O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy son, and witness unto thee, O God the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (Moroni 4:3)
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (Moroni 5:2)
Over the past months, I have chosen to partake of the sacrament daily. As a result, I have come to truly cherish this perhaps most holy of ordinances. While I am thankful for the things I have come to understand, I feel some regret that I didn’t understand this during the previous eighteen years.
This morning, I was praying about some things that have been bothering me. I have been exposed over the past year to the “High Holy Days”, or the celebrations and observances (feasts and festivals) specified in the Law of Moses. I have gained reverence for the Law of Moses, but I’ve also observed that it can still be used as it was in the days of the Scribes and Pharisees – as a standard against which people can be judged. Such judgment is primarily wielded by those who have greater knowledge than the general public. It (greater knowledge) is a great tool of the adversary today just as it was then – if it is used without charity and meekness. The great irony about this is that such judgment – such power – is only effective because those over whom it is wielded are truly meek and seeking to do the Lord’s will, which they believe in their ignorance is being communicated through those with greater “knowledge”. Knowledge without meekness is a very dangerous thing.
Anyway, I was praying about this topic – the strict observance of certain aspects of the Law of Moses – when I was reminded that these observances and ordinances, in fact, all observances and ordinances, are merely reminders and pointers to Christ. Observances remind and point to Christ, while ordinances seem to carry with them, in addition, a covenant (with promised blessings) that must be ratified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise before they are of any efficacy.
The sacrament, in my mind, is the exception to this rule. While it certainly points to Christ, it doesn’t need to be ratified by the Holy Spirit of Promise before the implied promises (receiving the offered power of the atonement and always having His spirit to be with us) can be fulfilled. The sacrament is immediate. The sacrament is not pointing to Christ as much as it is communing with Christ. I have been discovering just how joyous a communion that can be.
And Were Filled
In 3 Nephi 18:3-9, when the Lord introduces the sacrament to the Nephites, He first gives it to the 12 recently appointed “disciples”, and then commands them to administer the bread to the multitude. In both cases, the phrase “…had eaten and were filled…” is used. A similar phrase (…and did drink of it and were filled) is used to describe how the wine was to be administered. I had a discussion recently where it was speculated that perhaps the “and were filled” terminology didn’t refer to being physically filled at all, but to being spiritually filled. There is something almost intangible in the terminology and phrasing (drink “of it”) that belies the idea that “were filled” refers to a physical filling. For example, it doesn’t say they ate until they were filled, but they ate and were filled. This idea, of course, changes the context completely; invokes a much more spiritual content; and assigns an immediacy to this “communion” that I hadn’t readily recognized before. Furthermore, it is obvious to me that eating or drinking until we are literally “filled” is not a requirement of the sacrament – if it were, I might be leaving my morning ordinance increasingly fat and dangerously “happy”.
It has been said that the sacrament is not a renewal of our baptismal covenants. However, for me, I think it is. When I was baptized, while I may not have specifically made all the promises in the sacrament prayers, in my heart I actually did make those promises. That was my intent. I very much promised that I would take upon myself His name, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. His promise, in return, was that I might always have His spirit to be with me. As I think about it further, perhaps it is not any sort of baptismal covenant that I am renewing. Instead, perhaps it is actually a renewal of the Everlasting Covenant that I am renewing – that covenant that describes the fullness of Christ’s desired relationship with us. Regardless of what interpretation you might hold, for me – it is a daily kneeling in humility and offering myself to Him again. It is indeed, for me, a Holy communion during which I promise and receive promises on a daily basis.
Burning the Sacrament Prayer into One’s Heart
There have been times when I have pictured myself spiritually kneeling before the father, uttering the sacrament prayer, and promising Him that I will do the things specified in the prayer. Those have been my most spiritual experiences with the sacrament. I can’t do this if I’m reading the prayer. I can only do this if I have memorized the prayer. Furthermore, it’s simply not the same if someone else is saying the prayer and I’m only listening. I have memorized the prayers (as have many others – this does not make me special) not only so that I can be prepared to administer even if scriptures are not available, but also so that I can focus on the words in this manner. Is it possible that we all might be more focused on the prayer itself, and therefore get more out of the sacrament, if we were to memorize it and say it (at least silently) along with the one who is blessing the sacrament?
In summary, I have truly come to cherish the ordinance of the sacrament. I feel that it is the most spiritual of all the ordinances we have been given because it is so immediate and because it is a personal communion with Christ. I believe that, at the very least, the phrase “…and were filled…” carries with it a double meaning, and that it is the spiritual fulfillment that is the true purpose of the sacrament. Furthermore, I have found great joy and more meaning in the sacrament as a result of memorizing the sacrament prayer, which has the effect of burning the prayer into my heart. I love my Savior. I live to serve Him. I don’t know how this depth of commitment to Him came about. I offered my life – not knowing what such an offer really entailed – and He accepted it. Then He set about preparing me for a life lived in His name. The preparation goes on and there is, as I have said so many times before, no turning back.