Little girls in beautiful white dresses. Boys in their first suit and tie. These sights are common each spring in churches across the Diocese of Venice as thousands of young people receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist for the first time.
But this isn’t simply a first communion, but hopefully the first of many communions.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living in charity wipes away our venial sins. By giving Himself to us Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves to Him.” (CCC 1394)
Primarily, the Eucharist brings one into a deeper union with Christ. Through Baptism, all become a child of God, entering into the Church. The Eucharist then draws the faithful more deeply into union with Christ. The Lord said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) Through the Eucharist, one may become more and more like Christ, as St. Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
The Catechism says that “the Eucharist makes the Church,” (CCC 1396); meaning that without the Eucharist, there would be no Church, just a collection of men and women that would eventually dissolve through petty bickering and divisions. But through the Sacrament of the Eucharist – the “Sacrament of Unity” – the Church is more than a man-made institution, it is a Divine Institution, Mystically United through Christ. Not merely a social organization or a political party, the Church is one Body.
During a May 8, 2021 First Communion Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, Pastor, Father Rafal Ligenza told the First Communicants that they are starting a new chapter in their lives by opening their heart for Christ.
“You are committing to receiving the Body of Christ and to be in Communion with the Lord forever,” Father Ligenza said. “Yes forever. Not only today, for one week, for one month, but forever… You will receive this miracle into your good hearts and become a most beautiful monstrance because Jesus will be alive in you and you will glorify the goodness of God.”
Father urged the adults present to recall their own First Communion when they heard the words for the first time “The Body of Christ.” “You answered with love in your heart “Amen” and you decided to be faithful to your beloved Jesus and to his invitation to love one another. This is the commitment by those who receive their First Communion today. They made the decision to love Jesus for their whole life.”
Pope Francis said the Eucharist is not simply something that we do: “It is an act of Christ! It is a gift from Christ, Who is made present and gathers us around Him, to nourish us with His Word and His life. This means that the mission and the very identity of the Church spring from this, from the Eucharist… Through the Eucharist, Christ wishes to enter into our existence and permeate it with His Grace, so that in every Christian community there is coherence between Liturgy and life.”
All benefit in a multitude of ways by receiving communion regularly, Pope Francis said. There is a gain of grace against sin, forgiveness of venial sins, and strength for the spiritual life; regular reception of the Eucharist is essential for a strong spiritual life.
The Holy Father encourages the faithful to “live the Eucharist with a spirit of faith and prayer, of forgiveness, of care for the needs of many of our brothers and sisters, in the certainty that the Lord will grant that which he has promised – eternal life.”