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Memorialism is the belief held by some Christian denominations that the elements of bread and wine (or juice) in the Eucharist (more often referred to as The Lord's Supper by memorialists) are purely symbolic representations of the body and blood of Jesus, the feast being established only or primarily as a commemorative ceremony. The term comes from Luke 22:19: "This do in memory of me" and the attendant interpretation that the Lord's Supper's chief purpose is to help the participant remember Jesus and his sacrifice on the Cross.

This viewpoint is commonly held by Baptists,[1][2] Anabaptists,[3] the Plymouth Brethren,[3] Jehovah's Witnesses,[4][5][6][7] segments of the Restoration Movement[3] and some non-denominational Churches,[8] as well as those identifying with liberal Christianity, but it is rejected by most branches of Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Church of the East, Independent Catholic Churches, Lutherans, Presbyterians and other traditional Calvinists, as well as the vast majority of Anglicans and Methodists, who variously affirm the doctrine of the real presence.

Zwingli's memorialism[edit]

The theology of Huldrych Zwingli, the most important Reformer of Switzerland, is commonly associated with memorialism.[9]:56 Zwingli, who was a former Roman Catholic priest, affirmed that Christ is truly (though not naturally) present to the believer in the sacrament or amid a Christian congregation that remembers with strong intensity the events of the Last Supper through the power of God.[10] However, the sacrament - for Zwingli - is not used instrumentally to communicate with Christ, as John Calvin taught.[9]:74

Zwingli argued that the Eucharist is more about the presence of Christ in the minds of people instead of his presence in the elements.[11] This indicates that, although its liturgies remain an important aspect of being a Christian, its potential benefits are not found in any metaphysical interpretation related to the bread and wine used in the ritual.[11]

In addition, unlike the Lutheran theory, Zwingli maintained that the Scripture and the creeds support the idea that Christ sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven.[12]


  1. ^ "Basic Beliefs: Baptism & the Lord's Supper". Southern Baptist Convention. 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019. The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members [...] memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His Second Coming.
  2. ^ "What We Believe: Baptism & the Lord's Supper". National Baptist Convention. 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019. We believe the Scriptures teach that Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, with its effect, in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life; that it is prerequisite [...] to the Lord's Supper, in which the members of the church, by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self-examination.
  3. ^ a b c Balmer, Randall Herbert; Winner, Lauren F. (2002). Protestantism in America. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 26. ISBN 9780231111300.
  4. ^ What Does The Bible Really Teach?, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 2005, p. 207.
  5. ^ "Discerning What We Are — At Memorial Time", The Watchtower, February 15, 1990, p. 16.
  6. ^ "The Lord's Supper: Why Do Jehovah's Witnesses Observe the Lord's Supper Differently From the Way Other Religions Do?". Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. 2018.
  7. ^ "The Eucharist: The Facts Behind the Ritual". Watchtower Online Library. 2018.
  8. ^ "University of Virginia Library". 2006-09-07. Archived from the original on 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  9. ^ a b Riggs, John (2015). The Lord's Supper in the Reformed Tradition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. ISBN 978-0-664-26019-4.
  10. ^ Price, Charles; Weil, Louis (2000). Liturgy for Living. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing. p. 152. ISBN 0819218626.
  11. ^ a b Arcadi, James M. (2018). An Incarnational Model of the Eucharist. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 22. ISBN 9781108425896.
  12. ^ Stookey, Laurence Hull (2010). Eucharist: Christ's Feast with the Church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. p. 54. ISBN 0687120179.