With June comes the end of the school year and with it the last youth events of the season. Wanting to keep things simple and fun for the Junior Youth's year end event, I tossed out a couple options to the youth to vote on. The verdict? A classic: bowling.
The decision made, I went about organizing the event and finally last Saturday the day arrived! It was a small group of junior youth members that met at Bonnie Doon Bowling, but during the two games we had a great time cheering each other on and chatting about the Solemn Holy Communion that would be taking place the next day. We even managed to increase our scores during the second game (okay, I only went up by two points... I confess I'm not that great at bowling and definitely used the ol' through-the-legs trick to boost my chances during the second go 'round)! We also looked fabulous in our white and neon as it was Glow Bowling that night. Alas, once the second game was finished, we had to get home, stat. Morning wouldn't wait for anyone and it was going to be a big day the next day!
The next day dawned bright and warm, foreshadowing the heat that would rise to sweltering as the day went on. God was definitely smiling down on the five Solemn Holy Communicants that would be receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for the first time (1)! There was a flurry of activity as I arrived: excitement coursing through the communicants as they fixed their veils or gloves, parents keeping everything organized, and parishioners smiling as they remembered their first reception of the Holy Eucharist. Suddenly it was 10:00am and the children were grabbing candles and lining up to process into the church's nave (2). As the choir began to sing the opening hymn, they slowly made their way down the centre aisle, stopping to cross themselves and kiss the icons (3) on the tetrapod (4) in from of the ikonostas (5). They then filed into the first pew, surrounded by family and friends, and the Divine Liturgy began.
During the Gospel reading, the five children stood with their candles at the front, afterward listening intently as Fr. Julian spoke during his homily. Then, in no time at all, it was time for the consecration of the gifts of bread and wine (6), followed by the moment everyone was waiting for: the reception of the Solemn Holy Communion.
The moment went by in a flash. Clearly the communicants had been preparing for several months as they knew exactly what to expect when they approached Fr. Julian (not to mention they'd seen how everyone else receives the Holy Eucharist since they could probably remember). A sign of the cross, hands over heart, tilt of the head, and wide, open mouth. Just like that they tasted Jesus and saw that He is good (7).
The rest of the Divine Liturgy wrapped up without a hitch. The only thing left to do was congratulate the communicants for this milestone. The UCWLC made their presentation first, I following as Director of Youth Ministry. I was really excited to hand out the cards I'd prepared and announce that all the communicants were now automatically members of Junior Youth. I'm hoping they all come out for events in the Fall (hint, hint, nudge, nudge)!
Only one last thing to do to finish up the morning: food! Everyone was invited down to the parish basement for a lovely brunch put on by one of our parish teams. Pancakes with whipped cream and blueberry compote, sausages, ham, mini quiches, fruit... the meal was delightful! Honestly, I never eat so well as I do when I have brunch at church. A perfect end to a fabulous morning!
To all the Solemn Holy Communicants at St. Nicholas: a big congratulations again on this next step in your faith journey. May God continue to bless you as you move forward in life and good works!
(1) You may have heard the term "First Holy Communion," rather than "Solemn Holy Communion." In the Ukrainian Catholic Church (and other Eastern churches), the tradition is actually to receive Holy Eucharist for the first time at Baptism, along with Chrismation (or Confirmation as it's known in the Latin rite). As Lance Weakland explains, the term "Solemn Communion" is there as a mediator between the Eastern and Western traditions, for those who perhaps received their first Holy Communion at Baptism, but are waiting to receive Holy Eucharist around age 7, like their Latin brothers and sisters. It is expected that the Latin tradition will cease to exist within the Eastern church as more of the faithful returns to the older tradition of receiving the three sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Eucharist soon after birth.
(2) The Nave is the main part of the church, between the Narthex and Sanctuary. This is where the faithful stands/sits during the services, facing the Sanctuary (where the priest resides) in front of them.
(3) Icons are holy pictures that one will typically see in an Eastern church. Written through an extensive process involving prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit, the faithful use them as instruments of prayer and veneration.
(4) The tetrapod is the small table at the front of the Nave, before the Sanctuary. It usually holds candles, a crucifix, and icons. Blessings will usually happen at this table.
(5) Ikonostas: the Ukrainian word for "icon screen" (iconostasis in Greek). This is the screen that separates the Sanctuary from the Nave.
(6) During the Anaphora (Great Eucharistic Prayer), the Holy Spirit transforms the gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ that the faithful then receives in the form of the Holy Eucharist (The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology for Worship, p. 233).
(7) "Taste and see how good the Lord is": taken from the prayer a priest says as he gives the Holy Eucharist to an infant or small child (The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology for Worship, p. 252).