From a reader…
I have noticed an uptake lately in referring to first communion as first Eucharist, usually by people who insist on referring to extraordinary ministers of holy communion as Eucharistic ministers. The uptake seems frequent and widespread enough that it seems deliberate and not accidental, careless or due to ignorance. It does not seem right to refer to first communion as first Eucharist. For one thing it seems to me that this over identifies participating in Mass with receiving communion. For another it implies that children who have not yet received communion have not attended Mass or been present for, or at, the Eucharistic celebration. Either that or, again, the importance of being present at Mass is being minimized or slighted when communion is not received. Am I wrong to find this trend troubling?
Words have meanings which, over time, can drift around. For example, “nice” once meant “foolish, silly”. “Girl” could once indicate either sex (and, come to think of it, it still does). Lexicographers have to make choices when creating dictionaries to determine if their definitions are going to be descriptive (this is how the word is being used) or prescriptive (this is how the word must be used.
In the Church terms drift around or they are used in sloppy ways. Also, we can call one thing by many different names or terms. Think, for example, of how we say “Sacrament of Penance” or “Reconciliation” or “Confession”. In the sloppy department, we hear people say “liturgy” when they mean “Mass”. Liturgy is more than just the Mass.
“Eucharist” can describe both the Blessed Sacrament Itself as well as the liturgical rite of Mass wherein the Eucharist is consecrated. “Communion” can describe reception of the Eucharist. However, Communion can be received within the context of Mass or outside the context of Mass.
When I hear or read “First Eucharist”, I get what is meant, but to my ear and eye that seems like going to Mass for the first time. It could, I suppose mean going to Exposition for the first time, though I’m stretching. “First Communion” more clearly describes what is happening: the person is received Holy Communion, the Eucharist, for the first time.
I suppose that “First Eucharist” came from someone – one of those Good Idea Fairies – who had an “idea” after attending a liturgy workshop.
Let’s continue to use clear and precise terms. You brought up the confusion of Extraordinary Ministers of Communion or of the Eucharist. These are two different roles.
Heck, even the word “Extraordinary” these days isn’t well understood. After all, “extraordinary” can mean quite a few things, depending on the context. For example, upon hearing “First Eucharist” for “First Communion” a British friend of mine would respond, “How extraordinary!”