i understand why the roman catholic faith makes a person’s first communion a big deal. usually, it is a child, around the age of 6 or 7. for a parent, it’s a wonderful thing to see your child recognize and understand the meaning behind the elements of the eucharist. and i am down with worship services that surround this milestone in a person’s life. i grew up in the orthodox presbyterian tradition, where you are older when you make your confession of faith and take communion for the first time. i was 15 or 16 when i made a public profession of faith in church and before the board of elders and pastor of our church and when i had my first communion. protestants, in general, don’t believe in big worship services honoring this event.
when i joined the episcopal tradition, i noticed families taking communion together at the rail and i understood this to be a family decision. of course, the church would like your children to understand the “whats” and “whys” of the Eucharist, but i loved that the family was a bigger part of this sacrament in worship. i always envisioned our family, kneeling at the rail together when each of our boys would partake for the first time, and not just receive the blessing on their heads, but be an active part of the Remembrance.
this morning, one of our boys had communion, in church, for the first time. for a myriad of reasons, we were not with him when he did it. i’m coming to terms with this, and i’m okay with it…here are my thoughts:
first of all, we’ve talked about this as a family. the older two have been asking about communion over the past six months and we’ve discussed in full what it means, why we do it, and the different ways in which churches offer it. communion is distributed on trays to the sunday school classes that are happening at the same time the “grown ups” are in corporate worship. we decided that for their first communion, they would take it with us in the worship service, and then following their first communion, they could take it in their sunday school classes from now on.
this morning, kenny was playing music for the worship service and i was asked to serve communion. so, i told both of the older two boys that they were welcome to just take communion in their sunday school class today if they still wanted to. one did, and one didn’t. i was proud of both of their decisions.
i love it when we are asked to distribute the elements. i love watching the people pour forth from their seats and take the symbols of the highest sacrifice. i love telling them “This is Christ’s Body for YOU.” and i love it when they look back in my eyes and accept this gift for the 1st? 50th? 1000th? time. no matter how often i take part in the great mystery, it is worship so amazing, so divine, i am in awe again and again. St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
so when i asked my son how his first communion was, i was expecting him to tell me that angels sang from above, that the earth moved below him, and he answered….”um, the bread was kinda yummy.”
he’ll get there.
he was also baptised as an infant (as were his brothers) and we have no way of knowing if they experienced what an adult experiences at their first baptism. so as a child takes his first communion, sometimes it’s not the same experience as an adult partaking for the first or for the 100th time. the mysteries of the sacraments aren’t explainable. at any age.
secondly, our children’s first communions aren’t about what we, as parents, want to experience with them. of course, we raise them in our faith and hope they understand and believe as us, but these milestones are about them meeting God and understanding Christ’s love for them. they aren’t about how i always envisioned it happening. my ideal church is so far from where we currently worship, but God has us there for His reasons, not my own. i have to let go of my ideal (infant baptism, children’s choir robes, ancient hymns, and weekly Eucharist), and really live out my belief that God works through and is truly worshiped in any worship setting.
there was no pomp and circumstance in our child’s first communion today…but neither was there in the lowly birth of our Saviour 2000 years ago. humble experiences are just as Holy as those with pipe organs and angels singing from the heavens.