“Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
Who remembers their first communion? Mine remains a very vivid memory for several reasons. The first was the suit (dark blue), shirt (white), bow tie (white), silk buttionier, new prayerbook, rosary, lapel pin. In Buffalo you went to the old Polish neighborhood to Spolka Clothing on Broadway to get your first communion clothes. Since first communion was in May, it was still pretty cold the day we went shopping. The changing rooms at the back of Spolka were freezing. Do I have to? Yes. Ok mom. A few days later, having been chilled to the bone, I was sick.
There was class of course, learning what happens in Holy Mass, what we were going to receive. It was amazing, here we are, a group of seven- and eight-year-olds, and Jesus was coming into our hearts. We were going to receive Jesus, not some token, not some plain old bread, but Jesus in all His reality, body, blood, soul, divinity.
The preparation went on. Next on the list, my hair. We had to train the part and hold that cowlick down. Brylcream was your friend. It took weeks of combing and gluing to make it cooperate.
The day arrived. My sister in white with a blue and gold cape. Those of us with younger sisters had them there as our ‘angels.’
The angels processed into church first, followed by all of us. Hair in place and walking and standing straight as a board with hands perfectly folded on that bright sunny morning. We genuflected and knelt in perfect unison. Holy Mass proceeded and the precious moment came, we were going up row-by-row to kneel at the altar rail and receive Jesus. I was so happy.
As we left church the heavens opened up and it poured. Rushed to the car, we were off to the banquet, in the Knights Hall, that my family held just for me, the guest of honor. A feast after the great eternal feast I could now participate in anytime I was spiritually prepared.
I share all this not just for the sake of reminiscence, but rather as reminder of the importance of what happens at Holy Mass, how the lessons learned though all the care in preparation we took inform us today. Each occasion to receive is equally important, equally precious. It is an equal participation in the great eternal feast, the heavenly banquet. We are equally privileged and also obligated to come forth prepared.
This special day in the Church year calls us to re-recognize the majesty of what we receive, to remember our first reception of Jesus, coming into our hearts and lives, and to ensure each encounter with Jesus’ body and blood is met with the same importance. Recognizing all this, let us rejoice for Jesus’ banquet is ever prepared for us and we share in the eternal feast.