Misty-eyed, I help my daughter into her white dress and sparkly shoes. Her hair and nails are freshly done, waiting for her veil. The cake and flowers are ready for a celebration. Nope, it is not a wedding. At an age when some of my friends are starting to see their daughters down the aisle for the sacrament of marriage, we are getting ready for the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is no less a life-changing event, IMHO (also learned from my 8-year old).
I didn’t get to wear white on my big day. No, I wasn’t an especially bad little kid. My mom had little interest in shopping and I got to re-wear my blue, high-necked flower girl gown from Cousin Carol’s wedding. I made my First Holy Communion a year early, with my older brother, in a private ceremony, not with my class. I would have suspected that the reason was my mom didn’t want to go through sacrament prep twice, but, it was the seventies and there wasn’t really any sacrament prep. I am guessing one party with my relatives was enough for her that year for some reason.
And, I hated my veil. My brother’s godmother, Paulette, was a French artist (complete with poodle!) and she offered to create a custom masterpiece for me. I remember one afternoon of being buffeted repeatedly in the face with wads of tulle, only to have the result be an itchy, sculptural monolith protruding from the side of my head like something worthy of the Pompidou Center. I wanted to cry. Come to think of it, I think that experience put me off veils altogether, as I didn’t wear one at my wedding(s).
We had none of that for Ash. She got to wear a white dress we BOTH agreed on (my job for the year is done), she wore the veil and tiara she picked out, and she even managed to get the head of religious education to approve her peep-toe, crystal-encrusted evening pumps for the event. Thanks to her inquiry, she was selected to bring the gifts down the aisle at the Mass. God likes a little bling. When she was told she would carry in the wine, she gleefully exclaimed, “My mom will be so happy!” Cheers. She even asked that her cake be accented with a strip of fondant in leopard print, which appears to be a recurring theme for women in this family. It is important to me that we get this right for her. She will be no less stylish in the process than I was, although perhaps a little less avant-garde.
We had a lot going on that threatened our celebration: a car accident last week, husband in the hospital this week, etc. Having you and your family here for the big day was even more important now, as I had no relatives from my side of the family attending, and Ted was out of commission. I needed Team Anne. It put into perspective what a distraction debate about the Eucharist can be. We spend a lot of time trying to define the Body of Christ and the Real Presence of Christ, arguing about transubstantiation with our Protestant friends, and hearing all the jokes about eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood. (If I hear the words “zombie apocalypse” one more time, I might pass out.) We lose sight of the beautiful truth and simplicity of the event: unity with Jesus. When we take communion, we are taking in Christ. What better way to experience His body than to have friends and extended family support and sustain us through a tough situation? I was particularly touched that many of our First Communion partygoers headed out to the hospital on the way back home. That is the body of Christ in action.
As any catechist worth his or her salt knows, “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving.” While we all experienced the joy of Ashby’s First Communion, I stood in the glorious May weather completely immersed in my own personal Thanksgiving for everyone who stood at my side this weekend or sent me an encouraging word. Like the Eucharist, that support sustained me. I have no doubts about the Real Presence of Christ in us. I have seen it firsthand. Best. Communion. Ever.