If you have a cute little seven or eight year-old in your life that is about to don a beautiful white dress or “big guy” suit and make their First Holy Communion – lucky you! This is an opportunity to walk with them as they receive their second sacrament of initiation into the Catholic Church. While Baptism and Confirmation, the two other sacraments of initiation, are once-in-a-lifetime events, receiving the Holy Eucharist is a sacrament that we can (and should) receive as often as possible.
This is a great cause for celebration, but the focus should always be on the sacrament and the significance of the little ones joining the table of the Lord. Much like the day a child moves from the “kids table” to the “grown-up table,” they now are able to share in the miracle of the Eucharist and participate at a new level in their Catholic faith.
In fact, a big family meal is the perfect way to celebrate the occasion as the Eucharist was given to us at Jesus’ final meal with his closest friends. First communion is a wonderful time to remind the whole family how important the gift of his flesh and blood is to our daily lives.
Fr. Troy Schneider, Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Cathedral, draws a parallel between Mass as and the Jewish Meal Prayer (Shabbat).
Jewish Shabbat Meal Blessing:
Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe who finding favor with us, sanctified us with mitzvoth. In love and favor, you made the holy Shabbat our heritage as a reminder of the work of Creation.
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.
According to Fr. Schneider, “Our Catholic Mass and is deeply rooted in both the Jewish Shabbat and the Seder or Passover meal. For us, the Mass is both the meal and the sacrifice in remembrance of the gift of God’s son.” We trace our roots and our liturgy right back to the same practices as Jesus. A meal prayer and sacrifice is central to both traditions.
There is nothing like “breaking bread” to bring people together. Passover is the great unifying observance and celebration for Jewish people around the world. The Mass and especially the Eucharist is the great unifier of Catholics into physical union with the body of Christ. In that moment we are all one body, one spirit.
According to Katie Dawson, Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese, “We stress the idea that children are meeting Jesus in the Eucharist, so anything the family can do to reinforce that concept in children is good.”
The Mass, like a family meal, begins with a greeting and then a sharing of the things that are on our mind. A family might talk about daily events, at Mass we confess and ask each other to pray for us. As the meal is set before us, we give thanks and share the food.
One of the most frequent questions Fr. Schneider is asked by children before they make their first communion is “what does Jesus taste like?” As we all know, the answer is He tastes like bread. “But I also tell them it is more important to go by what your heart tells you than your taste buds.”