Monday, May 19, 2008

Memorial Day -- "In Remembrance of Me"

On many altars of Reformed Protestants, one often finds the words inscribed "Do This In Remembrance of Me."

At first blush, there doesn't seem to be anything bad about this. They are, after all, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. But couched behind these words is a belief that Christ's body and blood are not actually present for the forgiveness of sins in the Lord's Supper. Holy Communion is simply a "memorial meal" whereby Christians are supposed to engage in the intellectual activity of calling to mind the love of Christ.

In an allegorical/symbolic memorial meal, it isn't very important to insist on particular elements (e.g. wine or grape juice; unleavened bread or rice crackers) because it's the REMEMBERING which is the important part. According to this kind of thinking, the remembering can be done no matter what elements are used and no matter what confession of faith one holds when coming to the altar.

Where the Lord's Supper is a memorial meal, the onus is on the worshiper to do the work of remembering. Where the Lord's Supper is a sacrament, the burden is on the Lord God to provide His gifts of forgiveness, live and salvation. The former is the Law, the latter is Gospel.

In his Loci Communes (pp. 146-7), Melanchthon points to faithful men in church history who have confessed this connection:

[St. Paul] says [1 Cor. 11:24-25], “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Nor is this an empty spectacle. Christ is truly present. Through this ministry He gives His own body and blood to those who eat and drink. The ancient fathers spoke the same way. Cyril says in his Commentary on John, “Hence we must understand that Christ is in us not only through love, but also by participation in our nature,” that is, He is present not only with His efficacy but also with His substance.

And Hilary says, “For the things which we say concerning His natural presence in us would be foolish and ungodly unless we had truly spoken as He teaches us. For He Himself says, ‘The bread is truly My flesh, and the cup is truly My blood.’” And then He continues that when these things are received and consumed they cause us to be in Christ and Christ to be in us. Nor should we imagine that this is a memorial to a dead man, like the spectacles in honor of Hercules and the like. We must reject these profane notions, and having been instructed by this testimony, we should believe that Christ has truly been made a sacrifice and put to death for us, but also that He has truly been raised and reigns and is present with His church, and in this ministry He truly joins Himself to us as His members.

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