Remembering and the Real Presence
I learned a new word this week. It kept coming up in my studies so I finally had to look up its meaning—anachronism. What a great word! One of its definitions is that it is someone or something that is not in its correct historical or chronological time.
In my studies, it was used to describe how scholars of St. Paul often interject notions from the Middle Ages into his first century thought, skewing his meaning and intention. Martin Luther himself, no doubt, misunderstood Paul, and, unfortunately, Luther’s words are often used implicitly to express Paul’s thoughts.
Anyway, back to my new word. Impressing nobody but myself, I found a way to use it, which is always a treat for geeks like me. My husband and I were sitting at the table one day, each with our section of the paper. He was reading the news and I was “reading” the comics (which probably tells you something right there.)
Well, like a gift from God, there was a B.C. cartoon. You know the one, where the guy is sitting behind his rock? He was advertising bowling, but his sign wasn’t getting any response, so he changed it to say beer was included. Then the people lined up.
I looked up at my husband and, stabbing my finger on the page, said, “See, see this? This is an anachronism!” You can imagine his temperate response as he looked up from his page. I, naturally, went on to explain how beer didn’t fit in the caveman’s time and how that made beer an anachronism!
Oh was I impressed with myself. To think I found a use for my new word! The problem with me and new words is that if you ask me what it means ten minutes after I’ve looked it up and even used it, I won’t remember.
One time I was sitting in a college math class and one of my classmates said, “I don’t keep anything in my head that I’m not going to use in the next ten minutes.” I thought that was so funny at the time, but for me, now, it’s true, but for a very different reason. I don’t keep anything in my head that long, but it’s not because I’m not going to use it, it’s because I don’t remember it!
One word I do remember learning about in my studies is “remember,” or more specifically, “memory.” We use this word at every mass, but I would bet most people misunderstand it. Today, we use it like I did above, to be able to hold on to a thought, for instance. But when the priest uses it during mass, that’s not quite right.
When the priest says, “Do this in memory of me” at the consecration, we should not only be thinking, “Oh, yeah, let’s remember that time a couple thousand years ago when Jesus spoke at the Last Supper.”
What we want to realize is that it expresses a much deeper mystery. It goes back to the Passover meal, but the meaning for the Israelites would have been along the lines of “Remember what God did for us when he saved us,” and the great mystery within that recollection, the understanding that the saving act is made present in that moment. This is not unlike our recognition of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection in the Eucharist. It is essential that we understand this.
For us, during mass, when Father speaks the words of remembrance, we find the Real Presence of Christ. Doing this “in memory of me” speaks of our awareness that Jesus is present. It is not a simple mental assent that makes us think about Jesus, but a deep awareness that he is present in the Eucharistic species.
Think about this the next time you go to mass and receive communion. You are not receiving a piece of bread that symbolically helps you remember Jesus. You are receiving Christ himself, body, blood, soul and divinity. This is an awesome mystery and no matter how many times we receive our Lord, allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to overwhelm us with his presence, we should appreciate what a gift we have in the Eucharist.
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth during their pregnancies, (Luke 1:43) Elizabeth (pregnant with John the Baptist), asked, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
I think we might likewise ask, “And how does this happen to me, that my Lord should come to me?” Amazingly, he really does.
Copyright 2013 Janet Cassidy