‘After First Communion’

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‘After First Communion’

Dr. Christine E. Wood, Director of the Office of Evangelisation & Catechesis

Do you remember your First Holy Communion? Do you remember the joy and solemnity of that day?

I recall donning a white dress and veil, which evoked the image of a marriage. Indeed, it was the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Thirty boys and girls were all dressed up for their first reception of the divine Saviour in Holy Communion. It was truly ‘the day that the LORD had made.’

Carl Frithjof Smith’s famous painting, After First Communion (1892), evokes similar memories for many of us.

In Baptism, first Holy Communion, and Marriage, we wear white because it represents the purity that Christ brings to our souls. Some other symbols of our Christian faith are represented in the cross, the rosary, missal, modest yet beautiful dress, and candles.

The solemnity of their first Holy Communion is reflected in the children’s serious, yet serene faces. These children have been transformed by their encounter with the crucified and risen Christ in the reception of the Eucharist. 

The children carry candles from the Church. Although the candles are extinguished at the portico, the light of Christ is carried by the children themselves into the world. Just as Christ sent his first disciples into the world with the Gospel, so too he sends us out of the Church at the end of Mass.
We are to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world thirsty for love, truth, justice, and peace – in a word, for salvation. A transformed young girl shakes the hand of an elderly man, who holds the hand of a toddler. The young girl represents the missionary disciple who shares the joy of the Gospel with others, and transforms both the young and old in our society.

This beautiful painting speaks volumes of the power of Holy Communion that we receive in our Sunday Eucharist. Notice the living tree branch seems to grow from the church itself out into the world, echoing the movement of those who have received their first Holy Communion.

The young girl at the centre of the image looks straight at you, the viewer. She seems both offering and inviting: offering us a share in the transformation she has just received, and inviting us to journey with her – to bring others to Christ himself.

So what about you? Do you experience this transformative power when you receive Christ in Holy Communion? Do you thirst for this union with Christ? Do you long for your mission?

Image: After first Communion, Carlo Frithjof Smith. Wikipedia Commons.