Q. Jesus said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” How does our Catholic Church get from remembrance to the idea of calling the mass a sacrifice?

A. The Greek word ANAMNESIS is the Greek word that translates into English as REMEMBER. It would seem to the casual reader of the Gospels that all Jesus is asking for us to do is to Remember his sacrifice.

Luke 22:19

19And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

But you may not be aware that, in all of scripture, this word only occurs 8 times. All but once (Wisdom 16:6) it is in a sacrificial context. (Lk 22:19. I Cor 11:24, Heb 10:3 Lev 24:7, Num 10:10 & Ps 30 and 70)

In Lev 24:7, for example, 12 loaves of bread were offered to the LORD each Sabbath as a memorial portion or sacrifice. So this word has sacrificial overtones or connotations.

Lev. 24:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. 3 Outside the curtain of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the LORD from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 4 The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the LORD must be tended continually.

5 “Take fine flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using two-tenths of an ephah [a] for each loaf. 6 Set them in two rows, six in each row, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. 7 Along each row put some pure incense as a memorial portion to represent the bread and to be an offering made to the LORD by fire. 8 This bread is to be set out before the LORD regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant. 9 It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place, because it is a most holy part of their regular share of the offerings made to the LORD by fire.”

An interesting note is that these loaves were to be placed on a golden altar with a continuously burning lamp and eaten only by the priests “in the holy place because it is most holy of the sacrifices…” v.9

This corresponds to the Eucharistic Sacrifice given to us by Our Lord which is kept in the holy place with a continuously burning lamp, and eaten by the priesthood of all believers.


10 Responses to Anamnesis

  1. Michael says:

    “The Greek word ANAMNESIS is the Greek word that translates into English as REMEMBER”

    The English language has no adequate word to convey the meaning of the Greek “anamnesis”, and its Hebrew equivalent whatever it is. It is not merely a remembrance. In a certain sense the events that are remembered are made present, and this is that complicates the concept of Mass as a Sacrifice.

  2. Constantine says:

    So, is it a “remembrance” or is it a real “sacrifice”?

  3. bfhu says:

    It is a RE-Presentation of the the ETERNAL sacrifice of Christ. It is a way for us, stuck in time to participate in His ONE sacrifice. To travel back in time while at the same time we are in this present time. This entering into an eternal sacrifice that also happened at a point in time is Our Heavenly Father’s idea. That is why it is complex.

    If God could …

    create the universe and everything in it
    part the waters of the Red Sea
    Be the Rock that followed the Israelites
    Feed the Israelites with Bread From Heaven
    Send fire from Heaven to burn a sacrifice and even the rocks doused in water
    raise the dead, give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf
    join Himself to a fully human body and create a God/Man

    …could He not also transubstantiate bread and wine into His Body and Blood?

  4. Constantine says:

    So, it is a Re-presentation of a sacrifice and not an actual sacrifice. Got it…..

    Of course, God can do all things. But one thing He wouldn’t do is to contradict Himself. So if you believe that the wine is, indeed, transubstantiated into His blood, then you must believe the God of the Old Testament contradicts the God of the New. There is no stronger prohibition in the Old Testament than that against drinking blood. And yet you think He would permit what He prohibits. Very interesting.

    Peace to you.

  5. Robert says:

    “So, is it a “remembrance” or is it a real “sacrifice”?”

    This is an invalid disjunction. It is at the heart of the confused thinking on the matter.

    For a disjunction to be valid it must be exclusive.

    (where “~” means, “not,” hence, “~x” is “not x”)

    x or ~x.

    That’s a valid disjunction. If “x” means sacrifice, then that translates to:

    Sacrifice, or not-sacrifice.

    But note that it is not the case that things that are conventionally seen as different are necessarily exclusive. So for instance,

    Democracy or totalitarianism.

    Is not a valid disjunction. This is because it is not necessarily that case that totalitarianism is “not-democracy.” Indeed, mob rule is both tyrannical and ‘democratic.’ This is why it’s always best to present disjunctions in terms of term x, and the negation of term x, because it helps to avoid making a non-exclusive disjunction by mistake.

    So for

    Sacrifice or not-sacrifice,

    I may answer by saying that the category of all things “remembrance” is not equal to the category of “not-sacrifice.” For there are certain sacrifices which are memorial.

    So you might ask:

    Sacrifice or not-sacrifice?

    I’d answer, “sacrifice!”

    And then you’d ask,

    “Memorial or not-memorial?”

    And I’d answer, “memorial!”

    Hence, both sacrifice and memorial.


  6. Constantine says:

    Hi Rob,

    Validity is a property of deductive arguments. Truth or falsity is the property of disjunctions. So to speak of “valid disjunctions” is wrong just as it is to speak of “true or false” deductive arguments.

    Further, disjunctions are either true or false in their entirety. So that means that the entire disjunction is true if one or more of its propositions is true and it is false only when all of its propositions are false. So the disjunction, “the Mass is a sacrifice or the Mass is a representation” can be true if either or both of the propositions are true. But if this is a disjunction with a “true” property, it does nothing to tell us which (or that both) of the propositions themselves are true. And that was my original question to you. I ask it again, “Which of those propositions is true?”

    And what proof can you offer?

    Peace to you.

  7. Michael says:

    BOB, what puzzles me is the significance that is given to the notion of Memorial (Anamnesis) in the recent theology. It is not that I object to it, but I am trying to figure out how the Memorial-making-present of the Sacrifice relates to the making present of the Sacrifice as classically understood.

    In classical terms the Eucharist is a ritual in which the Sacrifice “of” the Cross is Made Present (Trent).

    On the other hand the Memorial is not only making present of the Passion and Death but of the Paschal Mystery, which includes Resurrection (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Nos. 11/3 and 14).

    How then are these two presence-s related: the Classical of the Sacrifice, and the Memorial presence of the Paschal Mystery (i.e. Passion, Death, Resurrection)?

    All the more because the Anamnesis in the liturgies include Ascension, Sitting at the Right Hand, Second Coming from one side, and there are Anamnese-s in Eastern liturgies, which cover many other aspects of Our Lord’s life up to and including the Burial. It would be question begging to propose that all these aspects, even the Resurrection, are present in the same sense as the Sacrifice is present. On the other hand, we cannot turn a blind eye on the liturgies because they are the main “source” of Revelation when it comes to the sacamental doctrine.

    Your final proposition: “Hence, BOTH sacrifice and memorial” doesn’t resolve the puzzle. Firstly, because if the Memorial itself includes the “Passion and Death”
    there is no point of saying “both”; secondly, are you suggesting that all the listed aspects in the two preceding paragraphs are equally present as the “Passion and Death” are present?

    CONSTANTINE, Bob has tried to answer your first post. It would be all too easy if the Memorial itself wouldn’t cover the “Passion and Death.”

    Re: your second post : “So, it is a Re-presentation of a sacrifice and not an actual sacrifice.” The “Re-presentation” stands for Making Present (Trent), Perpetuating (Vatican II), not representation in the sense of a role proper to an image in relation to the reality to which it refers. So, IT IS an actual sacrifice, and that in three ways: firstly, it is one with the Eternal Sacrifice of Our Lord who is the Primary Sacrificing Priest; secondly, it is the sacrifice of the Church who is his Mystical Body; and thirdly, it is the sacrifice of all those present who offer themselves which as signified by the Offertory (“the work of human hands”).

    Your paragraph that follows seems irrelevant to the subject under consideration.

    BFHU (bfhu), it is not the question of whether God is almighty, but how are we to understand the teaching of the Church.

  8. Robert says:


    I was unclear and incorrect in my terminology. I merely wished to impress that you made a non-exclusive division between memorial and sacrifice.

  9. Michael says:

    BOB, “a non-exclusive division between memorial and sacrifice”.

    You have put it exactly as it is in the Instruction for the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery – Eucharisticum Mysterium, of the then SC of Rites, May 1967, approved by the pope Paul VI, which says of the Mass that it is “at the same time and inseparably”:

    – “a sacrifice, in which the Sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated;”
    – “a memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, who said ‘do this in memory of me’”;
    – “a sacred banquet, in which, through the communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord, share the benefit of the Paschal Sacrifice…”

    The first two are evidently “non-exclusive” – you are right, while my question is whether they are overlapping. I am trying to find somebody who is familiar with the matter and can clarify.

  10. Robert says:


    My apologies for taking so long to get back to you. I’ve been fairly busy with book work. Because of this– although I’d love to try to get to the bottom of this with you– I’m not going to be able to do so at this point. Perhaps at some point in the future I can do so, but I don’t anticipate being able to read into it currently. Thank you for the time you’ve taken to post here, though, and my apologies again for not being able to help you.

    God bless,

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