First Communion

by Lynne Jonell Kratoska

I wasn’t supposed to take communion.  I was too young.  Nobody had remembered to tell me, though.

We didn’t have a formal First Communion ceremony at our church; we were not Catholic, nor mainline Protestant.  I had not seen grade-schoolers dressed up in their best, parading down the aisle for their first taste of the sacrament. 

I did know that there was something very holy about communion, though, for when I sat with my grandparents in church, they would shake their heads slightly as the wafers and little cups of grape juice were passed, and I knew it was not for me.  “When you’re bigger,” they would say.  “When you are old enough to understand.”

And if I thought about it at all, I suppose I figured there would come a time—maybe when I was a teenager, that impossible height to which I hardly dared aspire—when I would understand, and be big enough, and this mysterious ritual would be as clear to me as it was to everyone else.

I never sat with my father in church, for he was the pastor.  I rarely sat with my mother, for she played the organ.  And one Sunday evening, I didn’t sit with my grandparents, either, for they were traveling.  My mother kept a stern eye on me from the organ, however, and of course everyone in the church kept an eye on the pastor’s daughter.  So I knew better than to wiggle.

I was keeping myself occupied during the sermon by drawing in the bulletin.  When the sermon went on a little long, I tried my grandmother’s trick of rolling up a handkerchief in such a way that it made a baby in a blanket.  And when I failed to make it come right, I looked up at my father.

He was saying something with great passion and great simplicity.  He was speaking about the death of Christ on the cross, and he was telling about the meaning of the bread and the wine.  And all at once, the whole thing came together for me.  All those Bible stories at home, all those lessons in Sunday School, came down to this one thing.  God loved us, he sent his Son to die in our place for the bad things we had done, and taking communion was our way of remembering the sad and the sorry and the amazing love, all wrapped up together.

I understood!  I must be old enough at last!

And so this time, when the communion plate came around, I took a wafer and I took a little cup, and I waited until the time was right, and then I ate and drank with all the rest.  And I thought that maybe it was more than just a way to remember.  It seemed like a good way for me to tell God thanks, and that I loved him right back.

That is, it seemed like a good way until I caught my mother’s eye from her perch on the organ.  And after church, she told me that communion was not a snack, and it was for when I was bigger, when I was old enough to understand.

“But I do understand,” I told her.  “I’m old enough now.”

She said, “You’ll have to talk with your father about it.  You haven’t gone through instruction.”

Was there instruction for communion?  Apparently so, though I hadn’t encountered it yet.  But when my father sat down with me to discuss the matter, he began by asking me a question.  “What do you think it means, when we take communion, Lynnie?”

And so I told him.  I told him everything.  And I still remember how he looked at me.  I thought my father was God’s little brother, or something pretty close to it, and that look of love and tenderness will always be what I imagine God’s expression will be when at last I see him face to face.

“I guess you are big enough, sweetheart,” my father said.

During Lent 2011, we are encouraging the St. Philip the Deacon community to reflect on the Sacrament of Holy Communion — recalling early memories, describing memorable celebrations of Communion, or reflecting on how Communion informs daily life. This post is part of that series. We invite your reflections about Communion, as well. If you would like to submit something for this series, please send it to Pastor Cheryl Mathison at

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