This month we’ll be starting our new First Communion sessions.
Anyone who is 7 years Ê can come along if they feel (with the support of parents) that they would like to start receiving Holy Communion.
Last year the Bishops of The Church in Wales issued a letter stating that the only thing someone needed to receive Holy Communion was Baptism – so long as someone, of any age, was baptised, then they could come to the altar and receive the Sacraments.
Along with other neighbouring parishes, we understand that teaching to mean that children from Year 2 in Primary School are perfectly capable of understanding what is happening when we hold out our hands to receive the body and blood of Christ.
At its most basic level, when we come to the Altar, we are meeting with Jesus in the bread and the wine.
In Church after we share the peace, we take bread and wine to the Altar. The priest then says a prayer over the gifts of bread and wine, asking the Holy Spirit to change them and make them Holy. And because He loves us, that is what the Holy Spirit does.
‘Send your Holy Spirit on these gifts of Bread and wine, that they may be to us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ’. (The Eucharistic Prayer
It’s why, when you come to the altar, the priest does not say to you, ‘ a piece of bread’ but, ‘the body of Christ’. It’s why the person bringing the chalice to you does not say, ‘a sip of wine’ but, ‘the blood of Christ’.
To say, ‘the body of Christ’ and ‘the blood of Christ’ means ‘the Life of Christ’.
When we receive the food of Holy Communion, Jesus is using this bread and wine to give you His own life. It is a meeting with Him, an encounter, a Holy Communion, with Him; Jesus.
A child can understand this.
But even if a child, or an adult, for whatever reason, could not understand this, that child or adult would not be barred from receiving Holy Communion. I received the Life of Christ when I was baptised as a baby. Did I understand that? No. But God gave me that Life, anyway.
We want the children who come along to these sessions to catch something of the wonder, love and mystery of Holy Communion. We want that for their parents too! But we’re not trying to make them pass a spelling or times table test. We want to talk to them about Holy Communion, and learn with them, because we want them to understand how awesome it is to come to the altar and to touch the presence of Jesus, the Bread of Life.
My intuition is that children are better at grasping this truth, and holding on to it, than many adults.
Pray for the children who will be part of our First Communion Group. And show, by your own example, how deep and awesome and important it is to come, Sunday by Sunday, to Jesus, who says, ‘this is my body, this is my blood, take, eat, do this!’