I have a question about how we should view access to the Eucharist.
In the Orthodox Church (correct me if I'm wrong), children are chismated and welcomed into the Church at an early age. After this, they receive the Body and Blood at the Communion Service, with everyone else.
In my Anglican Church, children are christened at an early age (it used to be three days or sooner, but now, unless the baby is sick, it is often a little later). In this ceremony, they are welcomed into the Church and godparents are appointed. After this, the child will come with its parents to the altar rail, during the Communion Service. Mum and Dad will receive the Eucharist, and the child will receive a special blessing. This gives the child a special contact with God (through the vicar who asks blessing). It is a very important and a beautiful moment. However, the child does not receive the Eucharist.
Later on, the child is confirmed (I believe that the Orthodox chrismation ceremony brings together christening and confirmation in one service). After confirmation, the child can receive the Eucharist. Indeed, if they come up to the altar rail (as they should during a Communion Service), the only reason to refuse the Eucharist is that the person feels they have committed a terrible, unabsolved sin, and that they are thus unworthy to receive the Eucharist.
Now, the above account of Anglicanism is given from my own experience. I was slightly shocked today to hear that some Anglican people no longer keep the old custom. Apparently, even if a person has never been baptised or confirmed in any Church, they may take Communion.
I know I feel strongly that this is not right. In the Anglican Church, the priest will invite any 'who are communicants in their own Church' to receive Communion. Thus, we recognize that a solemnly professed faith in Christ and in the sacrament of Communion is valid. But, to say that someone shouldn't 'bother' to affirm their faith seems totally different to me. I think that adults who wish to receive the Eucharist are surely old enough to make formal acknowledgment of their faith, and that it is wrong (and disrespectful) if they do not.
So (sorry for the long preamble), my question is this: what is the purpose of a ceremony initiating a child into Church? Why do we require such a ceremony before allowing the child to participate in the Eucharist? How do I justify it to people who think it is acceptable to ignore such a ceremony?
I'm well aware I'm on the wrong forum for this, but frankly, I value your opinions greatly. Of course, I have also spoken to members of my church. But, since my continuing concern is how my Orthodox partner and I will bring up our children, I wanted to gain some insights from Orthodox people.
Hope that's ok,