The Eucharist with Children
The Huffington Post recently published an article thanking the parents of young children for bringing their kids to church because of all that it teaches us about being part of the Body of Christ. I couldn’t agree more. Specifically, I think of all the things the children in our church have taught me about the Eucharist.
When you take the Eucharist surrounded by children, you experience theological truths in the flesh. You see them brought to life, animated and in color.
Perhaps it’s the little girl—barely two—in the pew behind you, who watches intently as your priest stands at the altar and prays and breaks the bread and blesses the wine. Her eyes are wide and filled with wonder, and she cries gleefully, “I see Jesus! I see Jesus!” Perhaps it makes your breath catch in your throat, and tears burn behind your eyes as you long to see what she can see. Perhaps you think she’s very theologically advanced and insightful and profound, and then she adds, “I see Jesus—and he’s wearing red!” which is the color of your priest’s vestments. And even as you laugh, you know she’s right: Jesus is there for the seeing, if we only learn to look.
Perhaps it’s the boy kneeling next to you, who takes a big gulp of wine, swallows, and then grabs his throat in pain. Maybe you lean over and whisper, “Are you okay?” and he whispers back, “That drink always hurts the inside of my neck!” And suddenly you remember the first time you ever took the Eucharist with real wine, on your knees, in a stone church on a cold, grey morning, and the wine stung your mouth, burned down your throat, warmed your body–and made you think of blood: hot and red and alive.
Perhaps it’s the boy you’ve been babysitting since he was four years old, and you kneel next to him at the altar while he remains standing, and suddenly you’re the same height. Perhaps you both receive the wafer, the bread of heaven, in your outstretched palms, and then you eat it quickly, eagerly, chewing quietly with your mouths closed. Maybe you happen to look at each other: a quick glance, at eye level, solemn but glad—a glance in which you size each other up, and know in the core of your being that the two of you are equal—neither adults, nor children—but human beings, hungry and fed, loved and known and chosen by God. You look away, and soon go back to your pew, but the moment– the knowing, the seeing each other as you truly are–stays with you as a sober joy.
Or maybe you’re ushering, and you stand by the pews, moving back, one by one, slowly letting the members of the congregation file to the front to receive the bread and wine. Perhaps as you stand by the edge of a pew with your fingers resting on the smooth, worn wood, a little boy taps you on the hand and you look down into his great big shining green eyes, and he whispers—in that loud, excited child-whisper that is not really a whisper at all—“This is my favorite part!” And you say, “Mine too!” And you mean it: it’s not just your favorite part of the service, or of your day or even of your week, it’s just your favorite part. Of everything. Of life. To be fed by God, who makes it a joy to be hungry, who fills us full, who gives us Himself.