Get answers to all the questions you may have about first communion, as well as gift ideas and ways to prepare for it in this trusty guide.
The first communion is an important milestone in the life of every believer, particularly a Catholic. A child baptized when they were an infant into the family of the Lord, goes on to take a place at His table. It is always a significant event for the child, their family, and even the parish community.
This day is always celebrated with food, first communion gifts, and all-around joy.
But for such a momentous day, it is also important we know how to prepare ourselves for it, both as parents or well-wishers, or aspiring communicants. So here’s all you need to know about the first holy communion.
What is First Holy Communion?
It is a ceremony in Christianity, particularly in the Catholic church, where a person receives the bread and wine of communion for the first time.
This takes place after the individual has gone through a series of classes from the Catechism of the church, to help them understand more about the eucharist and themselves as Christians.
In the Catholic church, the age for the first communion used to be 12 years or more but was reduced to 7 by Pope Pius X in 1910. Older people can receive the Eucharist for the first time when they have met all the Church’s requirements.
The Holy Communion itself was instituted by the Lord Jesus Himself during His last supper with His disciples in Luke 22:19-20. He broke bread and after giving thanks to God, gave it to His disciples calling it His body to be given up for many.
He also took a cup of wine, blessed it, and gave it to them to drink, calling it His blood which will be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. He then asked them and by implication, all Christians, to repeat this breaking of bread and wine as often as they could in memory of Him.
So the first communion is always a very special time in the life of any Christian. After this ceremony, the person, usually a child, would be able to receive communion at catholic masses and share in remembering Jesus with the rest of the brethren. They should also have undergone baptism and first confession prior to receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time.
First Holy Communion preparation
As a parent, here are a few ways you can prepare your child for their big day.
1. Extend the first communion education to the home
First Eucharist preparation programs vary from dioceses, parishes, and schools, but most of them are approximately 6-12 months.
During this time, they’ll be taught about the Eucharist and the Christian faith, usually by a catechist. However, you can also help them gain more understanding by discussing what they’ve been taught about communion at home with them.
This will help them understand God’s presence in their lives as well as the significance of the sacrament they are about to receive. Use the ‘body’ and ‘blood’ of Jesus more often instead of the ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ so that they get how sacred it is.
2. Attend Sunday mass every week.
This will not only help your child grow spiritually but will also help them observe for themselves how others receive communion and how important it is.
When it’s time for receiving the eucharist, point out what they have to do to them as others process.
3. Practice receiving the Eucharist
It is also good for you to practice things like walking to the altar and receiving communion with them. This way, they’ll be less nervous about doing it on their big day.
Here’s an easy guide:
- Practice processing to the altar arms folded and singing the hymn.
- Teach them to respond with a believing amen when the priest says “the body of Christ.”
- Use things like crackers to help them get more comfortable with receiving the host.
- Help them practice extending their tongue gently to receive communion when it’s their turn and repeat the sequence a few times so they get it.
4. Buy the proper attire
The attire for the first holy communion is usually a white dress for the girls with a veil and a white suit or a dark suit with a white shirt for a boy. The girl’s white dress should be modest, but not shabby because it’s a happy occasion. It should serve as a little reminder that she is Christ’s bride.
You should also get your child some elegant but simple shoes in either white, silver, or black.
Some parishes may make little alterations, but it’s important to stick to the dress code.
5. Help your child focus on Jesus
As it is a big event, there are new clothes and maybe a party with gifts, friends, and food. Any child would get excited by this and so it’s easy to lose focus of the true reason for celebrating in the first place.
However, you can help your child to focus on the blood and body of Christ they’ll be receiving and less on the festivities. Remind them that the eucharist is why all the wonderful things they see are happening. Model a reverence for the eucharist for them to see. Daily prayer is a great way to get your child focused on Jesus.
Where and when is the First Communion Ceremony held?
The first communion mass is usually held on a Sunday in church, and a lot of other communicants receive the eucharist for the first time in that mass as well. The service is always open to all to attend.
Who goes to the Child’s Communion and what to wear?
Immediate family, Godparents, other relatives, and friends can all attend and join the child in the celebration that day. The members of the church also come to witness the joyful occasion.
There’s no specific dress code for the service, but it’s always nice to wear your Sunday best to it. A dress or top and skirt for the ladies and a suit, shirt, and trousers for the men. A nice and modest outfit is always the right choice. Decency is very key as one who represents Jesus here on earth.
The First Communion Service
The mass usually lasts for an hour or longer. Hymns will be sung, prayers will be said and Bible readings will be taken. At communion time, the new communicants will receive communion first, before the rest of the congregation. The lighting of candles is also usually a part of the service.
Communion Service aftermath and First Communion gifts to take
After the mass is over, you can take a lot of pictures with the family and the new communicant. Then the party or lunch can take place.
It’s always nice to give gifts to the communicant. You can give them cards, bibles, jewelry, or anything that the person will cherish for a long time.
If you’re at a loss on what to write in a first communion card, you can write a bible verse that you’d like the person to read from time to time or a congratulatory message.
What makes the first communion really special isn’t just the atmosphere of joy or the new clothes. For us as Christians, there is nothing greater than to receive Jesus, present in the Eucharist at mass.
It is how we remind ourselves of our salvation, of Jesus’ sacrifice, and of God’s presence in our lives. So that we may, through the days of our time on this earth, live from the reality of our faith and hope on the cross. We also remember the death Jesus died for us and the life we must live for Him in gratitude and love.