‘Do this in remembrance of me’
'The Last Supper' by Leonardo da Vinci
A reflection by the Rev Canon Dr John Cuthbert:
'Do this in remembrance of me.' These words are very familiar to us; perhaps more familiar than the word anamnesis, the theological word that appears in red in the margin of our 1982 liturgy books, and refers to our action of remembering Christ’s passion and death, his resurrection and ascension. It may seem that remembering is something we do in our minds, a mental rather than a physical activity.
But if we break down the word to re - membering, it has a different connotation. Re-membering is about making present again, and in the Eucharist our act of re-membering is about Christ’s presence with us in the sacramental elements of communion, but also as a member with us at the sacramental meal.
Our being present at the Eucharist, members together in Christ, is an act of thanksgiving (the meaning of the word Eucharist itself), but it is also an act of obedience: obedience to that injunction of Jesus himself, 'Do this in remembrance of me.'
One of my favourite excerpts from a book, is from The Shape of the Liturgy by Dom Gregory Dix. There is not room to quote all of it here, but as a taster let me quote part:
Was ever another command so obeyed? Men have found no better thing to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the wisdom of the parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die;.... ;while the lions roared in the amphitheatre; while the hiss of scythes of harvest came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows. One could fill many pages with the reasons men have done this. ... Probably the most moving of all the reflections it brings is not the thought of great events and the well remembered saints, but of those innumerable millions of entirely obscure men and women, every one with his or her own individual hopes and fears and joys and sorrows and loves – and sins and temptations and prayers. ... November, in particular, is a month for remembrance. Of course there are the two important saints for us Scots – Queen Margaret of Scotland and Andrew, apostle and Patron of our land, on the 16th and 30th.
But we begin the month with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. Days when we remember the lesser known saints of the church who have been examples and witnesses for the Kingdom but have no particular day of their own in the calendar; and then an opportunity to remember by name our own loved ones, members and benefactors of our churches, those who helped us grow in the faith, those whom only we remember. And then there is November 11th, Armistice Day, when we remember those of our armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their country, especially during the conflicts of the last century. Many of us will remember all of these men and women by being obedient to Our Lord’s command, 'Do this in remembrance of me' in the context of the Eucharist.
In October, many of us from around the Diocese, obeyed that command when we gathered in St Andrew’s Brechin for the Requiem Eucharist and Funeral of the Revd Joyce Mumford. It was an enormous privilege for me to have been asked to preside at that requiem, to offer the thanksgiving of the Eucharist but also to offer thanksgiving for Joyce’s life and ministry, and example of faith. It was wonderful that Joyce’s call to the priesthood, to be obedient to the command of Christ to let him be re-membered in our community, had been recognised by the church; and though it was short, her priestly ministry was fulfilled with much love and prayer.
We at St Mary’s, Arbroath, and St Peter’s, Auchmithie, have indeed been blessed by Joyce’s ministry, and I know that sense of blessing extends to other places around the Diocese. We will all remember Joyce with much fondness.
Eternal Lord God, you hold all souls in life: shed forth, we pray, upon all the faithful departed, and especially your servant, Joyce, the bright beams of your light and heavenly comfort: and grant that they, and we with them, may at length attain to the joys of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.