will attain a religious disposition, exempt from every error, and inexperienced in an unholy life. When our Divine leaders came to this conclusion, it was determined to admit infants upon the following conditions, viz.: that the natural parents of the child presented, should transfer the child to some one of the initiated, — a good teacher of children in Divine things, — and that the child should lead the rest of his life under him, as under a godfather and sponsor, for his religious safe-keeping. The Hierarch then requires him, when he has promised to bring up the child according to the religious life, to pronounce the renunciations and the religious professions, not, as they would jokingly say, by instructing one instead of another in Divine things; for he does not say this, “that on behalf of this child I make, myself, the renunciations and the sacred professions,” but, that the child is set apart and enlisted; i.e. I promise to persuade the child, when he has come to a religious mind, through my godly instructions, to bid adieu wholly to things contrary, and to profess and perform the Divine professions. There is here, then, nothing absurd, in my judgment, provided the child is brought up as beseems a godlike training, in having a guide and religious surety, who implants in him a disposition for Divine things, and keeps him inexperienced in things contrary. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy Chap. 7.11)

Comments

  1. “The most holy symbols of the supremely Divine Communion” = Eucharist?

  2. All the Mysteries of the Incarnation, which is the Divine Communion: Eucharist, Baptism, Chrismation, etc.

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