In considering the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, the Apostle Paul tells us that we receive the Supper “in remembrance of me” (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24). Commenting on the phrase, John Calvin states:
The Supper is therefore a memorial provided to assist our weakness; for if we were otherwise sufficiently mindful of the death of Christ, this help would be superfluous. This applies to all the sacraments, for they help us in our weakness. But we shall soon learn what sort of memorial of Himself Christ wanted us to keep in the Supper. Commentary on First Corinthians p. 248.
In Calvin’s thought, a “memorial” is something done so that the covenant community might not forget. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial in the same sense that Passover was a memorial in Exodus 12:14, “This day shall be for you a memorial day.” However, such a memorial is more than an aid to the memory. It is an act of affirming the covenant that was established by the redemptive acts of God – first in the Passover and the redemption from Egypt and then finally in the ministry of Jesus and His atoning death and triumphant resurrection. The saving acts of God established and confirmed the covenant. Participation in the memorial feast of these events affirms our place in the covenant community.
However, the biblical concept of memorial is far more than recalling the history of creation and redemption. The memorials, seen through scripture, were a sacred exercising, a devout experiencing of the the truth behind these redemptive stories. In an even more profound way, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is the exercising of ourselves in the truth of the Gospel. The memorial is to share a meal in the house of the Father and at the same time it is the opening up of the essence of the reality – namely that God is our God and we are His people. We come to the Lord’s Supper to remember how God has delivered us from our sin. As John Owen states
God would have us remember and call to mind the state whereinto we are brought – which is a state of righteousness; that we may bless Him for that which in this world will issue in our righteousness, and in the world to come, eternal glory. Sacramental Discourses, p. 523.
When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate the love of God in Christ Jesus, particularly in the sacrificial death of Christ. This memorial is a thanksgiving and rejoicing before Almighty God for the benefit which He has manifested to us through His Son; and whoever appears at this feast bears witness that he belongs to those who are redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, the observance of the eucharistic memorial is a proclamation of the essentials of the Gospel.
Being reminded of God’s mighty acts of salvation should first move us to thanksgiving, and second to witnessing before the world our allegiance to His kingdom. To celebrate the memorial is an act of homage, as well as a pledge of allegiance. In other words, when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated properly, there is a profession of faith from the covenant community. Observing the memorial was to be recognized as an oath of allegiance.
When we come to the Lord’s Table, let us gather to remember the death of Christ, in the way and by the means that He has appointed. In remembering the death of Christ, we are principally to remember the love of Christ “who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (cf. Revelation 1:6).