Unlike the rest of you super-holy people, my mind sometimes wanders at Mass. But in prayer the other day, I was struck hard by one of the deepest mysteries present in the words of Our Lord – “Do this in remembrance of me.”
This sentence, of course, is what Jesus told the Apostles to do at the Last Supper (Luke 22:19). We hear a variation of it at Mass in the Liturgy of the Eucharist (i.e. “Do this in memory of me.”).
“Memory” (or “Remembrance”) in Greek is anamnesis, a word that literally means, “making present the past.” In other words, the celebration of the Mass is a re-presentation of the once and for all sacrifice of Christ. (Note that it is a “re-presentation”, not a “re-sacrifice” as some misinformed Protestants think we believe.)
On one hand this “remembrance” is directed toward the Last Supper itself (which we re-present via the Mass). But there’s another aspect. One that makes it even more personal.
Our remembrance is directed toward what happened directly after the Last Supper. The crucifixion.
What Jesus did on the Cross was the culmination of the ritual, sacrificial meal he celebrated the night before. “This is my body, given up for you.” (Luke 22:19). And today we continue to celebrate that sacrificial meal.
The Mass is a re-presentation of the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Our Lord.
But as I said, this sacrifice wasn’t Christ alone. It’s our sacrifice, too.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I tend to breeze by the word “sacrifice” like an A-list movie star blowing past drooling, camera-waving paparazzi. It’s not a word I like to dwell upon. But we have to.
In the Mass, it’s not just Christ being offered on the altar. It’s us! We offer ourselves along with our Lord on the altar. The priest says, “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God…”
When Christ said “Do this in remembrance of me”, he wasn’t only referring to the ritual of the Eucharist we celebrate. He was saying, “Do what I do. Make yourself a sacrifice. Give yourself in life-giving love to everyone. Be like me!”
And the beautiful thing is that Christ doesn’t just tell us to make ourselves a sacrifice. He actually empowers us to do so by giving himself sacrificially to us in the Eucharist. Joined to his sacrifice, we can offer ourselves in sacrificial love both to God and others. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
Can I get an “Amen”? Tell me this Catholic faith of ours isn’t awesome!!
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