Tomorrow we should be celebrating First Holy Communion. I am on record having written six Mays ago, My personal, top-of-the-line, all-out, no-exceptions favorite is this weekend. First Holy Communion is a marvelous moment that I enjoy to the very core of my being, and the Pastor’s privilege of giving these children their first taste of heaven is one I count most precious.
Oh well, so much for that! you might reasonably say; Covid-19 has crushed another festive moment in our lives. Especially now that it seems the first Saturday in May will feature particularly lovely weather, you know that I and many others will be thinking of what-should-have-been. But let me assure you, our thoughts should not, and will not stop there.
First of all, as I have assured all our FHC families with the help of our Director of Religious Education, Dr. Neil Sloan, we will be offering First Holy Communion to our kids as soon as practicable; we will not postpone to some distant date by which we can guess with “certainty” that all will have returned to normal. We will offer more than one opportunity, both to accommodate transitional restrictions as to crowd size or spacing, and simply because short notice will require people to have another option. We will announce our plans as soon as we have information upon which to base them.
But receiving Holy Communion will have changed for everybody by then, and the “Firsties” will not be the only ones who need to learn a new and hygienic practice to receive the Bread from Heaven. Over the past two months, we have learned much about how to convey the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ without conveying anything else, especially illness.
First, it is vital that the recipient be holding still. The moving Communion line, with communicants making their individual and often idiosyncratic shows of reverence for the Eucharist, results in a “moving target” and no small uncertainty for the minister. Often that pious bow or head-nod comes across like an attempt to head-butt Jesus!
Second, one may receive the Lord on the tongue, as is still the first and best way to be fed the Bread of Life. Some have asserted that this is less safe and hygienic, which is simply bilgewater. Do it right --open wide, look up, extend tongue, and hold still -- and there is no risk of unhygienic contact. Teeth-grabbing and lip-snatching, not to mention mail-slot-mouth and the T-Rex Chomp, are just as wrong now as they always were.
When once again we approach together the Table of the Lord to be fed, everybody will be a little out of practice, and one hopes, a lot more careful about it. This is great opportunity to renew our care and reverence in this vulnerable moment.
So when we resume here, the plan will be a little different, and everyone will be able to arrange themselves without getting too close to one another, kneeling or standing, holding still, and waiting to receive on tongue or hand. The priest will move from communicant to communicant. It will be so obviously practical and natural that it should pose no problems.
Hunger for the Eucharist is a gift from God, and this year it unites so many Catholics with our young ones eager to receive the Lord. Most of their friends and families are in the same boat, as so many have gone so long without Holy Communion.
Talk with the kids about your desire to receive the Lord. We are so accustomed to the instant-availability our commerce provides, we have forgotten how to wait. There is grace even in the waiting, and in the hungering. Focus on it, and find more reason to be grateful.
The Eucharistic Lord is unrelenting: So shall my Word be that goes forth from my mouth; my Word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
The Word become flesh, Our Lord Jesus Christ, desires communion with us even more than our Firsties desire Communion with Him. He shall achieve the end for which He has been sent, and it shall be glorious. It’s His personal, top-of-the-line, all-out, no-exceptions favorite. See you there!