Bedtime Eucharistic theology with the 2 yo...
(A conversation from April 2018)
Me: (Singing Jesus Loves Me, but my child kept cutting me off, holding out cupped hands. Confused, I tried Wheels on the Bus and Itsy Bitsy Spider. No and no.) Well okay then, do you want to pray?
2 yo: (Shakes head and holds out those hands again)
Me: Oh! Do you want communion?
2 yo: Yes!
Me: Okay, let's practice. (I place imaginary bread in eager hands). Body of Christ, given for you. (We both pretend to eat. I offer him an imaginary cup.) Blood of Christ shed for you. (We pretend to drink. I make the sign of the cross on my child's forehead.) In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
2 yo: (Running a finger across my forehead). Fa, Sa, Sa. Amen! More! (Laughs exuberantly.)
We practiced communion 10 times after this. I counted. Each time, this barely two-year-old child giggled uproariously and yelled "more" until I finally changed the subject and did a tuck-in with hugs and kisses. I remember closing the door as I left the room, thinking, I have seen the joy of the Lord.
My children have been receiving Holy Communion since they could reliably chew bread and reach for it. I waited until they seemed to want it, then nodded when a pastor asked in a communion line. More. More bread. More Jesus. More yes.
The Lutheran tradition of which I'm a part permits child communion at parent's discretion. The practice has changed over time. Small-town Midwest-raised, I had to wait until age 13 for bread and juice, a prize for surviving Confirmation class. (I needed one- I was seemingly the only kid actively participating in class and no one likes a teacher's pet). The theological question is really this, though: is communion a sacrament (holy act) of membership and readiness or is it an act of gleeful, grace-filled welcome?
I support parents in making the choices that are best for their families. You do you (isn't that the saying now?) I admit: I've felt guilty that maybe my kids weren't "getting it" enough or they should wait for some more mature understanding. At one point, I asked a pastor friend to give my kids a First Communion class, which they loved.
Class or not, my two-year-old got it. More! Yes! Again! With joy! More! We don't really understand what happens at the Eucharistic table anyway. The mystery is that Christ promises to show up in the bread and wine, full of love and compassion and even joy. I need that. I'm longing for love and peace and joy when the world feels dangerous and scary. Why is my longing for Christ's joy and love any more sophisticated than a two-year-old yelling "more"?!
Yes, Lord. More. More of all of it. More of You, present here now.