Is the Eucharist just a memorial?


When discussing the issue of the real presence in the Eucharist, my Baptist friends always say the last supper was a memorial. They say Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Do you guys hear this as well? This one verse seems to summarize their argument against the real presence. (at least in my experience)

What arguments do you hear the most from Protestants who try to refute anything more than a symbolic interpretation of scripture when it comes to the Lords Supper?

If you argue in favor of the real presence, what would be a quick response to the “it is just a memorial” argument?

Thanks, I never know what to say when this comes up.:confused:


Well immediately following the “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no life in you”, there is the fish and the loaves story. This is no coincidence. Meditate on that and you’ll get it.

Simply say that when Jesus said this, many followers left him. He did not correct or adjust what he said. The people were disgusted by the idea and left, so they took what he said as literal. Short response.

*Now you can’t eat a lamb cookie in Egypt. If you didn’t like lamb, you couldn’t have your wife make lamb bread, little biscuits in the shape of a lamb and say, “God, you understand, we just can’t stand the stuff.” No, you do that, your firstborn would die. You had to eat the lamb. Jesus Christ has said to us, “My flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life.”*from:


Oh, BTW, a memorial is something you hold for a dead person, not a living person.


I feel it’s easy to explain. In Gospel of Luke (Lk 22:19) and First Corinthians (1 Cor 11:24) Jesus said “hoc fácite in meam commemoratiónem” or “do this in/for my commemoration” - he never said “this is symbolic”. He just wanted us (and by us I mean the validly ordained priests) to do it in commemoration of him. Ask your baptist friend how he equates commemoration with symbolic.



We use the very same verse to PROVE our case.

This is because they are using “memorial” in its English meaning, which is very weak. But the Greek term is much more powerful. The term is anamnesis, and is used as the counterpart to the Hebrew zikkaron, which points to a memorial, but not a mere mental recollection. Zikkaron/anamnesis refers to a sacrificial remembrance in which the events being remembered are in fact made present and those celebrating it actually take part. For Catholics, the anamnesis of Calvary is not merely recalling Calvary, but is actually the re-living of Calvary. That is to say, we become present at the events of the Easter Mystery.

For your reference:

See paragraph 3. Hahn has done more in-depth studies on this concept.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

V. The Sacramental Sacrifice: Thanksgiving, Memorial, Presence

If from the beginning Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of times and liturgies, it is because we know ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: "Do this in remembrance of me."183

We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present.

We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:

thanksgiving and praise to the Father;

the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;

the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit.

and for the rest click here:


Ask them, if memorial == Jesus is not present (which is what they’re really arguing), does that mean Jesus is not present at their own worship services? Does that mean when he said “wherever two or three gather in my name, I am in their midst” doesn’t apply to their own worship services?


I’m sure they are not saying that. They are saying that Jesus is not present sacramentally (ie the wafer does not become the actual body of Christ, but is just a symbol). I don’t think if you’ve attended a big prot worship service that you could deny that God is there, but it is a different prescence than we have in the Eucharist (Holy Spirit vs Jesus Himself).


Yes, that’s what they’ll say, but it is illogical. If “memorial” still allows for the presence of Christ, why does “memorial” not allow for the sacramental presence of Christ? That is the question they can’t answer - haven’t even considered, usually.


I might not have explained myself. They see the passage as primarily being about the “do this in memory of me.” ie the memorialist view. They re-enact the last supper out of obedience to that particular Scripture without referencing to the rest of the Gospel. They do seek God’s prescence, but through P&W, not the Sacraments.

I would not say “memorial” is particularly supportive of the transubstantiationalist view, except if it has the connotations of Zinnakon are there, as porthos said.


Right, but they don’t explain why a memorial to Christ precludes Christ actually being present. And in fact they don’t even actually believe that a memorial to Christ precludes Christ from actually being present. They only seem to believe it precludes him from being present sacramentally, and that doesn’t make any sense.


Don’t forget I am on your side, I can just see the other side, OK?

As I said, they ignore the other scriptures relating to the Eucharist. Like “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no life in you.” Remember many left after he said that, because they found it unacceptible. Many do still today, I guess. eg see it as cannibalism. They don’t recognise the Last supper as echoing the Passover meal, that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. For all of their Bible knowledge, they seem to miss the themes and types and shaddows and the beauty of how it all fits together.

It is one of the reasons I converted. 2 years of Bible college (your average pastor) just cannot compete with 2000 years of accumulated wisdom, meditation, tradition, theology, etc.


Some really good answers have already been given. . .I would recommend doing more research on the Jewish understanding of the Passover as a memorial. This should shed much light.

Also, an example that I use when teaching this concept is one having to do with baking a cake. . .Stay with me.

Before my grandmother died, she taught me to bake her secret recipe carrot cake. It was on a spring afternoon in her kitchen. As we stood together at her kitchen counter, with tears in her eyes, she looked at me and said “Jane, I hope that when I am gone and you bake this cake that you remember me.”

Now, it’s been some years since she went to her eternal rest, but everytime I bake her cake, I remember her. It’s a memorial to my grandmother each time I grate a bag of carrots and smear on cream cheese frosting. I do this in memory of her.

Of course, the sacramentality is lost in the analogy, but it speaks very well to our understanding of memorials. When I bake my grandmother’s cake, it is HER cake. It is not a symbol of her cake. I don’t make a cake that just looks like her’s. I don’t put white frosting on a boxed mix cake and call it her cake. When I make her cake, it really is the actual cake she made. It remains both a memorial and the actual cake that she made for years.

So, consider this in terms of Christ’s power. Unlike my grandmother, He has the power to transcend time and actually physcially and spiritually partcipate in His work throughout eternity. He told his disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Like my grandmother, he meant “do what I am doing and when you do it, remember me.” And for almost 2000 years of Christendom, we have. We do what He did (and continues to do through his priests). The Eucharistic celebration is both a memorial and the actual re-presentation of the Body and Blood of Jesus that He offered at the Last Supper. It isn’t just some bread we call His Body or a bottle of wine we drink and toast to him. He intended for His Apostles to “do this”. . . to do the same thing He did.


Really? It only takes two years to become a pastor? I apologize - being Catholic, that doesn’t make any sense to me!


Yep, got that. I’m not disputing with you, but with the ideas that you and the OP are reporting from the Protestant world (and which I have encountered many times as well).

As I said, they ignore the other scriptures relating to the Eucharist. Like “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no life in you.” Remember many left after he said that, because they found it unacceptible. Many do still today, I guess. eg see it as cannibalism. They don’t recognise the Last supper as echoing the Passover meal, that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. For all of their Bible knowledge, they seem to miss the themes and types and shaddows and the beauty of how it all fits together.

It is one of the reasons I converted. 2 years of Bible college (your average pastor) just cannot compete with 2000 years of accumulated wisdom, meditation, tradition, theology, etc.

Yes, the effort of will that it would seem to take to read the “Eucharistic” passages of the NT (and their foreshadowing passages in the OT) as being symbolic-only is amazing to me. I think if you read all the relevant passages to a group outside of the Judeo-Christian world (that is, an unbiased group), 99 out of 100 would clearly see the Real Presence in those passages.

As you say, it all fits together in a work of beauty and love, something truly worthy of the mind and heart of God.


Thanks for all your responses.

That was one of the last questions I had regarding the real presence in the Eucharist.

I liked your analogy JaneFrances, it helped me alot.

Thanks also VociMike, davidarlette and everyone who responded.

I wish I could have you all in the room when I get into these kind of discussions with my friends.:smiley:

Thanks again.:thumbsup:


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

This might be an additional thing to consider, following up on some of the other suggestions that have previously been made in this discussion:

A useful exercise is to consider the senses in which “memorial” is used in the Scriptures. Here are some passages that might cast a different light on the use of the concept (the following are taken from the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Scriptures):

And when thou offerest it to the Lord, thou shalt deliver it to the hands of the priest. And when he hath offered it, he shall take a memorial out of the sacrifice, and burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour to the Lord. And whatsoever is left, shall be Aaron’s, and his sons’, holy of holies of the offerings of the Lord. Leviticus 2:8-10

Pouring oil upon it and putting on frankincense, because it is the oblation of the Lord. Whereof the priest shall burn for a memorial of the gift, part of the corn broken small and of the oil, and all the frankincense. Leviticus 2:15-16

The priest shall take a handful of the flour that is tempered with oil, and all the frankincense that is put upon the flour: and he shall burn it on the altar for a memorial of most sweet odour to the Lord: Leviticus 6:15

And thou shalt put upon them the dearest frankincense, that the bread may be for a memorial of the oblation of the Lord. Leviticus 24:7

Admittedly the Book of Sirach might be discounted by a Protestant who might not accept that portion of the Scriptures; but:

The sacrifice of the just is acceptable, and the Lord will not forget the memorial thereof. Sirach 35:9

He chose him out of all men living, to offer sacrifice to God, incense, and a good savour, for a memorial to make reconciliation for his people: Sirach 45:20

This use of the word is continued in the Acts of the Apostles:

And he, beholding him, being seized with fear, said: What is it, Lord? And he said to him: Thy prayers and thy alms are ascended for a memorial in the sight of God. Acts 10:4

These passages show that in a liturgical context the word “memorial” is used to signify a “reminder” *to God *of the intention and nature of the offering. In this light, Jesus’ intention becomes clear. Like a prince’s ring given to a messenger, so the king can recognize him as the prince’s legitimate agent, the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Mass is a “memorial” in the sense of a “credential” before God, identifying the worshiping faithful as Christ’s disciples authentically acting for Jesus.

The most telling use of the concept “memorial” in this sense might be in Hosea 12:5:

“Even the Lord the God of Hosts, the Lord is his memorial.”

This seems a specific prediction of the Real Presence in the Sacrifice of the Mass and its proper meaning as “memorial.”

I hope this is helpful.

Pax Christi nobiscum.

John Hiner


very well said:thumbsup: Thank you so much:blessyou:


The Protestant congregations put the emphasis on pastoral work. They don’t have the resources for high-level scholarship, and that’s not their understanding of what a pastor should do. In fact it is often commented that a Protestant pastor is very similar to one of our deacons.

Two years is about what we give candidates for the permanent deaconate.


Your friends probably say, but wasn’t Jesus crucified once and for all, never to be sacrificed for sins again? Yes, of course! In space and time Jesus was crucified once and for all in AD 30.
In God’s eyes — in eternity which is not limited by space and time — Jesus was crucified before the foundations of the world and in “eternity future” He is still seen by the Father as a slain lamb on the alter in heaven, as the crucified Lord on the Cross. All salvation past, present and future is based on this one historical event.

In the Mass, Jesus is NOT re-crucified, but we partake in a mystical way in the re-presentation of the ONE ETERNAL SACRIFICE which is ever before the eyes of the Father
Your friends probably say “Jesus WAS our sacrifice. He cannot be crucified again on Catholic altars, so Catholics are wrong!” But the Bible says, Yes, he WAS our sacrifice, but he also IS our Sacrifice.

Here is an analogy. The dawn is repeated every day. But the sun is not. In outer space it is always the same: always shining. Each dawn, the sun is re-presented, not repeated. The dawn is re-peated, the sun is re-presented. Likewise the Mass: it is repeated every day, while the sacrifice of calvary is re-presented. Not a different sacrifice, the same one, just like the sun. As St. Paul says in Ephesians, at the fullness of times, God summed-up or recapitulated all things in Chirst: things in Heaven and things on Earth. If Jesus is appearing for us in Heaven as the lamb looking like it was slain perpetually propitiating (appeasing God) the Father, then it must also be happening on Earth since all things are summed up or recapitulated in Christ. The Mass is this Earthly recapitualtion of the Heavenly propitiation

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