"Do this in memory of me.” Do what in memory of whom? Jesus said: “Whenever you eat my Body, and Drink my blood, do it in memory of me.” Why did Jesus say this at “the Last Supper?” Was he being selfish telling us to remember him?
In general, it is good and enriching to remember the noble deeds and characteristic actions of truly good human beings. The action of Jesus which he tells us to remember is first of all what he did at his last meal before being crucified. Knowing what was about to take place, Jesus took bread, gave thanks to God, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples to eat. The action itself, in the context of the Passover meal, is clearly rooted both in the Exodus event and in Jewish family meals and prayers. And then in a similar way, after supper, Jesus lifted up the cup of wine, gave thanks to God, and asked his disciples to drink from the one cup. Again, the action befits the Passover, the celebration of the LORD God leading His people, through Moses, from captivity in Egypt to freedom under God. Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine in the context of the Passover meal as a memorial for keeping his disciples mindful of what Christ did for each and for all. He makes of us an Exodus people: human beings on a journey through death-in-self into the sheer peace and freedom of God.
The prayer and sharing of the bread and wine, with the command to “do this in memory of me,” are not rooted in themselves, nor do they point simply to themselves. Rather, they direct our minds directly to Jesus Christ and to what he did for us and for all in his ultimate self-giving act of love, even unto death by the brutal torture of crucifixion. Christ established what he called “the new covenant in my blood” through his life-giving death on the cross; and he established the memorial for the new covenant at the Passover Last Supper. Jesus used the rich meaning of the Passover to throw light on his suffering unto death for us, and to show us the way to the new Exodus into God.
Christ is teaching us, among other things, that the God who led His people out of bondage in Egypt through Moses is now leading his disciples from the bondage of sin and death into life eternal in God. This is the new Exodus. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” as the Apostle Paul explains.The evangelist John similarly turns the life-giving action of Christ into a lesson for every disciple: “As I have done for you, so you also must do for one another.” And what must one do for each other? Give oneself up in love to bring each other into union with God.
Is this explanation of “Do this in memory of me” too familiar, and perhaps too superficial? Familiar it is. But let’s bear in mind that the depth of the meaning comes not from the words used to interpret Christ’s Eucharistic gift to us. Whatever real depth of meaning is in the Eucharist comes from the depth of Christ’s love, which surely is in the mystery of God—in the mystery of the divine abyss. We may peer into this abyss, but not see. Love alone understands love. Only to the extent that one “goes and does likewise,” that one is self-giving as Christ is self-giving, can one truly understand the Eucharistic feast. The man, woman, or child, who comes to the table /altar of the Lord, and humble and lovingly surrenders “all that I am, all that I have,” is the one who has a genuine understanding of the Eucharist. “Just as I am, without one plea…”
“Do this in memory of me.” Do what in memory of Christ? Ultimately, the entire orientation of our lives ought to be “in memory of Me,” in a faith-union with the Christ who “humbled himself, and became obedient into death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2). As we consciously remember who Christ is, and what He has done for us and for all, and as we put into daily practice his abandonment of a self-centered life in all of its forms for the good of others, then we truly are living “in memory of Me.”
After thirty-five years of functioning as a Benedictine brother and priest in the Catholic Church, it is evident that the faithful are often fairly aware that they do not understand well what is meant by “the Holy Spirit”? In general, the entire mystery of God—symbolized as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”—baffles our people, and that is good, for in speaking of God in any way, we are entering into the realm of divine mystery. That means that we are speaking about reality that lies beyond our physical and mental grasp, beyond our mortal understanding.
Even our human condition—and particularly what it means to be a human being—is far more difficult to understand than we often assume. For we dwell in shadows, between light and darkness, but often mistakenly believe that we are in the light. Far wiser is the saying inscribed above the portal at Delphi in ancient Greece: “Know thyself—that you are a human being, and not a god.” One cannot know what it is to be human without knowing the divine; and the divine is ever beyond our under-standing. Superficial minds and the intellectual elites of our day flatten out human existence so much that they think they know who or what we are. In effect, they seek to bring our common humanity down to their shrunken level. They even think that they know what “the self” is, or what you mean when you say, “I.” Do you really know what you mean when you say, “I”? Herakleitos said that he could not find the borders or limits of his soul, so great is its divine depth. On a practical level—for action in this world—yes, you have an initial grasp that allows you to act. But if you keep still, and seek to find who or what you are, and if you are open-minded (a very big “if” indeed in this day and age)—then you will discover that you do not know what you think you know. All of one’s knowing about oneself, the world, and what we call “God” is far more unknown than known, and largely beyond our understanding, and surely beyond our ability to grasp or to control. The way of wisdom begins as one wakes up and realizes, “I really do not know what I have been talking about—myself, you, or what is called “God.” Like Job, one realizes: “I did not know what I was talking about.” So begins the journey into wisdom.
If one is led to realize, “I do not truly know myself well, and I barely know who or what God is,” then one is being led by the Holy Spirit. That is called humility; and “humility is endless.” The Spirit shows us that we do not know as we ought to know, nor do we know why we have so much difficulty understanding “the things of God.” If one thinks, “I know who I am, and I know God,” then one is truly self-deceived, and is living in darkness unenlightened by the divine presence. If one claims, “I know that there is no God,” one deeply immersed in an impenetrable cesspool of self-deception, and remains imprisoned in that muck.
The way into the realm of the Holy Spirit begins with a penetrating insight into one’s own ignorance—and with an awareness that one has shared in this ignorance by pretending not to be in darkness. We deceive ourselves more than we like to admit. When one has been “in the Church” for many years, and still has a weak insight into the workings of the Holy Spirit, one would do well to admit, “I know far less than I have thought I knew.”
When I was a young man, speaking with a leading philosopher to understand the spiritual experiences of the Apostle Paul, we mentioned St. Paul’s frequent recourse to writing about “the Holy Spirit.” I asked the philosopher, “What is the Holy Spirit?” He looked me in the eyes and asked, “What do you think is moving you to ask your questions?” His question was a gift of the Spirit; and my questioning was a sharing in the Spirit. The Spirit provokes wonder and questioning.
How refreshing it is when we in the Church become aware that we do not grasp well the divine mystery to which we often give lip service.
Who or what is “the Holy Spirit?”