I could not pass up devoting one more week on the topic of Holy Communion. We have yet to discuss the repeated sentence in Christ’s words of Institution, “Do this for the remembrance of me.” These words are important!
Unintentionally, these words often receive little attention among Lutherans because we are typically defending the teaching that in the Sacrament we receive the supernatural body and blood of our Lord. The opposing view, prominent among most Protestants, is a Memorial rather than a Sacramental view.
We do not deny that among the benefits of Holy Communion is that of providing an occasion for us to remember Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for our salvation. The meal serves to remind us of what our Lord did on our behalf!
Yes, we recall what He did on our behalf! And yet we also celebrate what He continues to do on our behalf. And we continue to be thankful for how His death continues to equip us in our present moment.
Interestingly, in the Bible something done in remembrance is often more than just recalling a past event. It is that. But it is also an occasion to participate in the event itself. This is due to the living, active, authoritative power of God’s Word! In the Old Testament we witness this in the annual celebration of the Passover Meal. In that meal people recite the words of the miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage saying, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” These words continue to be spoken in the present tense long after the event itself!
Also in the Old Testament, when animal sacrifices were made to atone for the people’s sins, a portion of the sacrifice was eaten by the people in a meal. The eating itself signified a connection to the benefits of the sacrifice! Think of the significance of this in connection with Holy Communion…
Since You Asked…
What is the significance of sharing the peace?
“The peace which enables people to live in unity and in the spirit of mutual forgiveness comes only from Christ whose word has been proclaimed. … The peace is a sign that those who participate in it open themselves to the healing and reconciling power of God’s love and offer themselves to be agents of that love in the world. … The personal exchange of the peace should be as unpatterned as possible, but its meaning and significance should be kept clear. It is not the occasion merely for conviviality. The choice of gesture, whether a handshake, holding hands, or an embrace, should be left to the persons themselves.” (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)