Is communion simply a ritual of remembrance?

Eucharist is shared during the morning prayer held in the chapel of Sarum College during the 2016 Wesley Pilgrimage in England. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.
Eucharist is shared during the morning prayer held in the chapel of Sarum College during the 2016 Wesley Pilgrimage in England. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

Holy Communion includes a profound act of remembrance that recalls the last supper Jesus had with his disciples. But it is more than just a ritual of remembering. It is primarily an act through which our connection with God, each other and our life of ministry in the world is nourished and strengthened.

This Holy Mystery describes what we believe and practice in the sacrament: “Holy Communion is remembrance, commemoration, and memorial, but this remembrance is much more than simply intellectual recalling. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25) is anamnesis (the biblical Greek word). This dynamic action becomes re-presentation of past gracious acts of God in the present, so powerfully as to make them truly present now. Christ is risen and is alive here and now, not just remembered for what was done in the past.”

In the ritual, the prayer of Great Thanksgiving intentionally rehearses the entirety of God’s saving acts in history from creation to God’s covenant with Israel, through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And in this prayer, we seek the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon us and the gifts of bread and wine we bring.

When we receive the bread and wine so “we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood,” we are remembering. At the same time, we are also re-membered, put back together again. We pray that we may be “one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” God’s work of making us one and uniting us with Christ and with each other is the ordinary way by which God feeds us, sustains us and empowers us to live as Christians in the world.

In communion, we do remember the saving work God has already done in the world and is doing today. And we anticipate God’s future for the world and all creation. We’re partners with God in creating this future. We are strengthened and transformed by the presence of Christ in the bread and wine to respond to God’s love by loving God and others.

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This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications. First published June 18, 2019.