He knelt, having just received his First Holy Communion. For how long did he kneel? I am not sure, but I imagine the teacher told the boys and girls that they should kneel when they returned to their seats, having said “Amen” to the Body of Christ.
When he felt an appropriate length of time had been spent on his knees in prayer, he sat up, leaned towards his mother, and whispered: “I’m not as full as I thought I’d be.”
I imagine his mother smiled, maybe not fully sure how to respond, but she shared the story with me afterwards. That was close on 30 years ago. I wonder where the boy is now. I hope the man in him remembers that day and, even more so, I hope that the Lord has filled his life with many blessings.
It is easy to see where that feeling of being ‘filled’ had its origins. For months, the boy heard about receiving the ‘Body of Christ’ and we know bodies to be heavy. The boy imagined this body overpowering him, filling him to a point where there was room for no more. He had not fully grasped the thinness of the wafer, the ease with which Christ wishes to enter our lives in his ever-gentle way. Christ, far from wanting to weigh us down, wants to liberate us, energise us, accompany us, strengthen us…nourish us.
The Eucharist remains central to our Faith journey. In the current and ongoing reality that is Covid-19, we are asked to approach and receive the Eucharist in a specified way, namely in the hand. For a considerable number of people this is the norm but for others it is a new ask.
The ‘Amen’ remains the key word, the reception of the gift our fullest calling. If the protection, health and wellbeing of the Body of Christ – the members of his Church, the whole of humanity are in someway helped through sharing God’s greatest gift, hand to hand, I believe it to be a choice we make.
We draw with the stronger hand, the Eucharist to ourselves that we be truly ‘filled’”
I heard a meaningful explanation one time around the reception of Holy Communion in the hand. It spoke of receiving our King through the gesture of preparing a ‘throne’ with our hand, a throne of welcome and reverence.
Quite often, if right-handed, we place our left hand on top of the right hand or vice versa. The symbolism of this was linked with receiving Christ into what might be considered our weaker hand and asking his blessing on our weakness – that we be strengthened. Then, from that weakness, freshly blessed by God’s presence, we draw with the stronger hand, the Eucharist to ourselves that we be truly ‘filled’ with his presence. I like this explanation.
This weekend, in my own parish, I will celebrate First Holy Communion with 17 children. Our celebration will be in a setting I could never have imagined, with just the children and their parents present.
There will be no readings, little music and no real involvement by the children in prayers, procession or reflection.
There will not be any party or cake in the local community centre but the essential will remain. I will stand before each one of the 17 and say those precious and sacred words: “The Body of Christ.” Each will receive the Host and take it to the soul as, one by one, they answer: “Amen!”
May they be as full as he wants and needs them to be.