Over the last few weeks, I had a series of interactive Pre 1st Communion Prayer Services via the Internet with the children attending schools in the parish along with their families.
As you know there is a lot of attention given to the celebrations associated with the three sacraments; Baptism Confirmation and 1st Communion. A practice has evolved whereby, members of the extended family are invited to the celebrations.
Listening to people recently on radio associated with the catering and clothing businesses who are presently feeling the pressure; they refer to this time of the year as their ‘busy time’ for the trade.
Preparing for the virtual services with the children, I
focused on the word Communion. It’s interesting to note that receiving
the Eucharistic bread, is not the first time children are in ‘communion’ with
the Lord. Any time we lift up our hearts in prayer, or beseech the Lord during
difficult times, saying Maranatha (Come Lord Jesus), we are in communion
This applies as well to very young children who can have a precious relationship with the Lord. The one guarantee we have is that the Lord is forever ‘in communion with us’, ‘bidden or unbidden.’
The Eucharist therefore, is a particular type of prayer gifted us by the Lord himself on that Thursday night preceding Good Friday, when he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it the those assembled, with the words,
‘take this all of you and eat, for this is my body’.
The precious ritual has been re-enacted by generations of people since that night, after Jesus issue the invitation,
‘do this in memory of me.’
Children on their Communion day, formally receive that same bread, ‘food for the soul’, for the first time.
Within the Church tradition the practice evolved, whereby Christians came to the table of the Lord for the ‘breaking of bread’ especially on ‘the first day of each week’, mindful of the happenings of Easter Sunday morning
The first reading today in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 8.5-8, 14 – 17. Refers to people in a Samaritan town, after hearing about ‘the Christ’ as proclaimed by Philip; they welcomed the message and were ‘Baptised in the name of the Lord’. The passage of scripture is interesting because it suggests, that even though they had accepted the word of God, they had not yet enjoyed the inner joys of being in communion with him. And so the Church in Jerusalem, sent Peter and John to them. They prayed over the converts, laid hands on them, and, Alleluia, they became inwardly aware of the power of the Spirit in their lives.
I was thinking about the two stages mentioned. Baptism followed by the Confirming. It’s easy to understand that progression e.g. in the case of a baby brought to the church for Baptism. The child is oblivious to what’s happening, so with the blessing of the baby, there is a hope that in time, with the support of family, school and parish that child will come to know about the Lord’ and enter into Communion him.
The Christian Initiation of Adults is very different, because in their case, they have come to know the Lord during their time as Catechumens, which can last for a few years, learning and living the tradition, and then on Holy Saturday night they celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, followed by Communion the following Easter Sunday morning, the first day of the week.
The shift from one stage to another is somewhat like learning to play a musical instrument, or learning the skills of the game. Initially, e.g. learning to play the guitar, getting used to the strings, the notes and trying to train the mind and fingers to work harmoniously is laborious and tiresome; but if one persists, with practice, practice, practice, there comes a time when the musician eventually comes to the happy stage of enjoying the experience of playing the instrument.
So we can know in our minds all about Christ, and the Church traditions, but again, until we actually feel the ‘real presence’ in our hearts. we haven’t reached that special place. And crossing that gap is not something that has to be laborious, sometimes it’s a matter of ‘letting go & letting God in’.
One of the great spiritual leaders of our time, Thomas Keating a Trappist monk, who devoted his life to promoting Contemplative Prayer, has a series of videos available on UTube: Living in the Presence of God Day after Day after Day.
In his first presentation he talks about the mystery of the God’s presence. We can live all the time in God’s presence without effort, if we can let go of the obstacles. The chief obstacle he says is ‘thinking that God is absent.’
So when we pray,
let us close or quieten our minds
hold our out hands
open our hearts to the loving presence of our Lord