U: The Unknown
The rites and rituals of religion work in strange and fascinating ways. As my 7-yr-old, Ava, received the sacrament of First Communion today, we experienced the pomp and circumstance of the whole affair. From the white dresses and pinstriped suits to veils and crosses and turning all eyes of the congregation on them, every one of these children felt something special was about to happen.
Their group of ten got the red carpet treatment in their preparation for this day and during the day itself. The children sat nearest the center aisle with their family filling the pew beside them. The priest came nearer to them for the homily and delivered it in their language, translating “go forth with grace” to something more akin to “be nice to people in school, on the playground and at home.” When they were asked to come in front of the church for a blessing, in ritualistic Catholic form, we all extended our right arm out to hover there for extended prayers.
I remember feeling a little unsure when I first received communion in second grade. Our current church prepared them well – they even got to taste the unconsecrated body and blood prior to the big day, just to alleviate questions and explain how to consume the host and not tip the cup too rapidly and douse your white dress. All actions which would now become weekly rituals for her that symbolize she is more grown-up and responsible for her actions.
I remember her saying to me one afternoon last month, “Things are really getting serious now.” She was referring to her pending first communion, taking on the science fair and graduating from second grade. Silence kind of lingered. There wasn’t sadness or excitement in her voice, rather just a statement.
Today there was supposed to be a statement by her in the form of “Amen,” or I believe, when presented with the host. A confidence, acceptance and conviction needed to be conveyed like we practiced. She bowed, took her correctly positioned right hand out from under her left and reached to move the host into her mouth. Believe me I watched from beside not behind her and I cannot say that I saw her lips move with that phrase. I believe her later when she says she did. She side-stepped to the blood of Christ, still consuming the host. She stood there quite a while, taking her time. I nudged her to give encouragement that this should happen now.
It happened. It’s official. The priest crowned them duchesses and dukes of the church. We gather for a little reception there then head back with family to our house for brunch and celebration. Gifts are first (thank you Apostle Books and Gifts in Minnetonka). She thoughtfully reads each card and considers each gift. Then comes the ritualistic food: ham sandwiches, deviled eggs (by 5-yr-old Calvin), and cake, er, cupcakes (by Sweet Retreat).
During brunch, Ava’s brother, Calvin, who I thought was a bit uninterested all day due to some subtle body language I was picking up on, was paying attention after all. Before anyone knew what he was up to, he grabbed the crystal candy dish filled with jelly beans and preceded to present them to the party guests as the body of Christ. Some devout Catholics in the group were waivering on what to do, but I think the seriousness with which he approached the task ensured their consumption.
After all of the circumstance, for some, there was another ritual – – a Sunday nap. Albeit naps were cut short for Ava’s Spring dance performance. A big day for her no doubt. As we were getting ready to turn in for the night, Ava and I smiled to overhear Calvin in his room to the tune of “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to his People on Earth…,” in his version, “Morning to God in the Highest…” And while we do a lot of questioning of rituals in this household, this song from him sounded so sweet and reminded me that out of ritual comes discovery, comfort and peace.