To celebrate a memorial was not simply to think fond thoughts about dead people and long-ago happenings. To Israel, it meant to re-live the original event. Jews who celebrated the Passover believed that they became contemporaries with their ancestors. They believed that all the time between the Exodus and their own day collapsed into a single moment. They believed that, through the Passover feast, they were saved alongside their ancestors. That’s why the Passover ritual, the Haggadah, still speaks of past events in the present tense: “This year we are slaves; next year may we be free men.”
To the Jews of Jesus’ time, the past was really present as they celebrated the feast. Is it any wonder that Jesus chose to establish his own feast of remembrance on his last Passover on earth? “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given to you. Do this in remembrance of me'” (Luke 22:19). Is it any wonder we speak of this memorial in terms of his Real Presence?