Memory and Proclamation

The Second Reading for Holy Thursday is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. In the tradition which Paul received of Jesus’ words of institution, he relays Jesus’ command to "do this in remembrance of me" when partaking in both the bread and the cup:

"This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."

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And:

"Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

Only Luke amongst the Synoptic Gospels, associated with Paul in both Paul’s own letters and in Church tradition, includes the command to "do this in remembrance of me" in his account of the Last Supper, but he does this with respect only to the bread in Luke 22:19.

After passing on the tradition regarding the cup, Paul also adds these words: "for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes."

We know the things that divide Christians regarding the Eucharist, but the call to remembrance and the proclamation of the death of the Lord are two things that ought to bind all Christians together at Easter. I know well that the reading of anamnesis (the word translated as "memory" in both 1 Corinthians 11 and Luke 22:19) actually recalls divisions amongst Christians. This passage from the New Catholic Encyclopedia makes clear the Catholic reading: "The anamnesis interprets the mystery of the Mass, tying it to the events of salvation history; it serves to bring out a basic aspect of the Mass, that it is a memorial of Christ and His salvific acts. Because it is a relative sacrifice, the Eucharist not only recalls by reflection the personal relationship God established by Christ’s death and Resurrection, but also represents these acts sacramentally, so that the worshiping community enters effectively into the everlasting sacrifice of the risen Lord, which is thus made present on earth" ("Anamnesis." New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 382-383. Gale Virtual Reference Library). I take no issue, naturally, with this understanding of the Eucharist. But as Christians around the world prepare for the Easter Triduum, one form of preparation must be the simple, personal reflection on Christ’s sacrifice, a re-imagining of the Last Supper and Jesus’ entry into his Passion. Truly, "the Eucharist is certainly more than a mere recollection or subjective memory...; the Lord’s Supper was not continued as a sort of funeral banquet, implying a mere mental commemoration" ("Anamnesis." New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 382-383. Gale Virtual Reference Library), but one also does not want to forego such recollection, or mental commemoration as a means to prepare for Holy Week. In fact, such recollection and shared memory amongst Christians worldwide should be one of the powerful means of drawing us together as brothers and sisters. This week we remember together the events of Easter. It is a powerful witness to each other and to the world. As we come together, we come together with this shared memory. And as we come together we proclaim the Lord’s death, as Paul states, "until he comes." This sacrificial death, it is true, is proclaimed not just by means of our shared memory, but truly in the Eucharistic celebration. It is a death we humbly recall as we prepare for Holy Thursday, and we proclaim it quietly and fervently as we gather together.

 

 

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