As was mentioned in last week’s bulletin, some of our young people will be receiving their First Communion this weekend. It is a great time for not only celebration, but also for all of us to reflect on what Holy Communion means for us in our faith.
First, we make a distinction in our faith between the terms “Eucharist” and “Communion.” When the Church uses the term “Eucharist,” the first meaning of the word is the entire celebration of the mass. This might surprise people because we often use the term “Eucharist” to refer to the consecrated host, however, the first meaning of the term Eucharist is the entire celebration of the mass from the opening hymn to the proclamation to “Go in peace.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Eucharistic celebration always includes: the proclamation of the Word of God; thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits, above all the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine; and participation in the liturgical banquet by receiving the Lord's body and blood. These elements constitute one single act of worship.” (CCC 1408).
The term “Communion” or “Holy Communion” refers to the part of the Eucharist where Catholics, who are properly prepared, come forward to receive communion. The term “communion” is an interesting phrase. When we break down the term “communion” we conjoin two words “union” and the prefix “com.” The term “union” is rather obvious; it is the act of joining together. The prefix “com” means “with.” So, when we put the two together, we see that communion literally means “joining with.”
In our Catholic faith, we recognize that when one comes forward to receive Holy Communion, there is a “joining with” that occurs. In fact, there are two “joining with” events that occur. First, when we receive Communion, there is a joining with our Lord and God. The consecrated host may appear to be bread, however we understand from the words of our Lord at the Last Supper that it is not merely bread, but rather it is the real presence of Jesus Christ. So when we receive Holy Communion, we are uniting ourselves to the very person of Jesus Christ. It is very important that we see with the eyes of our hearts that this is the God who died for us and rose from the dead for us.
The second “joining with” that occurs when we receive Holy Communion is that we are joined with all the other people who receive communion. We are one Church in the Body of Christ, and thus, when we receive communion, we become united with all the members of that Body, both those who are on earth now as well as those who have gone before us and are in heaven: all of our loved ones who are in heaven and the Saints. So we must see that intimate connection as well.
This weekend, please pray for those young people who are receiving Communion for the first time at the Eucharist. Let us pray for our parish and the whole world, that we might all grow in our appreciation of the great gift that it is to receive Holy Communion.