Bread of life

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya - The Freeman

Looking at the family photo of a father, mother, and son, I can feel the excitement of the mother. In our Facebook conversation, Queenie Sanchez-Bronce was worried of the past rainy days and hoping for a fair day for the big event of her son and the rest of the children who would also attend a religious milestone in their lives.           

It was the first Holy Communion of her son. Seeing her face, as she witnessed the first communion, is simply ecstatic. As a mother, I share the same pride and honor considering that it took place during a historic International Eucharistic Congress. It will take several decades and a new generation to experience again this celebration in our very own midst and to be part of the ceremony is memorable to both the children and their parents.

As it is the person's first reception of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in Christian churches, it occurs typically at age seven to twelve when separated from Confirmation, depending on national custom.

Every year, it is generally part of school's calendar of activities, more so in sectarian schools, that children in grade 2, considered in their age of reason, will receive their first Holy Communion.

But prior to this annual ceremony, they are being prepared by the school and by some invited catechists from a nearby parish through some religious education sessions. They are taught about the importance of receiving the Holy Communion. As members of the religious community, prayers are being taught and these prayers will also be part of the actual ceremony. Their parents are likewise being oriented of the whole ceremony. In fact, they must be present during the ceremony. An important part of the preparation before receiving the communion, "the recipient should be without sin and in a state of grace." So as practiced in schools, they conduct the first confession to the children few days before or on the day of the First Holy Communion.

Since it is a ceremony, some details are also being planned. Like for the clothing, it is often white to symbolize purity. Girls often wear fancy dresses and a veil attached to a headdress, as well as white gloves. In other communities, girls commonly wear dresses passed down to them from sisters or mothers, or even simply their school uniforms plus the veiled headdress and gloves. For the boys, they wear the usual white long sleeves and black pants.

First communicants are usually given gifts of a religious nature, such as rosaries or prayer books, in addition to religious statues and icons. Many families also have formal professional photographs taken in addition to many candid snapshots of the day.   

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us "The sacraments of Christian initiation - Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist - lay the foundations of every Christian life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity."

While a child's first Communion is indeed a cause for celebration and should be beautiful and memorable, the true focus of that holy and special day must remain the sacrament itself as the little ones are welcomed to the table of the Lord. 

To us parents, we see the ceremony as a response to the Lord's invitation for our children.  They are now initiated into the Eucharistic community, which has the honor and privilege of celebrating the sacrifice of the Lord and our subsequent salvation, including the intimate experience of Christ through the reception of His body and blood.

It is the bread of life they received that will steer them in their journey to becoming responsible religious individuals. We will also provide them with our parental guidance in their quest for righteousness. The entire community likewise plays the added nourishing role. As we sow the seeds of religiosity in them, we hope to see a God-fearing generation in the near future.

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