“Do this in remembrance of me.”
These are familiar words of Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed. Eating a last supper with his disciples, whether that is the night of the Passover or the night before the Passover, these were the words that Jesus instructed his disciples. But today, as we read them, I believe there to be translation issue. This remembrance is not as though I remembered where I placed my keys, or I remembered that I forgot my wedding anniversary for a second year in a row. In the Greek language, the word to remember a cognitive detail as the examples above is mimnesko (μνημονεύω). In the scriptures we see this understanding of “to remember” being used as Mary sings to God in remembrance of his mercy (Luke 1:54). This type of cognitive, bringing a thought back into the mind, is used throughout the scriptures, except in three cases. There are three times throughout the scriptures that we see the English word “remembrance” that uses a different Greek word. And that word I want to discuss is anamnesis (ἀνάμνησις). The only three times it is used, is in reference to the sacrifice that Christ made and is “remembered” in the last supper (Luke 19:22, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, and Hebrew 10:3).
Nancy Declaissé-Walford explains it in this way, “Remembering [anamnesis (ἀνάμνησις)] is depicted not simply as ‘bringing to mind,’ but as an active, participatory event, in which God and people somehow mysteriously interact.” In essence, the saving power of that past event (Christ’s death and Resurrection), is present each time the event is “remembered” in the reenactment at the Lord’s Table.
So what does all of this have to do with Cheerios? Well, the other morning was the first time I had seen this commercial, which according to YouTube is based on a true event. I know, cute, right?! Anyways, as I watched it, the reality of what it was saying hit me. This is a present day example of anamnesis: something in the past that when “remembered” brings with it the power from the past to the present. The past action of the mother having Cheerios with her mother is being remembered in the cognitive memory. This is the example of the type of memory we are all used to. But as her boy reminds her that by having Cheerios with me it is like having breakfast with Nana, that remembrance brings into effect the power of the “remembering” or anamnesis, as if they were having breakfast with Nana right then and there in the present.
This same lesson of remembrance is true also each time we come around the Table to remember God’s salvific acts in Jesus Christ. The power that was true in that past event of Christ’s death and Resurrection is brought forth into the present with full intensity by God’s grace each time we celebrate the event of Holy Communion. It is a meal with the real power and presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. It is a table that we, the living and the saints of the past, come together once more each week to “remember”, to bring into the present and actualize once more the saving Grace of God that happened so long ago.
Let me offer one more analogy. N.T. Wright uses the analogy of a train to understand this type of remembrance that I hope to have described in this brief thought. “As we are travelling the line that leads from the Upper Room to the great feast in God’s new world, from the victory of Calvary and Easter to the final victory over death itself (1 Cor. 15:26) we find at every station – in other words, at every celebration of the Jesus-meal that God’s past catches up with us again, and God’s future comes to meet us once more.” It is as these stations of the observance of Holy Communion do we remember presently the power of the past and the future all in one stop.
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
May the Christ who was, is, and ever will be remain present at the table in Holy Communion.