Do we still remember?

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Exodus 24:3-8

When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD, they all answered with one voice, "We will do everything that the LORD has told us." Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do." Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his."

Hebrews 9:11-15

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there." The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Often we hear or say “let bygones be bygones”; the past is the past. However, this is very likely meant for things that are not too pleasant to remember; for who would not want to retain happy and good things in our memories. In fact, we are created with the ability to remember and personal memories form part of our being. As a people, we also have social memories. These shared communal memories bind together families, tribes or nations and shape human history as what happened in the past, through memories, affect the present and influence the future.

The celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is basically the celebration of the anamnesis of Jesus’ Last Supper, a past event that Christians would want to remember. The background of the institution of the Body and Blood of Christ (Eucharist) is the Passover Meal, which is another past event that the Jews would want to remember. The Pasch (Jewish feast of the Passover) itself is not just a memorial of a historical incident but a commandment of God to commemorate the story of how He liberated the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt (rf Ex 12:14, 13:8). This remembrance of the incident is to remind the Israelites of the covenant God made with them that they are His chosen people (First Reading). Like the Passover Meal, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is not simply a memorial to recollect the past. It is a commandment of Jesus to His disciples to re-enact and thus recall what He has done before His death (rf Lk 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24)). It reminds them, and us, of the new covenant that He had made with His own body and blood (rf Mt 26:28, Mk 14:24).

No doubt, both the Paschal and Jesus’ self-sacrificial meals occurred at specific times in the world history, yet what Jesus did has an everlasting effect that transcends time and space. Not only has He risen but also He is now alive in the living, collective memory of His people – the Church. He is, therefore, made present every time when Christians gather to celebrate the Eucharist. When we partake of His body and blood, we are not only reminded of the historical supper, but also receive them now as nourishment for our spiritual life and at the same time, we are assured of the hope of the “promised eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15) until He comes again in glory (rf 1 Cor 11:26).

Each time, in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine, we are being brought back to that moment when our Lord offered Himself for us. Besides receiving His Body and Blood, we also receive His blessings and love; a love of a dying person for his beloved. Dear friends, when we participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist, do we remember the Lord’s Last Supper? Do we celebrate His real presence in the bread and wine? Do we believe His unimaginable love for us?

“We remember how you loved us to your death,
and still we celebrate, for you are with us here;
And we believe that we will see you when you come,
in your glory, Lord, we remember, we celebrate, we believe.”

(from song We Remember by Marty Haugen)

Posted: June 3, 2018

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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