Wednesday, September 28, 2022
In remembrance of Me. . .
In one hymn you find these words: Thy mem'ry Lord, I' keeping... It draws us to Jesus command, "Do this in remembrance (anamnesis) of Me." Clearly this idea of remembering is not an action of the mind alone as we might recall a precious memory or fact. It is the point of the Supper He has given to us. We remember most of all by eating and drinking in faith, acknowledging what is present and receive in the Holy Supper of our Lord. Yet even this does not unpack the whole meaning of remembrance.
The Supper of our Lord does not stand outside the saving actions of our Lord. Rather, we remember by eating and drinking the very body and blood incarnate, crucified, suffered, died and rose again. The remembrance the Son has commanded us to make is not a mental act but the participation in the body of Christ and in His blood. We come in faith to receive what He has given and in that communion we receive what He has promised and placed there.
The anaphora of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom puts this communion in context. Remembering, therefore, this salutary command, and all that was done in our behalf: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven the sitting at the right hand, the second and glorious coming... Or in one Lutheran version: Remembering, therefore, his salutary command, his life-giving Passion and death, his glorious resurrection and ascension, and his promise to come again, we give thanks to you, Lord God...
My own particular favorite is the wording from El Culto Cristiano: Remembering therefore His salutary precept, His life-giving passion and death, His glorious resurrection and ascension, and the promise of His coming again, we give thanks to You, O Lord God almighty, ... so that we who partake of Christ's holy body and of his precious blood may be filled with Your heavenly peace and joy; and also that we, in receiving the forgiveness of sins, together with the gifts of life and salvation, may be sanctified in body and soul and have our portion with all Your saints in light...
Or we could place anamnesis simply in the context of the words of St. Paul and now well familiar to those who use Lutheran Service Book: As often as we eat of this bread and drink of this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes...The anamnesis is also found in the rehearsal of the saving events of our Savior's life, also in LSB:
O Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, in giving us Your body and blood to eat and to drink, You lead us to remember and confess Your holy cross and passion, Your blessed death, Your rest in the tomb, Your resurrection from the dead, Your ascension into heaven, and Your coming for the final judgment. So remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray. . .
Holy Thursday is not a re-enactment of that Upper Room supper of Jesus. It is the means by which we participate in that same meal, extended through time and eternity as the Word speaks and bread and wine are set apart to be what that Word declares. Holy Thursday certainly places that meal directly in the context of the saving events by which our Lord won salvation for us in the unique way of the Church Year. So do the prayers of thanksgiving within the canon of the Divine Service. We remember by receive in faith what He gives and promises and we proclaim that very same thing simply by eating and drinking in faith His holy body and precious blood.
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Christ says "This is My Body... My Blood," so we understand that, in the Sacrament of the Altar, He is really present in the consecrated elements as His Word declares and as our Lutheran Confessions state.
I grew up in Evangelical denominations. In them, Christ's "remembrance of Me" was understood as a commandment to think seriously about His suffering and death for sinners as recorded in the Gospels. The occasion was a group act of earnest recollection and repentance, and gratitude for what He did. I expect these Evangelical occasions had value, sometimes even great value, as times of meditation and rededication to Christ.
Of course, this was something far short of what Christ instituted. However, it was easy to think it was what He meant, if one's attention was kept on "remembrance of Me."
My understanding is that the Greek "anamnesis" can be understood as meaning "to make present." That understanding would better fit the multiple Scriptural testimonies to the Real Presence. I don't necessarily mean that the "for the remembrance of Me" should be translated differently; but would the Faithful benefit from an occasional bit of Greek explication from the pulpit?
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