These were the words that came to mind as my seven year-old stepped from around the corner wearing her pristine white Communion dress.
Holy and beautiful.
But how could it be?
How could it be that this little girl – my baby Vivian – could be old enough to receive her first Holy Communion? In the blink of an eye, my mind flashed to that baby in the crib with a pacifier, not only in her mouth, but back-ups clutched in her small fists and even between her toes. I see her little legs furiously pumping up and down on a big wheel roaring across our kitchen floor. The clink of delicate tea cups offering cheers, the snapping in half of my thirty year-old Darth Vader figure (in under an hour of play, I might add), and the whiz of footballs, baseballs and frisbees that reach their target more surely with each throw and each passing day. I see the determined girl who, now, ruthlessly beats me at rummy (while smiling, of course), yet saves puzzle pieces for me to put in to the thousand piece jigsaw (because she feels bad that I haven’t found one for a while). And I recall the girl who always – always – wants to dance with me (the jitterbug, specifically) as the winsome song is played during the rolling credits at the end of movie night. I feel the heaviness of her sleep as she sits with me for those few fleeting moments upon waking her in the morning and I see the beauty of her sleep return as at evening’s end she rolls next to me in bed, smiles with half-closed eyes and sweetly says, “Love you, Daddy.”
My baby is about to have her First Communion.
But does she know it? Does she sense what this all means? After eagerly tackling (without much prompting) her First Holy Communion workbook, after classroom Q & A with the priest in her Catholic school, after a half-day’s retreat with stations exploring the flow and import of the coming day, does she comprehend that exquisite gift of sacrifice and love and grace and beauty?
And then, I think, “Do I?”
New friends of ours relayed a story about their wonderful son with special needs and his journey towards First Communion. As I recall them telling it, they approached their priest earnestly asking how they could truly help their son grapple with the deep mystery and transcendent solemnity of the Eucharist he was about to take. Given some of his struggles, they asked (in effect), “How can he better understand the Eucharist in the way that we understand it?” Their priest, with warmth and kindness, replied that even our “adult understanding” of the Eucharist is infinitely closer to your son’s than it is to God’s. That is how extraordinary, how mysterious, how glorious this encounter with Christ truly is. It truly is…ineffable.
And so, as we sit in our pew this Saturday, with its end adorned by a homemade banner with glued-on cloth chalice, host, dove, cross and letters spelling Vivian, my little girl will walk before us and for the first time unfold her arms from her chest, bow and receive the Blessed Body and the Precious Blood. God’s grace will shine on her in a way that will be indescribable. But it will shine brilliantly nonetheless.
I will be emotional and at a loss for words (the latter, quite uncommon for me). For, similar to my daughter Annabel’s First Holy Communion, the most important thing in my life will fully encounter the most important thing in my life.
What can one say?
It is something holy and beautiful.
(To all parents and First Communicants, warm blessings and congratulations.)
Photo Credit: Pixabay
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