Is the Eucharist just a memorial?
Reading articles by liturgical theologians on the Eucharist, I am confused, left wondering if my joyful experience of celebrating the Eucharist is unfounded. They remind the celebrant that this is only a ‘memorial of the Lord’, one of thanksgiving, and certainly not ‘a dramatic re-enactment of the last supper’. My conclusion: if this is so, then is transubstantiation, in which we believe, also merely a memorial? Please clarify.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 he reminds us what Jesus did on the night he was betrayed. He gave thanks, took bread and said: “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me”. Then he took the cup saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Here we find Paul affirming that the ritual of celebrating the Eucharist is done in remembrance of Christ (The night he was betrayed/You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes).
Christ offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, and priest and people do the same: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God/It is right and just”. There is no error in referring to the Eucharist as the sacrament in which we remember what Christ did at the last supper or as a memorial of the Lord.
It is not a dramatic re-enactment of the last supper because it is not meant to be a performance on stage. It is our coming together with Christ and sharing in his sacrificial death on our behalf in a sacred ritual.
You do not name any liturgical theologians. In July 2001, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Faith dismissed the views of some extreme liturgists.
The Eucharist is our celebration of being a Christ-centred community before God. As a community we receive his body and blood, his real presence among us through what the Church calls transubstantiation, which occurs during the sacramental celebration. The divine presence persists permanently after the celebration has ended.
The sacrament of the Eucharist is what we do to recall the last supper, an act of thanksgiving, sacrifice, sacred meal, holy communion.
We may lay stress on one of these realities at times but taken together they present the deep mystery of what it means for us all to be the Body of Christ. Updated from 2014