“This do in remembrance of Me.”
When my husband and I began attending the Episcopal church we now call home, I’m not ashamed to say it’s primarily because we were drawn to the rector of the church, Fr. Rob.
I still remember the first teachings we received from him, how they were sprinkled with references to Dallas Willard, C.S. Lewis, spiritual formation, and Celtic Christianity — all references that meant something to us personally. We were pretty smitten with him from the start. And when he later added a Sunday evening contemplative eucharist service to the mix of offerings at the church, we were hooked. That’s when we began attending regularly.
In truth, it was Fr. Rob’s spiritual leadership that first drew us to the Anglican tradition we’re now prayerfully considering making our permanent home.
But somewhere between what drew us to the church and where we stand today, the Eucharist became more meaningful to me. Somewhere along the line, I began to stare longingly at the large round symbol of Christ’s body that Fr. Rob held up each week while speaking Christ’s words about the bread. Somewhere in there, I came to love the sign of the cross he made over the plate of small wafers while saying, “By him, and with him, and in him,” then continuing with, “In the unity of the Holy Spirit,” while making the sign of a circle.
I know that, ecumenically speaking, the worldwide body of believers, present and past, believe different things about what happens during this portion of corporate worship. Our Catholic brothers and sisters believe in transubstantiation — the transformation of the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus. Those in the evangelical stream tend to view it more as an act of remembrance of Christ’s work for us on the cross. (And this is the way I viewed it throughout the whole of my life as a nondenominational Christian.)
The Anglican tradition, which holds the via media — the middle way — between Catholicism and Protestantism in the totality of its corporate expression of worship, tends toward the Catholic view in this particular sacrament by believing in the “real presence” of Christ in its enactment. This means, as I learned last Sunday in the weekly forum Fr. Rob is offering to “pilgrims on the Canterbury trail,” that when Paul spoke of this meal in 1 Corinthians 11 by quoting Christ’s words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he used a word — anamnesis — that means “to make present,” to bring history into the present moment. As I heard it described last week, it is as though Christ was saying, “Do this, and I will be present.”
It is comforting to me to think that whatever I may be experiencing of Christ’s presence in my personal spiritual journey at any moment, the Eucharist is a place I will always find it.
How do you experience the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper?