Wedding Feast: An opportunity missed

I slept in recently on a Sunday, not too late, but late enough to have to go to a parish other than my own. My wife and I arrived a few minutes late, and to make matters worse, there wasn't a parking spot in sight.

The parking dilemma has happened before (not having been late), and it was because that Sunday was the "Children's Mass." So naturally I was cursing the concept of a "so-called-Children's Mass" on my way in asking, "Why isn't every Mass a Children's Mass? Why isn't every Mass an 'Everybody Mass'!?"

This is one of those moments when you feel like slapping yourself in the face: I walked in at the start of the Gloria and could not find a single seat open. I was not too worried about finding a seat since I had brought my pregnant wife with me, and I knew there had to be at least one gentleman in the place who would make some room for us. But as we were scanning for seats, I noticed two things. First, everyone was wearing there Sunday's best, which is sadly unusual. Secondly, there were a lot of children in the first set of pews wearing little suits and white dresses. *Slap* First Communions! "I'm sorry, Lord, I take it all back."

My frustration turned to joy almost immediately; there are few things as beautiful as witnessing a First Communion. The Collect was said, and the readings were read. We sat knowing what the homily would be about, namely, First Communion.

Fr. Bob (not his real name), is one of those priests who sincerely loves God and His Church, but is not the most 'liturgically' or 'theologically minded.' After finishing the Gospel, he kissed it set it down, and walked down into the nave. Pacing back and forth he asked the children, "Why are you all dressed up?"

To which one replied, "We're getting married."

A roar of laughter erupted and Father said, "I hope there's an equal number of boys and girls." He then proceeded to correct the child and explain that they were receiving the Eucharist for the first time. And what he said was very encouraging and good.

I feel, however, that missed an opportunity. That whole parish was rocking with laughter to the embarrassment of one child. Here was the perfect opportunity to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. In the midst of the laughter he could have said, "In a way, that's true."

Certainly not every child was preparing to marry another child, but in that moment, they were preparing to enter into a union of one body with Christ, which is itself very much like the union of a husband and wife.

Stop and think for a bit, if you do not already know what I am talking about. In the Mass the priest repeats the words of St. John the Baptist saying, "Behold Him, who takes away the sins of the world" followed by "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb." This second text is an allusion to Rev. 19:9 which says, "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb."

There is a marriage taking place between the Lamb and His bride, the Church, who we traditionally call the Bride of Christ. We tend to forget this aspect of Communion, because we no longer follow the traditional order of the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism first, Confirmation second, then Eucharist last—with children who have received infant Baptism.

The difficulty is that Communion is not the marriage itself, but rather the consummation of the marriage that takes place in Confirmation. The analogy is that we enter into a solemn relationship, much like betrothal, in our Baptism. We swear our fidelity to our beloved. In Confirmation, we perfect that promise made in our Baptism and receive the necessary graces to carry out the duties of our perfected relationship. In this way, Confirmation is more like the rite of Matrimony. Furthermore, Communion is the full expression of that love between us and Christ. It is an expression of fecund self-giving. It is deeply intimate and is more like the consummation of marriage. It can and should be repeated as an expression of love that is life-giving. Baptism and Confirmation, much like betrothal and the marriage rite, cannot be repeated because they carry with them a permanence, a solemn promise.

Now, obviously not all of this can be explained in depth to a seven-year-old, who would lack the comprehension of the full sense of the analogy, but nevertheless, it ought to be explained in part that we unite ourselves to Christ by this Sacrament and in doing so we express our mutual love for each other.

I should note that the reception of Confirmation is not restricted to those who have received their First Communion. Archbishop Aquila, while serving as the Bishop of Fargo, re-established the order in that diocese.

No comments:

Post a Comment