Receiving the Holy Mystery

The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’
Luke 10:17-24

As soon as our first daughter was old enough to ingest solid food we began allowing her to receive Communion (and her sisters as they came along).  A wafer, dipped ever so lightly into the chalice, and she was participating in the Eucharist.  She does not remember a time that she has not been able to participate in that weekly community meal at the altar.  I once heard someone make the charge that small children were too young to “fully understand” what was happening at the Eucharist and should not be permitted to receive until they could “understand it”.

I am not sure that, at forty-nine, I “fully understand” all that happens at the Eucharist!  I have been well educated and formed but it is a Holy Mystery and I am quite sure that the moment I think I “understand” it, I am limiting both the love and the capacity of the Divine.  Besides, my husband and I feel strongly that it is better for our children to be invited to the Table instead of excluding them because they don’t know all the etiquette.  At the Table is where one learns.

When our oldest was about two years old we began to notice something about the way she received a toy, or a cookie or anything handed to her.  She would place her little hands together, as she did to receive the bread at the altar rail each Sunday morning.  Everything she received during the week she received in the same way she engaged that Holy Mystery at church.  Open, trusting, grateful and willing.

As I watched this happen as a practice, it made me wonder what my week might be like if I too received everything I was handed in the same way I received the bread and the wine.  Open, trusting, grateful and willing….the goodies and the mess.  What might happen if I, like my toddler, “lived the Eucharist” the other six days of the week.  If everything I was handed… every situation, every relationship, every mundane task was a gift that God was handing to me and a reminder that I was “sent out to do the work I was given us to do, to love and serve”.

“At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spiritand said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

My daughter, “too young to understand”, had in turn helped me to understand a call to Eucharistic living that all my well intentioned education and formal formation had not.  Simply and repeatedly, right in the palm of her little hand.

– Remember a time when you received Communion that was especially meaningful to you.  What images, smells, sensations and emotions come to your awareness as you recall this experience.

– How do you live “Eucharistically” during your daily life?

– Consider three ways you might carry the prayers, presence and practices of receiving Communion on Sunday into your everyday life.

-Susan McDonald


7 thoughts on “Receiving the Holy Mystery

  1. Millie

    I am so deeply appreciative of 50 Days of Fabulous. Each meditation, including this one, has touched me. They have inspired me, enlightened me, brought tears to my eyes, allowed me to play and pray and wonder! I love the opportunity to read, reflect and respond. What a blessed way to start each of these 50 days of Easter. I wish more folks had engaged in dialog and hope the lack of discussion won’t be a deterrent for future similar offerings. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the writers and sponsors! I will miss you on the 51st day.

    1. Peg S.

      I agree with you, Millie. I hope 50 Days returns next year, and that more people discover and discuss its wonderful offerings.

  2. David Clothier

    At the age of 62, I can well remember the time when only the confirmed could receive. The changes that came about in the 1970s that allowed all baptized to receive (whether Episcopalian or not, whether “old enough” or not) seem to be much closer to the invitation that Jesus gave his followers at supper so many years ago. I also agree that we can never truly know what it is we receive except that it is a gift from God. And I was raised to always accept gifts with thanksgiving, not with questions. With that, I will add my thanks to you, Laurie, for this wonderful gift.

  3. Laura

    I remember when my very young daughter, not a babe in arms, received her first Communion. Somehow the wafer landed on the floor. I think she might have spit it out, I’m not sure. I was mortified.
    That might have been too young.

  4. Betsy Esch

    Thank you, Susan – I will strive to be open, trusting, grateful and willing with what comes my way each day.

  5. Marion

    Thank you. That was a beautiful reflection. I have always thought that withholding the meal at the Table of the Lord was like withholding daily food. No one expects a child, or anyone else for that matter, to understand the beneficial effects of food on the body or the mechanics of digestion before providing life sustaining food. Why then should we expect understanding before receiving life sustaining holy food?

    1. Katrina

      I had that same exact epiphany, Marion, when I was struggling with my reluctance to embrace the idea of young children receiving. We don’t know how “IT” works; we just know that “IT” does. Praise God for that.

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