In the Golden Thread (Level 3) Atrium this week we are taking a closer look at the Eucharist through the memorial prayers, particularly the one found in Eucharistic Prayer D. (There are four Rite II Eucharistic Prayers used, and at St. Philip’s you will hear them change with the liturgical seasons. Eucharistic prayers A, B, C, and D are found on pp. 361-375 in the Book of Common Prayer. )
“Father, we now celebrate this memorial of our redemption. Recalling Christ’s death and his descent among the dead, proclaiming his resurrection and ascension to your right hand, awaiting his coming in glory; and offering to you, from the gifts you have given us, this bread and this cup,we praise you and we bless you.”
Memorial here does not mean funeral, but remembering. Remembering, or memory, is more than a cognitive act. A strong memory seems to dissolve time constraints, taking us into the past even though we stand in the present. It can also remind us of who we are.
Memorial helps us enter the mystery of God by participating in celebration. We have many different kinds of celebrations: birthdays, anniversaries, secular holidays…. Celebration is key part of human existence bringing joy and nourishing relationships. People gather to celebrate a person or event intensely in order to bring intentional awareness to part of our lives. Even a simple weekly date night helps couples reconnect and nurture their marriages.
At the Last Supper, Jesus wanted to remain with us and chose simple signs for the memorial of our redemption: bread and wine. We hear and remember his words to us, and all of God’s people for all time, “Take eat, this is my body given for you.” Memorial breaks the boundaries of time. Our remembering draws us into the past to be witnesses at the Cross, the Empty Tomb, Ascension and Pentecost, with apostles, saints, and all of God’s creation, past, present, and future. This awareness renews and strengthens us for regular daily life in Beloved Community. And as we are unified in “one body because we all share one bread, one cup” we experience a foretaste of God’s promise as it will be fulfilled. This is parousia, where remembering is “Re-Membering.” All members of the Body are accounted for. The Eucharist stands outside of time and is eternal just as God’s covenant with us is eternal.
The words of the Eucharist open our eyes to the divine activity that calls, heals, reconciles and redeems us. The memorial prayer reminds us that the covenant is not complete until there is response. Our feeling of gratitude leads to a response of “offering,” a word which is used interchangeably with “sacrifice.”
The memorial prayer guides us in the only sacrifice God requires, a humble heart: “offering to you, from the gifts you have given us, this bread and this cup, we praise you and bless you.” After the memorial prayer, watch for the priest lifting high the bread and wine. This gesture signifies our offering of those gifts, our praise and thanksgivings, and our whole selves. This how Eucharist visually expresses the dynamic of love in the covenant: God reached out toward us and acted, and in response we reach back offering our whole lives.
In the “blood of the new covenant” Jesus has offered his whole self to us, which sets us free from life without God and binds us to a new life of participation, life in the Body. Our offering in response to God’s sacrifice and Re-Membering us… is to remember who we are and who God is, what God has done. Personally, my only possible response is “Amen, Amen, Amen” (“Yes, I agree, I believe it is so”.