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2005/5/16 下午 08:35:42

Taken from Joseph A. Komonchak et al: “The New Dictionary of Theology”


A sense of remembering pervades the church’s worship. From one point of view the entire liturgy is a memorial, its celebration focused on the saving work of Christ in order to bring us back to that person and life from which we derive our Christian identity. The scriptures, integral to all liturgy, recall God and God’s deeds to the church’s mind; the psalms, at the heart of the liturgy of the Hours, draw on a similar memory. The sacraments too have an essential dimension of memorial, as does the liturgical year in its celebration of the mysteries of Christ and its commemoration of the faithful departed.

However, here we shall concentrate on the eucharist, principally because the Church understands it as its memorial par excellence, celebrated in obedience to Jesus’ command: “Do this as my memorial.”

The Biblical Memorial

Since the 1950’s scholars have been investigating more deeply the meaning of memory for the Jews, and, though there is still argument regarding interpretation and application, the extent of the terminology and the importance of the reality to which it refers have been established: The OT [Old Testament] contains a rich usage of memory words in a religious context: both God and Israel remember and are reminded, and the range of people, events, things, qualities, etc., called to memory is great. The use of this vocabulary is of interest to us in connection with cult and, in particular, the Passover.

God’s remembering in the cultic memorial implies action, knowing and being concerned for the people and turning towards them with help. Of this remembering, writers use such words as “efficacious,” “creative,” and “actualizing.” Human remembering too is to lead to involvement and action. In the case of the Passover, scholars tend to conclude that in this memorial God acts in a salvific way to somehow join past event and present situation so that the saving deed is made actual or effective for participants today. For their part, those who celebrate the memorial are to commit themselves to what God has done and is doing. Authors differ in the ways they interpret this “efficacity” or this “actualization,” but they find in the Passover a force and an effect that are not simply the power of human remembering, however strong, but can derive only from God. Thus it emerges as the common view that the biblical memorial has greater depth and density than recent use (Christian and more general) would suggest.

It is predominantly the OT tradition that forms the background to the Lukan and Pauline command of Christ: “Do this as my anamnesis.” In the interpretation of “anamnesis” all the virtualities of the Jewish memorial should be retained: God’s remembering and reminding, human remembering and reminding, with all that is implied on both sides. The word “my” is taken in the objective sense (“as a memorial of me”), but, while this is retained, perhaps the subjective overtones should not be suppressed completely.

Historical Interpretations

“Do this”: The Shape of the Eucharistic Memorial. The church gave its shape to the Eucharist by adapting the actions and words of Jesus at the Last Supper, when he took the bread and the cup, said a blessing or gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave the bread and the cup, said a blessing or gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave the brad and the cup to his disciples, with the words: “Take, eat: This is my body. Take, drink: This is the cup of my blood. Do this as my memorial.” Thus the structure and the essential acts are themselves a memorial of Christ. To this the church joined a service of the word, with all the memorial elements that this was intended to bring. Within the Eucharistic prayer – developed from Jesus’ act of thanksgiving – the church recalled in thanksgiving and praise God’s saving deeds in Christ and prayed that this salvation would be realized for it in the present and the future.

Memorial and Sacrifice. The sense of the eucharist as memorial continued to be important in the Christian tradition – it could not have been otherwise, given the scriptural command of Christ – but the interpretation of memorial did not remain constant. It was weakened as the experience of the Jewish cult generally and of the Passover receded, but from the third century and before, a strong sense of sacrifice was developed. While this tended to displace the notion of memorial from the central position that it had been holding, at the same time it was able to maintain within the Eucharist some of aspects that memorial was in danger of losing. Thus the Godward movement of the Jewish memorial (God’s being reminded) was now expressed by the church’s offering of the sacrifice. Similarly, the moral demand, the commitment that the memorial required of the participants, would now be developed more particularly with reference to the sacrifice.

This close association of memorial and sacrifice came to be expressed strikingly in the Eucharistic prayer (in the section technically called the anamnesis) in many parts of East and West. Two examples must suffice. The early third century Eucharistic prayer of Hippolytus has: “Remembering, therefore, his death and resurrection, we offer you the bread and cup.” The primitive, fourth-century, version of the Roman Canon states “Remembering, then, his most glorious passion and resurrection from the underworld and ascension into heaven, we offer you this unspotted victim, this holy bread and the chalice of eternal life.” It was as though in these places it was thought necessary or desirable to interpret the meaning of the memorial, to draw out what it involves for the church: this memorial implies an offering.

Perhaps St. John Chrysostom was thinking of texts like these when he formed his answer to the question if we offer sacrifice every day, how is it that our sacrifice is one and not many? “We do offer sacrifice [every day] but in making memorial (anamnesis) of his death …” Our act takes place as a memorial of the act that took place then, for he says: “Do this as my memorial.” We do not offer a different sacrifice, as the high priest did in the past, but we always offer the same one. Or rather, we celebrate a memorial of a sacrifice” (Hom. In Heb 17, 3). This expresses the view that will long be commonly held in East and West: the eucharist is a memorial sacrifice, the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice.

Thus both liturgical and theological traditions bear witness to the close link that was perceived between memorial and sacrifice. Medieval theologians in the West continued to relate these, though they were not of one mind as to the precise connection between them. An allegorical approach (see below) was found to be inadequate, and it was principally by concentrating on the aspect of sacrifice and on the relationship between the Mass and the sacrifice of Christ that theology advanced. The theme of memorial was retained – the Eucharist is memorial sacrifice – but now it was rather the sacrificial theme that grounded the efficacy and the objective character of the Mass.

Allegory. In speaking of the Eucharist as a memorial, the mainline tradition understood that it was a rite in which Christ’s saving mystery was represented and made effective in the present. But, first in the East and alter, particularly with Amalar of Metz (d. 850) in the West, an allegorical approach to the memorial emerged. This found in the different rites of the Mass reminders of events in the economy of salvation and especially the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. No single system of allegorical interpretation was devised: variety abounded. But overall the Mass could be seen as a dramatic enactment through its various ceremonies of the events of our redemption, and it was in this figurative way that Christ’s command – often invoked – to do this in his memory was thought to be fulfilled. This rememorative aspect was frequently accompanied by a moral concern to involve the people through the offering of themselves and their lives. Though opposed right from the time of Amalar, the allegorical approach had a pervasive and enduring influence, and, in the scholastics and even for centuries later, it continued alongside the older tradition. In comparison with the sacramental understanding it is arbitrary, extrinsic and eclectic. However, it served to keep vividly alive the sense of the eucharist as memorial of Christ’s saving mysteries and it reminded participants of the demands that the eucharist made of them.

The Sixteenth Century. At the Reformation the question of the sacrificial character of the Eucharist was in dispute, so that the parties were deprived of that element that had strengthened the idea of memorial current before. The potentialities of the biblical memorial had long been lost, and the word was not regarded as having the capacity to reconcile the conflicting positions. The Council of Trent (Session XXII) taught that the sacrifice of the Mass was a propitiatory sacrifice and not a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross (Canon 3) and also that by the words: “Do this as my memorial,” Christ instituted the apostles as priests and ordained them so that they and other priests should offer his body and blood (canon 2). While these declarations link memorial and sacrifice, they show the latter as the dominant and determining element.

Recent Influences

For the Roman Catholic tradition, the convergence of liturgical, theological, scriptural and ecumenical influences can be discerned in the rediscovery of the virtualities of the Jewish and Christian memorial and in the reemergence of the word in a central place in contemporary theological terminology.

The mystery theology of Odo Casel, and the fruitful controversy that it stimulated, focused attention on the nature and meaning of the liturgical mystery and the sense in which it makes present now Christ’s saving activity of the past. This was accompanied by some investigation of the liturgical memorial, which also confirmed that they were forgotten areas there to be explored.

Theologians too found that in their discussion of the relationship between the Mass and Christian sacrifice the idea of sacrament was offering new possibilities. Discarding the excessively sharp textbook distinction of sacrifice and sacrament and the reservation of the latter term to the Eucharistic species, authors understood the Eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice. This, they maintained, was the doctrine of St. Thomas and the authentic faith of the Catholic tradition. The “sacrament” of the dogmatic theologians and the “memorial” of the liturgical scholars thus found themselves converging.

The scriptural impact was made later, through the study of the biblical sense of memorial, particularly with reference to the Passover, and through the attempts to reconsider the Eucharist in the light of the biblical discoveries. Aspects of this have been seen above and it will arise again later.

It is unnecessary to dwell on the ecumenical element here and the growing rapproachement among scholars from different traditions in the areas just mentioned. The significance of this for inter-church dialogue on the eucharist will be treated below.

Though interest in memorial emerged particularly because of questions in liturgy or sacramental theology, more recently this has been linked to the broader consideration of the role memory in human affairs generally. Memory, remembering, and making memorial are recognized as essential in establishing a sense of identity for groups and for individuals. Through these we maintain a sense of continuity that helps us to grasp our present and move purposefully into the future. Solidarity in the present and with the past is strengthened through the various exercises of memory, as is the demand for fidelity in present and future to what we perceive to be our true personal or collective self-hood. Story telling is important here, and the significance of memory in the formation of history and in questions of hermeneutics and understanding is also relevant. The tendency to develop and to extend “anamnesis” as a technical term suggests interesting possibilities for this and other areas of theology.

Celebrating the Memorial of Christ

The liturgical memorial is a commemorative ritual act celebrating an event of salvation with the aim of making those celebrating it participants in the event of salvation itself. The memorial is not adequately understood as the subjective presence of a person or an event in the consciousness of the participants through the human act of remembering. Nor is it enough to appeal to the more objective power of a human rite. The power of this memorial is ultimately God’s and its purpose is to make the participant’s and God’s saving works objectively and effectively present the one to the other. Thus – to keep to the language of memory – in this memorial god and the church, inseparably, remember the work of salvation and remind each other of it.

This recognition of the divine and the human sides is expressed in the interplay of anamnesis and epiclesis. In the Eucharistic prayer the church proclaims in joyful thanksgiving and praise what God ha done for the world and for God’s people, and specifically in every Eucharist it recalls Christ’s deeds and words at the Last Supper and the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection. This memorial of God’s deeds and promises engenders confidence for the present and the future. The God made known through saving action in the past is the God who gathers the church for each celebration of the Eucharist. But the church must not develop an attitude that would take God’s intervention for granted. If the history just recalled is to become salvific for us, if the great redemptive deeds are to touch us in the present, if our memorial is not to rely on human powers alone, God must act, and so the prayer turns to petition. The Church is aware that all is God’s gift: the gift of the past is acknowledged with grateful praise, the gift for the present and the future is sought with confident and humble petition. And so the epiclesis prays that the Father may send the Holy Spirit, and this or an equivalent petition is made in each celebration of the Eucharist, for this community gathered here today.

God remembers. Although the liturgy does not generally use the language of God’s “remembering” in the immediate context of the epiclesis, the collocation of this prayer with our rehearsal of past saving events suggests that the same reality is at issue: God is reminded of this salvation and is asked to make it actual for us here and now. By the power of God our commemorative ritual imitation of the Last Supper transcends all its natural and human potential.

The western theological tradition from the Middle Ages expressed this objectivity by its teaching that at the heart of the Eucharist the priest acted in persona Christi or, to state the relationship in another way, that Christ was acting there in persona ministri. More recently Catholic theologians and liturgists, learning from the East and reverting to older elements in their own tradition, have given this a broader – Trinitarian – expression.

The liturgical texts, following the classical pattern, ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit, and this prayer is made through Christ our Lord. The sacramental action has its source in the Father. At its center is the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, the great highpriest ever living to intercede for us, the head who unites the church to himself as his body, the principal minister, through his church, of the entire Eucharistic act. The Holy Spirit, the first gift to us from Christ’s paschal mystery, realizes in the church the mystery first realized in the humanity of Jesus and consummated in his death and resurrection. The Spirit is the living power that gives life to the historical words of Jesus to make them active and effective in the present; the Spirit transforms the bread and wine into the living and life-giving body and blood of Christ for us (i.e., for our salvation) and transforms us too as we receive them, to make of us one body, one spirit in Christ, filled with every grace and blessing.

The Church Remembers. If God remembers, it is for us, and this means that there must be a human reality and activity to respond to this divine initiative. The core of this memorial is located in the words and deeds of the ritual, but inseparable from this are the hearts and minds and lives of the participants.

The memorial celebrates the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but this is as the center of the whole economy of salvation. This is the evidence of many eastern anaphoras and of the Roman Eucharistic Prayer IV. In the present the Christian people appropriates its past, a past that stretches back beyond those again to the dawn of humanity and to the creation of the world: a past too that reaches from the incarnate life of Christ through the generations of those who have believed in him to this present gathering of the church. In this way the Christian people is brought into touch with deep layers of its own nature, so that it may understand what it is in the present and the movement of which it is part and which is part of it, with all that this implies for the future. Thus the Eucharistic prayer embraces humankind as a whole with whom God again and again made convenant; it mentions Abel the just, Abraham our father in faith, and God’s priest Melchisedech; it uses the history and the writings of Jesus’ own people; it rejoices in the memory of the Christian saints; it recalls in petition the faithful departed and all who have died in God’s friendship – and all of these lines meet in the mystery of Christ. The memorial evokes a sense of solidarity with past generations and it reminds us of dimensions of the church sometimes undervalued.

The divine economy is not so transcendent or the church of all the ages so abstract that the concrete human collaboration can be forgotten, that collaboration which is made possible by God and which must be forthcoming if God’s will is actually to have effect. This refers to the human involvement of Jesus in the first place, which must be taken with full seriousness to respect the realism with which he undertook the human condition and its history. It refers also in the light of Jesus to the imperfect though real work of those who went before him, faithful in their way to the covenants or to the lights that were theirs, and of those since him who through their lives have given the church its present existence under the Spirit of God.

Thus the memorial of the Eucharist gathers together what God has done in the hard reality of human fidelity in order that the Christian people may celebrate it as a gift. There the church of the present can appropriate the hidden depths of its own being, and it does so in a prayer and an action of thanksgiving (eucharist) that acknowledges God as its source. In the Eucharistic action and most concretely in the body and blood of Christ the church recognizes and celebrates the gift that both symbolizes itself and gives it life.

This memorial commits the Christian people in their turn to their own task in solidarity with their past and with their fellow humans throughout the world. The memorial concerns a mystery that transcends time and space and the human, but it will not allow those who celebrate it to lose their own particular location in time and space or to disregard the claims of the human. They must make their own the history that it recalls, the identity that it discloses, as their history, their identity; they must appropriate the salvation that it actualizes and dedicate themselves to the works that it implies. This has an important moral dimension, making demands on the way they live their lives, their ideal, their motivation.

Memorial properly understood – as the OT stressed with revelation to the covenant – permits no retreat into a closed world of the past or of ritual.

The Future. It is clear form what has been said that while the memorial recalls the past and is celebrated in the present, it looks also to the future. God’s remembering has the effect of moving history forward, of advancing the work of salvation, still incomplete in the world, towards its final accomplishment in the parousia. Human remembering of the past can be creative for present and future, renewing and releasing energies for what lies ahead and stimulating hope for a future that Christians believe to be announced and indeed in some sense present in the Lord’s resurrection. This future, as still to be realized and as already present, is celebrated in the church’s memorial. Some implications of this have already been noted. The more recent Roman Eucharistic prayers include this dimension explicitly: “Father, we now celebrate this memorial of our redemption. We recall Christ’s death, his descent among the dead, his resurrection, and his ascension to your right hand; and, looking forward to his coming in glory, we offer you …” To celebrate the memorial requires action in the present and commitment to the future.

Ecumenical Possibilities

The rediscovery of the biblical memorial has proved of great ecumenical import for the opportunities it offers to interpret afresh this earliest and most traditional of words in the Eucharistic vocabulary of all the churches. Frequent reference is made to memorial in contemporary dialogue on the disputed question of the relationship between Christ’s sacrifice and the Eucharist and the issue of the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. The Anglican / Roman Catholic International Commission in its Eucharitic Doctrine: Statement (1971) and Elucidation (1979), the Roman Catholic / Evangelical Lutheran Commission in its Document on the Eucharist (1979), the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Chruches in its Lima text (1982) – to name just three important consultations – all appeal to the biblical idea of memorial and apply it to the Eucharist in their efforts to transcend the older controversy, avoiding the extremes of empty symbolism and exaggerated realism, and reach convergence or agreement.

Patrick McGoldrick

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