I don’t remember much about my First Communion. When I was young, we used to receive it at the age of seven, which meant we didn’t really get what it was all about.I remember that I had a nice white dress, with a big buckram skirt underneath to hold it all out, and white shoes, a little tiara and a candle. And that I did one of the readings.
I remember irrelevant things – like how one of my fellow communicants came to church in a white horse carriage – with more clarity than the fact that it was the first time I received Christ.
Which is why these events – First Communions, navjots and the equivalent – are so important. For adults. They are – like birthdays and much-maligned marketing-driven days like Mothers’ Day and Valentine’s Day – days of remembrance.
I remember being in tears through much of Zach’s First Communion; I was so overwhelmed by the implied responsibility of guiding a child towards a path that would be his conscience through life. If his Baptism went by in a post-natal depression-induced haze, his First Communion was truly my awakening to the call of the religion we had inducted him into.
Which brings me to the point: our faith – whichever it is – is only as static as we make it.
At my niece Anoushka’s First Communion last Sunday, I wished I were the one receiving the sacrament again. It was at St Peter’s in Bandra; the church was bright with morning light and contemporary Christmas decorations. But the true blazing illumination came from the priest who was the main celebrant: Fr Errol. He made it a First Communion like no other I have been at before. He fairly danced between the 34 communicants, asking questions, making points, giving out sweets – making every answer relevant, getting each of the children bouncing up in their seat to be heard.
He made three points relevant to the day and the occasion – he reiterated them thrice through the Mass. It was the Feast of the Epiphany – commemorating the three wise men who followed the star, knelt in adoration to the Baby Jesus, offered gold, frankincense and myrrh, and returned to their countries a different way – after being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, who had plans to kill the child.
Fr Elroy’s takeaway for each child:Jesus is now the star of your life.
You offer yourself to Him.
And from today, you walk a different path.
Relevant, with appropriate changes, for any faith, any religion.
Most of us need reminders of our mortality and the presence of something far greater than us.
Many of those reminders come in childhood ceremonies.
Ironically, it is only as adults that we realise their true value.
MAIN PHOTOGRAPH: ANGELA WAYE\ 123RF