The Eucharist as remembrance

| Father Michael Van Sloun | July 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

Jesus asked his apostles and those who would follow to continue the eucharistic celebration that he began. Paul was the first to record the specific request that Jesus made. After Jesus took the bread and broke it, he said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in memory of me” (1 Cor 11:24). Likewise, after Jesus offered the cup he said, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in memory of me” (1 Cor 11:25).

Luke is the only evangelist to include the explicit instruction, “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), and the only New Testament writer to record how the early Church complied, how each Sabbath the community gathered together and devoted themselves “to the breaking of the bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

Last Supper fresco

iStock/sedmak

An unforgettable memory. Jesus wanted his disciples to hold forever in their minds and hearts the momentous occasion when he broke bread and shared the cup with them. The bread as his body and the wine as his blood are priceless gifts, and the eucharistic meal at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday and his sacrificial death on the altar of the cross on Good Friday must never be forgotten. Rather, they must be cherished by every disciple as a treasure of immeasurable worth, and they must be repeated regularly in commemoration of Jesus by the community of believers.

Remembering at meal time. Meals are a time for storytelling. When a family gathers around the dinner table after a full day, the father has had one set of experiences, the mother another, and each of the children have had their own. Everyone has something to share about their day, especially whatever was most important to them. It is a family remembering of the day. When the relatives get together for a special occasion like a wedding or the Fourth of July, whether they gather at a banquet table or a picnic table, it is common to reminisce about the good old days and retell the family tales. It is a collective remembering.

Remembering at Mass. Likewise, when the Body of Christ, the Church, gathers together for Eucharist, it is a time to remember. The remembrance takes place around a table, the altar, and begins with the Liturgy of the Word, Scripture readings that recall the marvelous works of God and retell the major events of salvation history, all of which point to the Gospel, which brings to mind all that Christ has done for us (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1103). It is a spiritual trip down memory lane — a remembering. The Mass continues with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which culminates with the consecration, the community’s remembrance of the first Eucharist at the Last Supper.

Remembering at Mass continues. The Memorial Acclamation comes immediately after the consecration, a remembering that encompasses the entirety of time: “We proclaim your death, O Lord” (the past), “and profess your Resurrection” (the present), “until you come again” (the future). The Eucharistic Prayer continues with the “anamnesis” which means “memorial,” and it recollects the most significant events in the life of Jesus as well as the Paschal Mystery. Eucharistic Prayer I resumes, “Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord,” or Eucharistic Prayer II says more succinctly, “Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of his death and resurrection,” while Eucharistic Prayer III also includes the future dimension, “As we look forward to his second coming.” The Mass fulfills Jesus’ request at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.”

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. This column is part of an ongoing series on the Eucharist. Read more of his writing at CatholicHotdish.com.

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Category: Faith Fundamentals