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Communion is a Mystery

Last Saturday I met with some of our children in a First Communion Class. The class is misnamed; here at St. Thomas’ we practice the Episcopal Church’s instructions which state that everyone who has been baptized into the Christian family is invited to share Holy Communion. In this, the Episcopal Church follows the tradition of the Orthodox Church, who gives communion right after baptism, in the form of a piece of bread soaked in wine, and given to an infant with a spoon.

I have had people ask me why we do this – infants and young children cannot understand Holy Eucharist – they cannot reason. I usually reply, “Do you fully understand Holy Communion?” Communion is a mystery – somehow, some way, we believe that Christ inhabits the earthly items of bread, or wafers, and wine. How does this happen? Can we explain it? I can’t. With the children, we use the tools of metaphor and example, comparing our Holy Communion to a very special dinner that includes lots of traditional foods and a large group of people. We talk to them about caring for one another, and praying together. We do this because no one can explain how Holy Communion works. It is a mystery of faith.

While young children are learning about Holy Communion, our Confirmation class continues. We have eight young people who have been delightful to work with. On March 18, those who choose to will be confirmed by Bishop Chilton Knudsen. Then on April 8, these young men and women will lead the service.

This year, Easter falls on April Fool’s Day. It reminds me of St. Paul’s words about the cross – “…but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom…” On this great day, we welcome retired Bishop John Rabb as our preacher. I look forward to hearing him again. But before that, indeed, the week before, we will live in the darkness of Holy Week, beginning on Palm Sunday (March 25) with the congregational reading of the Passion, and continuing on Maundy Thursday with the last Supper, Good Friday in the crucifixion, and the Easter Vigil, where we experience the light of Christ piercing the darkness in a tangible way. I hope you are able to come to these services that make up the holiest week of the year. Let it be part of your Lenten ritual, to join with others in these events.