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‘Know what you are doing’

‘Know what you are doing’

Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate; model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross’.


Those are the words spoken by the ordaining bishop to the newly-ordained priest, as he hands him the gifts of bread and wine to be consecrated at that Mass.  On one hand, you might wonder what on earth a fellow learns at seminary if, at that point, he doesn’t know what it is he is about to do.  On the other hand, how could he possibly know?  How can anyone ever fully understand the mystery of the Eucharist?

This weekend, the children of our parish make their First Communion.  If you were to ask any of them what it is they will be doing, they would answer you with absolute certainty.  Do you remember having that simple certainty as a seven year old?  The memory of it can be very helpful for us as adults for two reasons.

Firstly, if you find yourself assailed by doubts: you certainly knew what you were doing when you were seven, right?  So, remembering that certainty, pray ‘O Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief‘.  Trust that the Lord who has given himself to and for you will help you to know – as fully as you can know – what it is you are doing when you receive Him in the Eucharist.

Secondly, the memory of your belief in the real presence as a seven year old can be handy when the pendulum swings the other way.  Perhaps sometimes you’re allowed a clearer glimpse of the Godhead – masked by these bare shadows – than you feel you can cope with.  How can you – kneeling, waiting, unworthy  – bring yourself to receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of your Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ, truly present just there, a few feet away in the approaching ciborium?  Try to recall something of that holy simplicity of faith: you did it when you were seven, so you can do it again.

And if you don’t remember your own First Communion, let our children jog your memory this weekend… and pray for them, that their devotion to Christ in the Eucharist may grow ever stronger throughout their lives.

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