Just in case you haven’t noticed, there have been some First Communion Masses happening around the valley. I was, by accident, at two different churches when they had their First Communion celebrations. While both churches did it a little different, they were both beautiful. The children receiving their First Holy Communion were well versed in how to receive the most Holy Body and Precious Blood of our Lord. They walked up with their little hands folded in prayer, dressed in their white dresses and best suits- bowed respectfully before the Body and Blood, and received their Communion perfectly composed. Despite this well-rehearsed composure, the one thing they could not contain was the excitement on their faces. One of the recipient’s grandmothers talked about the utter joy on the face of her grandson as he went up to participate at the Lord’s table for the first time and again when they attended mass the next weekend. The joy on all their young faces was contagious and made me reminisce about my own First Communion.
Way back then – home Masses were allowed and my Dad’s very best friend just happened to be a priest. I remember the house was spic and span – more so than normal. The television was turned off, and even the lights seemed to have a special glow that night. Rather than change into pajamas that evening, we put on good clothes (I got to wear my white First Communion Dress). Father came over and set up on a small table in the living room. We had a family Mass right there in our house and I received my First Communion in this very intimate setting with just my Mom and Dad, my little brother and sister and Father. I knew it was pretty neat that we had Mass in the living room, but didn’t realize the uniqueness and how special it truly was until I was an adult. Then, as luck would have it, I got to celebrate with my classmates at the First Communion Mass at church! I still got to wear the white dress and get my picture taken and celebrate with my friends.
I was sharing this story with a co-worker, and she made the comment that the celebration with my classmates was like a “renewal of my First Communion”. That phrase, uttered in casual conversation, hit me as if she stood up and yelled it at me. Holy cow! Isn’t that what it should be each time we go to Communion? A renewal of the joy and grace that was felt the first time? The wonder at the miracle that we get to witness at every Mass should hopefully never fade. As Catholic Christians, we not only get to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but we get to take Him into our very bodies. He becomes physically a part of us each and every time we receive Him in Holy Eucharist. I have always believed in transubstantiation, but as I have grown older, the wonder in the miracle of the Eucharist has become familiar and has lost the excitement of the first time. As I participate in the sacrament from here forward, I plan to recall that excitement felt the first time, contemplate the wonder that is bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ and rejoice in the realization that I am lucky enough to receive Him through the Eucharist.
I pray that the excitement witnessed on the faces of second grade children receiving the Sacrament of Communion continues to infect all of us with the same sense of joy, excitement, wonder, grace and awe.