The Church approved the rite of continuation of the dead babies who have not accepted the grace of Holy Baptism. Why now the Russian Orthodox Church approved the rite, as this problem was solved many centuries? Says Archpriest Alexei Uminsky.
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– Every priest ever faced the situation when he died unbaptized babies. But how is this problem usually solved?
– No remembrance of the Church unbaptized could not be. They are not the burial service, for they do not pray. This is recorded as the absolute practice of the Church. Historically, this has happened in recent decades, and for many centuries. It got so in the minds of Christians, including parents who failed to baptize the children and lost them during some difficult circumstances that we all, even from the parents themselves, in most cases, there was no question about religious commemoration. Bite his lip, resign themselves to this idea, pray at home, let the pain remained. All this time, the problem of remembrance of unbaptized children were completely closed. It seemed, no way out and no solutions here and can not be.
But three or four years ago, at the diocesan meeting of Moscow clergy, chaired by his Holiness Patriarch Kirill, the question was raised about the Church commemoration of unbaptized infants. His Holiness then correctly and deeply responded to the issue raised. He also directed the liturgical Commission to consider the Church’s remembrance of the dead children, who for some reason have not been baptized.
I was deeply touched and excited about the question itself. We all understand how ridiculous not to remember children who have not received baptism, being born in Christian families. Moreover, our Church has historical precedents in the IV-V centuries, when people were baptized in adulthood. Suffice it to recall that the great hierarchs of Christ: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom was baptized at the age of thirty and later, although all of them were born in Christian families.
In the family of Basil the Great, for example, all the saints: and his mother Emilia of Caesarea, the monk, and his brothers, two sisters canonized by the Church. Father Gregory the theologian was generally a Bishop who baptized his son. Gregory the Theologian was baptized himself, wisely, at the age of thirty. Ambrose of Milan was baptized just before his ordination in the Episcopal dignity, being a man of forty. There are memories that he was raised in a Christian home and Church atmosphere.
We can recall his brother Satire, also canonized by the Western Church, who, being unbaptized, in a shipwreck, knowing that dies, tied to his blessed sacrament as a pledge of their Christianity. Then the Satyr escaped, but for us important is not the fact of salvation in the shipwreck. And the fact that he remains one of the examples of how a large number of people from Christian families who passed the reading, dying, failing because of some circumstances to be Baptized. It is important to both. Obviously, then, no one had doubts that people born in Christian families died as Christians.
– When did you take a different attitude to the unbaptized?
– It came much later, due to the rather strong influence of the theology of St. Augustine and the late scholastic notion of the sacraments in the first place of original sin, formulated by St. Augustine. For centuries, this question continued to be discussed. And only in the middle Ages died away. As soon began to baptize infants, the issue had lost its relevance.
– How do you assess the decision of the Synod?
– Obviously, this decision is a new page in our understanding of the Christian family. Despite the fact that the rite is short and formed this prayer acted with great and even excessive caution. This document is now one of the most important.
Speaking about the Christian family that we call the Low Church, what really do we mean? What does that mean? So it is a Small Church committed life in the presence of Christ, and all members of the little Church are Christians: mother and father. And if Christians conceive a child, it is the womb a baby is already a Christian. Not by choice but because they are conceived and born in a Small Church. If you want to, it happens mysteriously. Most importantly, he is not a stranger to the Church. He is not alien from the Church, because the father and mother of the Holy communion, and the baby develops in the womb of his mother, who partakes. He is the flesh and blood of this mother, which means that the flesh and blood of our Church. He has a Christian baby, he is already a child of the Church.
Yes, the baby has not received Holy baptism. Yes, the circumstances could have turned out tragically, for example, the mother suffered a miscarriage. And now what should she do? Treat your baby as biomaterial? But he wasn’t a biomaterial? It is conceived, the fetus was not already attached to eternal life? That, and the soul was not there?
When we say that we do not commemorate unbaptized babies, what it really means? Included, they give us one? Turns out we don’t need them? So we are ready to reject as members of the Church? It turns out that the Church they have no mother, but God im not the Father? But if the Church is the mother and for the babies, so why would she have for not praying?!
And now this problem solved. I am sure this is one of the most important ecclesiastical decisions. The Church, as a mother, took care of their kids: on the unbaptized infants of parents who need the consolation of the Church, the Church commemorations and congregational prayer.
– From the time of St. Augustine passed quite a few centuries. Why now having this rank?
– Note that this question does not arise in any other Church, which has traditionally developed, which are well established as absolutely perfect and cultural system. But the Russian Orthodox Church today is born anew. We are a new Church. We are all Christians again. We are not the heirs of a centuries-old tradition, though, because not born in Christian families and even inherited this tradition. For us everything is thought of in new ways, in new ways seen, we are anew live inside this Church. For us the fragrance of the Church – it is fresh.
Yes, we are trying to copy something from the past. Alas, increasingly, the copies turn out a caricature. Yes, we are trying to put tradition as a stranger suit, but we’re cramped and terribly uncomfortable. But when we begin to live based on the fact that we are Christians when Christianity conceptualize its real deep, then only a theological problem about the commemoration of unbaptized babies alive. We respond to it.
And it happened after a century of persecution, after what we call revival. The rite of commemoration of the unbaptized babies is a real sign of Revival. This is a very good sign. And I personally am sincerely grateful to his Holiness the Patriarch and the Synod for this decision.
In the history of our Church now have the precedent of the Church’s prayers for unbaptized children. We will rejoice and to comfort parents that their unbaptized children are not forgotten by the Church. The Church is mother. There are no other children. And this is important.