For many of us, the month of May at our parishes is the month when children make their First Holy Communion. The children dressed in their finery feast at the table of the Lord for the first time. A big family celebration follows.
For many years I was a Eucharistic minister at my parish. Among the times I most enjoyed serving was on the Sundays in May. Many of the children had made their First Holy Communion just the day before, and on the next Sunday they came to the altar with everyone else in the congregation. This time it was for their second Holy Communion. I could always tell which children fell into that category, and thinking of their sweet faces makes me smile. Their innocence, excitement, wonder and sense of being grown up accompanied them as they approached the altar.
I thought about these children as I went up to communion yesterday afternoon at Saturday’s vigil Mass. I looked around at the congregation moving toward to the altar. Obviously the hearts and minds of those around me are unknown, but I couldn’t help but think how ordinary it had all become. After years of going to communion, we adults approach it so differently than those receiving for the first or the second time. We hold a casualness unfitting of the dignity of that which we receive.
Inching forward, I prayed for renewed fervor and longing in my heart, like that of those little children. Putting my hands out to receive communion, my pastor gave me the host so gently and with such care that he drew me deeper into the mystery of this indescribable gift. It was if the angels themselves had placed the baby Jesus in my care and whispered, “Do you know whom you receive?” I paused and immediately a line from a Nichole Nordeman song engulfed me, “Oh, let me not forget to tremble!” The God of the universe humbles himself to be placed in my hands to be consumed so that He and I can be one. How can it be? Yet it happens with each communion. The bridegroom gives himself completely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully to us, His bride, the Church.
If you’ve never listened to “And the Two Become One” by Christopher West, I strongly encourage you to do so. Based on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, West teaches the great mystery of the Eucharist and Christ as bridegroom. I first listened to it maybe 10 years ago. I don’t recall exactly when, but I do remember it profoundly affected my understanding and love for the Eucharist. The next time I went to Mass I wept out of sheer gratitude for the love God pours out for us in the sacrifice of the altar. I plan to listen to it again this week, expecting a renewed excitement of receiving communion like I did the first time…or the second.
Yesterday’s communion was an ordinary moment in the life of an ordinary Catholic which ultimately transcended to the extraordinary. Wouldn’t it be great if every communion were that way?
Please join me in praying for a renewed love for the Eucharist in the Church and for all those children who recently have made or who will make their First and second Holy Communions this year. Pray, too, in thanksgiving for those who teach us about the Eucharist – CCD teachers and parents who prepared the little ones; pastors, preachers, and teachers who help us grow in our adult understanding. May we not forget to tremble!
Alleluia! Alleluia! He is Risen! Anne