Wednesday, 14 June 2023 08:19

1. The Eucharist Memorial of the Lord’s Easter

Antoine Ndong, SSS. 
Rome, Italy, 8/8/2022. 

Original text in French.



Passover is one of the most significant and popular feasts of the Jewish year. In fact, on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month of Nissan, when the moon was full, the Israelites immolated the Paschal Lamb and applied its blood to the lintel and doorposts of the house where the lamb was to be eaten, as testified to in chapter 12 of the book of Exodus. Our approach is to start from the celebration of the Jewish Passover to arrive at the Christian Easter. And so, we are going to show the link between the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter, the only event of salvation of humanity.


1. The Jewish memorial

For the Jewish people, the memorial is a sacred pledge given by God to his people. The people are called to preserve it as their spiritual treasure par excellence. To this end, this memorial implies a continuity, a mysterious permanence of the great divine actions commemorated by the feasts.[1] Indeed, as an actualization in the present of an event thanks to a particular sign, the memorial has three main characteristics according to Servigny. They are in particular:

  • It is a sign in the present that actualizes a past event.
  • It is the pledge of God's faithfulness to his promises.
  • It leads us to a greater future [2].

Therefore, the celebration of this Easter memorial must be repeated every year. And for this purpose, it is said:

On that day you shall remember it and celebrate it as a feast to Yahweh [sic], in your generations you shall celebrate it, it is a perpetual decree. You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread, for on that day I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt; you shall keep that day throughout your generations; it is a perpetual decree, cf. Ex 12:14. 17.

Thus, the Israelites have the duty to keep the memory of this day and to celebrate it from generation to generation. However, since this Passover is an institution, therefore the Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is an ordinance concerning the Passover: No stranger shall eat of it. Except only if he is bought with silver and circumcised, cf. Ex. 12:43, 44. The memorial allows those who celebrate it to become part of the event that is being commemorated.

Moreover, as Louis Bouyer says, it is the basis of a confident supplication so that the inexhaustible virtue of the Word that gave God's wonders in the past may renew them and accompany them in the present. This is why in the memorial the people will always repeat this word: “Remember us, Lord.”[3]

The Lord himself had already recommended this, saying: You shall speak to your son on that day, saying, Because of this the Lord acted for me when I came out of Egypt (cf. Ex 13:8). Thus, in addition to the obligation to remember the coming out of Egypt, there is also the obligation to recount the marvelous deeds of the Lord on the evening of the seder (of the Passover meal). The liberation from Egypt, the entry and the settlement in the promised land are stages of the same process.

The annual celebration of this Passover is the means by which each Jew becomes aware of his present insertion in the life and mission of the liberated people. He thus anticipates in a prayer of hope the final and perfect accomplishment of this liberation.[4] This is why every Israelite must consider himself as having come out of Egypt and been freed from servitude. He must remember to be freed from bondage. He must continually serve the redemptive and fundamental work of God.[5] That is why the psalmist will say: I have thought of the days of old, of secular years. I remember, I whisper in the night in my heart. I meditate and my spirit questions (cf. Ps 77:6-7). And Max Thurian emphasizes this when he says that “memorial thus becomes a higher form of sacrifice, the sacrifice fully integrated with the Word and the thanksgiving it elicits in response.” [6]

Indeed, through the memorial each Jew is aware of his present insertion in the life and mission of the people and anticipates in a prayer of hope the conclusion of this mission. With the celebration of the memorial, the Jewish people holds in its hands the two ends of the chain of its history:

  • He participates with gratitude in the events by which God gave birth to the people and to his mission, making them pass from slavery to freedom.
  • He celebrates in hope the happy end of this mission, whose fulfillment his personal commitment hastened for his part [7].

The Jewish memorial includes not only the liberation of the people in Egypt but also all the events related to it that are narrated in the Pentateuch such as:

  • God's liberating action on behalf of his people.
  • The gift of the Torah at Sinai.
  • The gift of the promised land which is like a new paradise.[8]

It is the means by which the Jews gratefully participate in the events through which God gave birth to the people and their mission to move from slavery to freedom. Thus, God will say: When your child asks you tomorrow, “What are these instructions, laws and customs that our God has commanded us?” You shall say to your child, We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and God brought us out of Egypt by his mighty hand. God has done great and terrible signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his house. But God brought us out of there to the land promised our ancestors by oath and gave it to us (cf. Deut 6:20-23). This is why the people see in the memorial the wonders of God in creation and recognize in it the effective sign of the perpetual actuality in it of his wonders and in a particular way of their eschatological fulfillment.

The memorial in the eyes of the people has a high historical, religious, social, family and agricultural significance. It is not only an essential ritual event of certain sacrifices, but what gives the final meaning to any sacrifice. It is an institution, established by God, given and imposed by him, to his people, to perpetuate forever his saving interventions. Not only does the memorial subjectively assure the faithful of their permanent efficacy, but first of all it assures them of this efficacy as a pledge that they can and must represent to him, a pledge of his own fidelity.

In short, we can say that a careful reading of the Holy Scriptures allows us to discover the important place that the Easter memorial occupies in the Old Testament.

Indeed, throughout the history of salvation, God remembers his Covenant and his promises. And for its part, the chosen people are always called to remember the good deeds and wonders of God. The Jewish Passover is the memorial of the deliverance by which God tore his people from the slavery of Pharaoh. The Passover meal is the memorial that attests to the permanent reality for Israel of the divine deeds.[9]

Through Moses God had commanded the Israelites to commemorate their liberation from Egypt each year with a special ceremony by eating only unleavened bread for seven days (cf. Ex 12:15). The sacrifice of the lamb was a memorial of the people's faith and its blood was a reminder of the exterminating angel who spared the Israelites from God's wrath. The sacrifice of the Paschal lamb refers to the firstborn and through them to the whole people and the whole creation.[10] Indeed, the memorial in the Old Testament is far from being a simple remembrance of past events, it is an actualization of the wonders of God accomplished in the past and which will find its full accomplishment mainly in the paschal mystery of Christ.


2. The Christian memorial

The Pauline text is the oldest document on the Eucharistic celebration. It tells us: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread and after giving thanks, broke it and said: “This is my body, which is for you Do this in memory of me”. In the same way, after the meal, he took the cup, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; whenever you drink it, do it in memory of me” (cf. 1 Cor 11:23-25).

The Church, faithful to her Lord, is called to reiterate all the gestures and words that Jesus accomplished and pronounced at the Last Supper. She is aware in celebrating the Eucharist that Christ is always present, always alive in his body. She constantly renews the sacrifice of the cross. The Church is aware in celebrating the Eucharist that Christ is always present and always alive in her midst. With the celebration of the Eucharist, she constantly renews the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of her Lord and awaits his glorious return.

The Eucharistic celebration is not a simple remembrance of the past but an actualization of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In celebrating the Eucharist, each member of the faithful must be convinced that it is today that Christ died and rose for himself and for the salvation of all humanity.

The Eucharist is a memory of the Lord's Passion which is actualized through prayer and liturgical celebration in the life of Christians and projects it towards the glorious return of the Lord. The Eucharistic liturgy is therefore the memory of the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ as presented to us in the Gospels. This memory is not a simple remembrance of the past, but an actualization through the power of the Holy Spirit acting through faith and charity.

This actualization places in the believer the seed of a new life and nourishes it so that it develops in the heart and in fraternal action. As a memorial, the Eucharist is projected in some way by faith towards the return of Christ in an attitude of vigilance in prayer and in action, vigilance that preserves the weight of actualization through the awareness that the Lord is already present to us by his Spirit, by his grace, through his Word and his sacraments.[11]

The celebration of the Paschal Mystery allows the Church to actualize the mystery of Christ's death and also to enter actively into the New Covenant. The Church thus manifests the meaning of human destiny reconciled with God and makes it present in the concrete community that celebrates the mystery.[12]

The Christian memorial, carried out by the anamnesis of the broken Body and the poured Blood, accomplished on the bread and on the cup, is an objective reality which, at the same time, makes present for us the redemptive grace and on the basis of it, presents God to us so that we are assured of him to be pleasing. It is the encounter with God, Master of history, who intervened as an active subject in the unfolding of our history.

The memorial is a symbolic pledge, given by the divine Word that accomplishes in history the wonders of God, a pledge of their continuous presence, always active in us and for us who grasp it by faith. In the Old Covenant, the Passover remained present in each of its renewed liturgical celebrations, because the divine descent and intervention, taking hold of the people in order to rescue them from ignorance and death, were perpetuated there, in view of the completion of this people.[13]

Thanks to the memorial, the Passover of Christ is realized and perpetuated in history until his glorious return. It allows the Christian Passover to be situated in the prolongation of the Jewish Passover. Just as the Jewish Passover was the memorial of the historical Passover of the exodus, the Christian Passover is the memorial of the Passover of Jesus, that is to say his passage from this world to his Father.[14]

The Passover of the Old Covenant found its own fulfillment in the Easter of Christ: the bread and the cup of the Eucharist are the memorial of Christ.[15] The mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the form of the memorial that announces the original Christian event. Jesus made the Eucharistic meal the memorial of the mystery of the cross. Giving thanks with him, through him for his broken body and his shed blood which are given to us as the substance of the kingdom, we present to God this mystery now fulfilled in our Head, so that it may have its ultimate fulfillment in his whole Body.[16]

The Christian memorial is both prophetic and cultic in that it projects us into eschatology and links us to the past, that is to say, to the event of the past, the death and resurrection of Christ: For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26). It enables the Church to proclaim effectively and efficiently the work of redemption accomplished by Christ.

The founding element of the Christian Eucharist is found in the Last Supper: in fact, on that day the Lord Jesus took the bread, blessed it and told his disciples to take it and eat it, for it is his Body, then at the end of the meal, he took the cup, gave thanks and told them to take it and drink it, for it is the cup of the Covenant in his blood, and then he commanded them to do this in memory of him. Through this action, Jesus set a model for us to do the same, that is the Eucharist: to obey the command of Christ, to do what he himself did.[17]

Finally, we can say that the Christian memorial is an obedience in faith to the commandment of Jesus: “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19).

It has three main elements:

  • The Eucharistic sign given at the Last Supper, the sacramental mode of sacrifice.
  • The reality of the Covenant in his blood where Christ is present in the act of the cross.
  • The gift of his grace until he comes.[18]

In celebrating the Eucharist, memorial of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, we reveal the omnipotence of God's love which, far from being a power of crushing and domination, is a power of love that does not allow itself to be overcome by any paroxysm of evil. In the celebration of the Eucharistic memorial God, remembering his Covenant, asks man to do the same. The Eucharist is the memorial of the Lord's Easter which is actualized through prayer and liturgical celebration in the life of Christians and projects it towards the glorious return of the Lord.

The Eucharistic liturgy is the memorial of the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ as presented to us in the Gospels. The Eucharist as a memorial of the Lord's Easter is both prophetic and cultic because it projects us into the future and links us to the past, that is to say, the passion-death and resurrection of Christ. “Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor 11:26). Through the Eucharistic memorial the Church effectively proclaims the work of salvation accomplished by Christ.

The Eucharistic celebration is an obedience in faith to the command of the Divine Master: “Do this in memory of me.

The Passover of the Old Covenant was the memorial of the passage from bondage to freedom, while that of the New Covenant is the memorial of the passage of the Lord from this world to his Father, of the victory of life over death.

The memorial of the Jewish Passover made the guests relive the experience of the liberation from Egypt and announced the ultimate and definitive liberation into the Kingdom. Jesus inscribes this Passover celebration in front of the mystery of his passion - death and resurrection.

With the celebration of the Passover of the Old Covenant, the Chosen People awaited their definitive liberation, while with that of the New Covenant, the Church is called to relive the Paschal mystery while awaiting the glorious return of her Lord.

The Eucharistic memorial is a response of love, thanksgiving and obedience of faith. And from this obedience of faith comes the full realization of the Eucharistic offering of Jesus, which is for all those who take communion a source of self-giving to the Father and to others, to the point of total and definitive self-giving.


[1] Cf. Bouyer L., Eucharistie. Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, Ed. Desclée Paris 1963, p. 88.

[2] De Servigny G., La théologie de l’Eucharistie dans le concile Vatican II, Ed. Téqui, Paris 2000, p. 67.

[3] Cf. Bouyer L., Eucharistie. Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, Ed. Desclée Paris 1963, p. 88.

[4] Cf. Michel-Jean Ch., La Pâque du Christ et la nôtre: l’Eucharistie, Ed. Cerf, Paris 1981, p. 26.

[5] Cf. Messner R., "The Liturgy of the Word during Mass: The Anamnesis of Christ Staged" in The House of God 1 (2005) 93-109, p. 95.

[6] Thurian M., L’eucharistie, mémorial du Seigneur, sacrifice d’action de grâce et d’intercession, Deschaux, Neuchatel 1959, cité par L. Bouyer. Eucharistie. Théologie et spiritualité de la prière eucharistique, Ed. Desclée, Paris 1963, p. 88.

[7] Michel-Jean Ch., La Pâque du Christ et la nôtre: l’Eucharistie, Ed. Cerf, Paris 1981, p. 27.

[8] Messner, p. 97.

[9] Bouyer, p. 449.

[10] Ratzinger J., The Spirit of the Liturgy, Ad Solem, Ed. Geneva, 2001, p. 33.

[11] Servais Th. P., La prière chrétienne, Ed. Universitaire, Fribourg, 1989, p. 84.

[12] Tihon P., "Theology of the Eucharistic Prayer" in Assembly of the Lord. Second series n°1 (1968), 33-93, p.93.

[13] Bouyer, p. 452.

[14] Cantalamessa R., Le mystère pascal, Ed. Salvator, Paris 2000, p. 79.

[15] Bouyer, p. 450.

[16] Bouyer, p. 449.

[17] Mazza E., L’action eucharistique, Ed. Cerf, Paris 2005, p. 13.

[18] De Servigny, p. 70.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 June 2023 10:29