Unless You Come As A Child

In Chicago for (yet another) meeting, I slipped out of the hotel on Sunday morning and took the L train into the city to get to the Eucharist. The church is a famously “anglo catholic” parish known for its good music and full liturgy and I was not disappointed. The simple offertory anthem by Felix Mendelson sung by a solo tenor voice was almost worth the trip!

But, aside from a decent sermon and receiving the sacrament, I was most moved by an unselfconscious gesture  by the rector while distributing communion. There was a sizable group of young people, from toddlers to teenagers, who were ushed down the aisle by their Sunday School teachers to receive communion first.  Baptized children are allowed to receive communion in our church, but some parents still prefer that they wait until confirmation, or at least until first communion classes, so the children receive a blessing at the altar rail rather than the sacrament.

This is done by a simply laying on of a hand and/or marking their foreheads with the sign of the cross while pronouncing a prayer of blessing. What I liked in this case was that the priest lowered himself to one knee in front of each small child he was blessing to that they could see his face and be greeted “on their level.” A simple thing, but it spoke volumes to me about honoring everyone.

It was almost as though, in addition to the logistics of height and access, the priest was genuflecting before “the least of these” which the church values highly. “Suffer the little children to come unto me…”

“Unless you come as a child…”    

6 Responses to “Unless You Come As A Child”

  1. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    i was taught to do the same when administering the chalice to a small child. it’s more difficult when everyone is kneeling at an altar rail, but when everyone is standing, the gesture is simple and important.

  2. Göran Koch-Swahne Says:

    “Unless you come as a child…”

    There is no verb here in the Greek text. The statement says “as a child”. It may mean either “to be like a child” or “as a child does” or both of them.

    It’s the same in all languages known to me.

    Please explain.

  3. ecubishop Says:

    Yes, well my only point was that Jesus seems to have pointed to children as models of the kind of trust and openness necessary for believers to “see” the kingdom of God. He honored them. And this simple liturgical gesture seems to do the same thing.

  4. both with Says:


  5. both with Says:

    i agree

  6. both with Says:

    how are you,pind

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