THE EUCHARIST (1) – Sacrificial Memorial of Christ

 The Sacrifices of Melchizedek, Abel, and Abraham. Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna (Photo: The Lonely Pilgrim)

– Joni Cheng

For Christ being the Son of God, He also embraced the same love the Father has for man in His human heart, that He would “lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13) and “loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Therefore, when the hour had come for Him to fulfil the Father’s plan of love (CCC 2605), our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood as a pledge of this love (CCC 1337). “Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). So, through His Eucharistic presence, He can remain present in our midst under signs and communicate His love “as the one who loved us and gave Himself up for us” (CCC 1380). Therefore, the Eucharist is the memorial of His sacrifice (CCC 1357) and Christ’s Passover (CCC 1362).

In the Sacred Scripture, ‘memorial’ does not simply mean the recollection of past events but “the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men” (CCC 1363). Just as God commanded the Sons of Israel to observe Passover by slaughtering a Passover lamb (Ex 12:21) as memorial of their deliverance from the slavery of Egypt (Ex 13:3), with the arrival of our Savior in the New Testament, this memorial takes on new meaning (CCC 1364), “for Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7).

The very words of the Eucharistic institution by our Savior at the Last Supper manifested the sacrificial character of the Eucharist (CCC 1365): “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19) and “This is the cup which poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:20), which the Body and Blood He gave up for us on the Cross are “for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9:22). Therefore, the institution of the Eucharist signifies “the memorial of His sacrifice” and “the New Covenant” (CCC 611). Our Lord “did this once and for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb 7:27) so that through His sacrifice, the work of our redemption can be carried out (CCC 1364).

The Lord also commanded that “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24) and to repeat His actions and words “until He comes” (CCC 1341). The Church carries out His command by the Eucharistic celebration at Mass (CCC 1357), so “its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit” (CCC 1366). Christ wanted to leave His Church, that is His beloved spouse (CCC 1366) and His Body (CCC 1362) this visible sacrifice, so she could re-present the Eucharistic sacrifice in the liturgy of the Church (CCC 1362), hence, we may have life in Him by eating “the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood” (Jn 6:53).

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