Saturday, July 17, 2010

Invited to Partake

My family will be attending Divine Liturgy tomorrow at our local Byzantine Catholic Church. To clarify possible confusion, the Byzantine Church is one with the Universal Catholic Church and in unity with our Holy Father the Pope, yet the differences are many. (Here is the link to Fr. Kelber's recent article about some of those differences, and my own experience here.)

One of those major differences is that infants are baptized, confirmed, and communicated at birth. My husband, as I've mentioned before, received all three Sacraments of Initiation during that first month of life, and as he grew up alongside his fellow Catholic friends, he did not follow the same calendar for First Holy Communion and Confirmation.

But only one of our children is receiving Holy Communion at this time. The younger three are too young according to western tradition, and my oldest is in the process of conversion and will probably be received into the Church next Easter.

So what do we do tomorrow at the Divine Liturgy? Do they receive a blessing? Do they stay in their seats? I tried to reach the priest to no avail, so I emailed my friend instead, a lifelong Byzantine, who enthusiastically responded that they can receive Communion if they've been baptized. We're Catholic, after all.
We have opted not to take her up on the invitation~~first of all, the Grandparents would kill me if they weren't here! Secondly, the baptized six-year-olds are old enough to know that they haven't formally prepared for this. Not quite at the "age of reason," they still have formidable powers of understanding and awareness and witnessed their older brother go through a time of preparation last year. Thirdly, I'd still feel more comfortable talking with a priest about it first, no offense to my friend.

But this has me thinking about east versus west. When I first found out that my eight year old would be receiving Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation all at the same time at that young age, I felt a wave of disappointment wash over me. I immediately started to pray about it, because I try to do that before wallowing in my emotions too long. I had always heard from my husband about how he was different than the other kids because of his early reception of the Sacraments. I didn't want my son to be different too.

Then God said something exceedingly brilliant as always:

"It is good to receive the Sacraments."


"Well, yes. It is good." Hard to argue with that.

I also had an awareness of how much spiritual protection this had afforded my husband throughout the years of his upbringing, during which he experienced several near-deaths and managed to survive them all.

Secondly, if we believe what we say, which is that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and if we baptize our children into our faith (I've written about infant baptism here), it strikes me as odd (or maybe somewhat arbitrary) that we don't fully initiate them into the faith as infants. We are not worthy to receive Christ at ANY point in our fallen state...only by His grace do we have that immeasurable blessing to stand in His presence and receive His Body and Blood. Only by receiving the Sacraments do we grow in that grace, so why deny our children the reality of these Sacraments? The Sacraments don't rely on our own will in order to "work," be valid, or have effect.

I have so longed for my oldest to at least be baptized. How can he grow in his spiritual understanding of the Lord without that basic step? Once again, the Lord corrects me...He IS preparing my son, He has called Him to His Church and that's happening even's that mystery that, while we choose, we are also called. We feel so in charge of our faith life, and yet God is the one who initiates that intimacy with us. That was the other message He got across back when I was first praying about this. Even though it seems routine that children receive Sacraments at a certain age, it very much is in His hands...He is forming each one.

There is no "routine" in God.

Photo by Brian Beckwith

1 comment:

Joe (Defend Us In Battle) said...

Solid Solid post... I have made a lot of arguments in the past about the ages of our Sacraments of Initiation.

There is no cohesion between the ages, the preparation and the typical catechesis that is given...

You are so awesome in taking your kids to experience this. I also think you are going about it in an awesome way!

Keep up the good work!