Sunday, January 17, 2010

Communion and Confirmation

Today I have been invited for the first communion of my cousin’s son. This is not the first time I attend such a festivity. The significance of celebration of first communion and the meaning behind the Christian sacrament of Communion is buried in the ritualistic rigmarole and has become for many pious Christians an event when the devotee believes that God comes through the miracle of the Eucharist into their very heart from somewhere out there.

Carl Jung, the famous Swiss depth psychologist and son of a Lutheran pastor, wrote two essays on the significance of the Holy Mass which every Catholic must read. He says in these essays that the sequence of the Holy Mass is beautifully organized to evoke a deep mystical participation in the heart of the worshipper. Now I can understand this better than any other time in my life.

When we were young children (50 years ago) we had to fast for twelve hours before the Holy Mass and abstain even from drinking water during the last one hour. This was the physical preparation and cleansing. When we entered the church the light of the candle, the smell of the incense offered and the sounding of bells prepared one’s senses for the holy presence. As soon as the Mass started the act of contrition was said and forgiveness was sought for all the sins of commission and omission. This was to cleanse our human and ego-centred consciousness, a process of emptying one self of the worldly or human attachments. The scriptures are then read and a small message given by the celebrant to prepare the mind and the intellect for the impending union. In the offertory the human nature, symbolized by the bread and wine, is offered and the priest offers these with the invocation for the divine to accept these offerings. The sacrament of the Eucharist is the symbol of the divine accepting the human offering through an act of transubstantiation. Before we approach the divine for its presence to take residence in our nature, peace is invoked among all present. This peace is to signify the absence of conflict in our perception of all humanity as an equal creation of the divine. The communion symbolizes the act of the divine transforming the human through a process of inner transformation; a reminder that our true nature is divine. Then the mass comes to an end with the message to ‘go forth’ in our divine nature.

This is the beauty of this ritual and the casual way in which it is approached today on a daily or weekly basis is appalling. If there is no inner transformation then the whole ritual is a farce and devoid of any significance.

I have addressed children who have received first communion and I tell them that when they receive first communion it is like someone who has built a new house and has opened the windows for the first time to let in the life giving sun’s rays to enter the house. You not only open one window but you also open a window in the opposite direction so that there is cross ventilation and the air freely moves to energise the inner chambers of the house. The sun’s rays and the refreshing air symbolize the presence of the life giving element of Christ and the sustaining Spirit of the Holy Spirit. In the olden times first Communion and the sacrament of confirmation were given on the same day. This has a deep significance as the divine transformation of the human can not be complete without the sustaining wisdom to comprehend this reality through the Holy Spirit. It is the responsibility of the parents and god-parents, who are supposed to be the wisdom parents, to educate the children of this great mystical participation.

This is my message to all who approach their first communion and confirmation and to all who participate in the Holy Mass.

Love to you all


  1. The process of preparation for first communion has undergone plenty of changes.
    There was a time when young children were asked to swallow thin slices of banana stem as pre traing to for the physical act of receiving first communion.Even newspaper was cut into the round shape for this practice! The concept was that you should never bite the host lest it will pain and bleed Jesus who is present in the communion! There were times while receiving the communion when the hoen the host would stick itself on the upper lobe of the mouth!
    With so much of festivities going around the house and the relatives coming home with goodies it was indeed a big sacrifice on that morning not to touch any of those snacks!
    Confession was another effort where you had to gather sins done and not done to impress the priest with a good set of sins!The sisters preparing us would make sure that you confess properly. If some one had the audacity to tell that there was no big sin then she would comment that she would take off the statue of one of the saints from the church and instead keep the person there!
    But there was one priest in Calcutta who refused to listen to confesstion of 10 young children who were about to receive first communion the next day! "Don't unnecessarily make them confess their imagined sins! As it is they are innocent. And their sharing the goodness of Jesus does not require this exercise." he declared. And one of those lucky children was my daughter!

    The transformatiin of self is more imporatant than anything else and you have beautifully brought it out in this article!

  2. In today's scenario, the spiritual significance of the act of receiving the holy communion for the first time is actually a lot reduced. The event per se is seldom given the due importance. More emphasis is on the parties afterwards. I sometimes wonder how many children, who receive their first holy communion actually understand the act of contrition and importance of confession. How many actually experience Christ for the first time?

  3. My own experience in attending or part taking in the holymass has undergone a complete circle from forced ,unavoidable ritual,to that of 'what is the big deal, Don't i know who these priests are'-type of response to the church and its related activities including the holy mass.That was the time I had begun questioning the wholesale authority of the church over Christ and his teachings.I even wrote a fiery poem titled Angry Christ and almost stopped going to the church..The later part of my pattern of thinking helped me to view structures and rituals apart and different from the true essence of Christ.I started going to the church again with a different perspective.I have experienced the joy of being united in the love of Christ.Not that I care much for the order of the mass.Some word,a line in a hymn,a child's loving glance or a friendly smile is enough to give you this divine oneness.I have also felt importance of the community which has come there to seek Christ in its own way.To accept that the same lord is present in each one of them and not to be judgemental about their level of spirituality are the points where we become humble at heart.

  4. Great phylosophy and an in depth search for the unanswered questions of the human enigma. Personally, i am impressed at the astounding diction and vocabulary of english from an Indian. It is imperative to mention that as the indian history was written by a foriegn author, i just wonder from where all these wisdom come from? and where were you before in our lives?
    I am proud of you Anna and keep going - as for people like you there will be no end - as Kannadasan rightly said "naan padaipadanal en paer ERAIVAN(GOD)"
    (since i creat, i am called GOD)
    A salute to this Fervent blogger.
    Charles MIRAJ (grandson of another great Philosopher and visionary)

  5. SS! Thanks for the appreciation and the recap of the yesteryears which brings pleasant memories about Fr. Antoine in Calcutta and his approach to spirituality.

  6. Bosco, it is rarely any child experiences Christ consciousness on his or her first communion. Neither the age nor the instructions are oriented towards achieving this beautiful experience.
    It is only enlightened parents who can instruct their children on the truly cosmic nature of Christ and the meaningful sacraments which were instituted to evoke elevation of our ego consciousness to a higher plane.

  7. Subathra, thanks for sharing your experience and progress in your spiritual pursuit. There are very few people on this earth who can have direct experience of elevated consciousness without a progressive route. It is almost like taking you by the hand and guiding you to the goal. This is what rituals are meant to be.

  8. Charlie, I do not deserve all the praises you have heaped on me. I have been blessed in this life with many gifts and beautiful relationships are one of the best I have been fortunate to have. This is what I care very much about. This sharing is part of this process of building stronger bonds which nourishes one's soul. I feel I am only a creature of extreme limitation.
    Love to all at home!

  9. I have read and enjoyed your articles, and feel admiration towards your ability while holding the light.Thank You for sharing.

  10. Thank you, Padron, for your words of appreciation. In my humble station in life I try to spread the knowledge that has been revealed to me.