It's all about Jesus

First slide

My youngest daughter and I sat in the pew before confirmation, trying to spread ourselves out a bit in order to save seats for the rest of our family. It dawned on me that we needed far fewer seats than usual. Two of our children were sitting with the confirmandi, and two others were sitting with the sponsors. Our eldest lives in Los Angeles. So, we were down to four out of nine with us in the pew. No grandparents would be here this time. I briefly remembered the firstborn’s confirmation. I was beyond nauseated with all-day-morning-sickness. It was late and so hard to keep all those little ones awake and calm through the long liturgy. Now, the baby I was anticipating that time was being confirmed and everyone in the pew could be counted on to behave well. But there were far fewer of us there.

 

I am an old hat at sacrament celebrations: nine baptisms, eight first Communions, seven confirmations, one wedding. White dresses, special ties, cake in the reception hall, favorite meals at home. Iron all the shirts; clean the house from top to bottom in anticipation of the party.

 

“This is the last time I will go Mass and not receive Communion,” she whispered to me as we waited there for confirmation on a Wednesday night. My mind leaped ahead to Saturday. Her first Communion. My last first Communion. It’s all so routine that I hadn’t even thought yet about what we should plan for her party. I turned to look at her.

 

Eyes sparkling, dimples deepening, she whispered, “I’m so excited I don’t know how I’m going to sleep. I’m never going to have to be without Jesus at Mass again.”

 

It’s not routine at all. The parties might have a predictable pattern, and they definitely come more easily to me now, since I’m practiced at old-fashioned celebrations and I avoid Pinterest like the plague, lest I be tempted to find something to stress me. But the sacrament itself is not routine at all.

 

It’s been just long enough since our last family confirmation that the child next to me had lots of questions. Last time, she was sleepy and unaware. This time, she wanted to know why the bishop wore that hat and why he carried that shepherd’s crook. She wanted to know about the chrism. She inhaled it all — the richness of liturgy met the wide-eyed faith of a little girl who simply believes.

 

Tomorrow, she receives her first Communion. She’ll wear the same dress her three sisters wore. She’ll wear a veil fashioned from her sister-in-law’s wedding veil. Afterward, we’ll all gather at home and try hard to swallow the lump that rises every time we realize that this is the child for whom no grandparents are present for big events. The more things stay the same, the more they change.

 

What endures is Jesus. He is always there, always the same dependable presence. Yet He meets us right where we are. He meets the little girl who approaches the altar for the first time. He meets the pregnant mom with so many little ones she wonders if she should live in a nursery rhyme shoe. He meets the woman for whom the pew feels oddly empty after so many years of filling it to its fullest. He is the same, yet He grows to fill whatever size hole we bring to His presence. He is hope. He is strength. And He is consolation.

 

Foss, whose website is elizabethfoss.com, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

@elizabethfoss