Saturday, 6 February 2010

Preparing for First Holy Communion

I recently came across - and not by any means for the first time - an approach to first communion catechesis focussed on the Eucharist as a "special meal". Now, I can see how the idea of analogy (both in its theological/philosophical sense and in its pedagogical sense) can justify the approach described below, in which we move from our every day understanding of meals towards an understanding of the Eucharist as "heavenly banquet". Except that you will notice in the presentation below - quoted verbatim - the analogy isn't actually followed through to anywhere near that level. To follow it through would also need an implementation of that aspect of the philosophical/theological idea of analogy that expresses the difference from the analogue to the reality. It could be done, if one wanted, but I think experience of the practice of this style of catechesis is that it isn't.
This second topic Meals is the centre and heart of the R.E. programme, Here I Am. Your child(ren) will begin to recognise how meals are a special way of sharing life together. That will help them understand how the Mass is Jesus’ special meal which is shared by the parish family. In the Eucharist, (a word that means thanksgiving and is another way of speaking about the Mass), Jesus shared his life and love with us. He is the bread of our life.

Help at home

When you are at Mass ask your child(ren) if they notice the signs that they are at a very special meal, e.g. table, candles, etc. Help them to pay special attention to the Consecration at Mass and encourage them to say a special thank you prayer for the gift of Jesus whom they receive at Mass, e.g. Jesus I love you and thank you very much for giving me yourself in Holy Communion
In this context, I was very interested in this post at In hoc signo vinces. I have for some time thought that there is another reason for the inadequacy of this "special meal" approach to catechesis on the Eucharist. When one reads books like Louis Bouyer's Eucharist or the same authors Life and Liturgy, which study the historical origins of the Church's liturgy in the different rites of the Church, it becomes apparent that the structure of the Eucharistic Liturgy - the prayers, use of Scripture, etc - can be traced back to the liturgy of the Jewish synagogue and temple, and to the texts of both Old and New Testaments. Even the notion of the "assembly" as the gathering of the people to worship God, and just possibly open to analogy of the "special meal", has its comparators in several Old Testament accounts of the calling together of the Jewish people to hear the word of God spoken to them and then to respond in offering sacrifice. These accounts, as presented in Life and Liturgy, really do not bear the interpretation that would be given to them in the "special meal" approach.  

The implication of all this for catechesis is that the analogical approach that is going to be taken needs to be true to the Scriptural/Judaic origins of the form of the Eucharistic Liturgy. The "special meal" is, in this context, a totally incorrect analogy to use; it is not an analogy that is actually true to the original, to the sources of the Eucharistic liturgy; it is not an analogy that actually works.

This is why the following part of the post at In hoc signo vinces particularly caught my attention:
Sir Mark (as he now is) goes through the bible taking themes relevant to the Mass (sacrfice, covenant, salvation, expiation, incarnation) and expounding on them in an intelligent way. After each of our sessions, it's quite clear the lad gets it and can ask and answer questions about it with ease.
This approach seems to me to offer a much more appropriate catecehetical approach, an approach that is more genuinely analogical.
[Amette Ley also has an interesting approach to seeing the Eucharist as meal - it is food for the life of grace in our souls - as part of an "On the Spot" article in the July-September 2009 issue of The Sower.]

1 comment:

Amette said...

Thanks for the mention. I've often felt that the 'special meal' analogy is in fact too complicated in its connotations to be of use to young children as they can't really access the idea of a meal as an analogy of anything anyway!