Wednesday, May 27, 2015

First Communion at St. Marks

By: Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy, DC

It is the season of first holy communions and Pentecost.  I recall a first holy communion day at St Mark’s Church in El Paso, Texas. I was sent there for six weeks so that I could learn Immigration asylum law at Las Americas Legal Assistance clinic.  Anyway, on this Sunday of First Communions, the plaza outside the church swelled with proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of the neighbor you once met.   Interspersed amongst them were the communicants, decked out in flowing white dresses and satin suits.   The girls posed sweetly for pictures with their friends while the boys ran and played as if they were on a football field. There was an excitement in the air and I wondered if they understood what was about to happen to them.   I wondered if any second grader could know.  In that same second, I wondered how many adults really appreciate reception of the Real Presence.  

As always, as I entered the church, I looked for my Jesus on the cross.  I love to stare at Jesus on the cross because I  love Him and the crucifix always heats up that love within me.  On that day, it stirred me to such a place that I could not help but swoon in the feeling for a bit.  I was held still in the feeling that you get when you can almost touch Him. Ya know how it is: you are locked into this fascinating intangible possibility, your senses are hyper alert and your chest fells like a balloon that is about to burst... but you know it won't.  Still, it is so wonderful that, in the back of your mind, you know it cannot last here on earth.  It is one of those Holy Spirit enabled glimpses of the Reign of God.   
As my heart filled with the joy of being with Him, my vision became both clearer and broader at the same time.  I gazed upon the crucifix and I noticed that there was an orange circular work of stained glass in the front wall, angled just a few feet above and behind Jesus.  In the center of the circle was a white dove whose open wings tapered into loose swirls, resembling white party streamers.  It appears as if the Holy Spirit is flying over Jesus, protecting Him and testifying to Him. My eyes continued to drift upward following a ray of light.    I saw that, just above this dove, is a glass ceiling.  At high noon, the blazing Texas sun shines directly into the church.  It reflected through the Spirit dove, onto Jesus and then radiated from Jesus upon the children who were about to receive our Lord for the first time.   If cinematography is important for movies, the guy who designed this church deserves some kind of holy Academy Award.  It was breathtaking! Amid this Pentecostal backdrop, these children would step up, recognize the body of Christ and accept responsibility for becoming It.  They would say Amen, so be it.   And they were doing this in absolute joy and excitement.

As the children marched up the center aisle to receive communion, I thought of that passage where Jesus is in the midst of the crowds.  The children want to come to Him but the adults try to stop them.  Jesus intervenes and tells them to let the kiddos come to Him.  Jesus loves children and we are to have the faith of a child.  My eyes filled and stung with tears for I knew Jesus was very happy at this exuberant procession toward communion with Him.  I just knew it.

In this season of Pentecost, it occurs to me that we must always receive our Lord amidst a Pentecostal backdrop in order to embrace the whole Jesus experience.  These kids may or may not have understood the theology, but they got the right idea.  Come to Me and  come to Me full of joy and expectation, for I am a nearby God who loves you.   They were open to the Spirit as well as His real Presence.  And like fertile ground, they held out their little hands and said Yes, grow in me.  These kids and families remind me that my daily communion with Jesus is a celebration that should be met with joy and expectant hope. I want to bask in the joyful light of the Spirit as I embrace Who I am called to be.  

I believe genuine acceptance of the Spirit and holy communion should ignite a change of behavior.  Each time I proceed in formation to receive Him, I am called to allow Him to fill and envelope me. When I say Amen, I say “Yes, I want to become a part of You who I love so dearly”. I say, “Yes, I want to be a part of Your community of Light.”  “And yes, I want to help bring about the Kingdom of God.”   

I pray to the Holy Spirit to keep me present to His Presence.

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