Holy Communion: Remembrance and The Great Thanksgiving
This is the last of a three part series on Communion. In the first article, we discussed how Christ’s body acts as the means of encountering God’s presence. Just as the Most Holy Place in the temple was entered through a curtain, so we enter into the Most Holy Place of heaven through the curtain that is Christ’s body in Communion. In the second article, we explored the grace experienced in Communion, especially in the form of sanctifying grace. In this final post, let’s discuss the understanding of Communion as Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving.
“Do this in remembrance of me”
It’s important for us to understand what “remembrance” means in the historical context of Jesus’ time. During the last supper, Jesus was speaking to Jews. Jews wrote the gospels, and Paul, a former Jewish leader, wrote the letter to the Corinthians from which we take these words in Communion (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
The idea of remembering to us is quite different than to the 1st century Jew, and this is important to understand what Jesus means when commanding us to “do this in remembrance of me.” To most of us, remembering is an act of recollecting events in our minds. It is a cognitive activity, to think about what happened, perhaps to consider the effects of Jesus’ death, the circumstances that led to it, or maybe even the effects on your own life. Remembering to us is a mental activity.
But to the Jew, the understanding of remembrance was quite different. Rather than just a mental activity, remembering was a full re-experiencing of the past to the Jew; it was a complete immersion into the events of history, mind, heart, body, soul. Jesus offered this Last Supper during the Passover Feast, which was a service of remembrance of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. The service immersed the Jews back into that very day, with the same foods, prayers, stories, actions… they re-experienced the first Passover with their senses, their feelings and emotions, their wills, and their thoughts.
In the same way, remembering in Communion is to re-experience the life and sacrifice of Christ, to be immersed into that historical place and time, and to participate in the Last Supper. It is to experience his compassion as he broke bread, to experience his servant-hood as he washed our feet, to experience his anguish as he prayed in the garden, to experience his rejection before the priests and pharisees, to experience our own rejection of Him with the crowds as we shouted “crucify Him!” – to experience his unconditional love as he was tortured, humiliated, and poured out his blood for you and me, while still praying “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Communion takes us there, not just mentally but in our very spirits, to re-experience Christ’s love for us shown through His body and blood. We experience what we are to be thankful for, and as we gather in Eucharist, we give thanks in remembrance of His sacrifice and celebrate in the joyful victory of His resurrection.
Finally, giving thanks to God is an act of worship. The two words most commonly used for “thanks” in Hebrew are two of the most common words used in the context of worship and praise: Yadah and Todah. Giving thanks in Communion is an act of worship. Remembering and re-experiencing Christ’s sacrifice in Communion is an act of worship as well. To be frank, all Christocentric worship ought to revolve around the sacrament of Communion: it is the re-experiencing of Christ’s sacrifice; it is the great thanksgiving for His life, death, and resurrection; it is a meeting with the real presence of the risen Christ at the table; it is the means by which we enter into the Most Holy Place of heaven; and it is a means by which we receive the immeasurable grace of God.
“As often as you gather, do this in remembrance of me.”
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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