The popular musical Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of a family who live in the town of Anatevka. In the story, Tevye, the Papa, talks to God as if God were sitting on a chair next to him, giving us a glimpse of his ongoing relationship with God. Tevye’s prayer often takes the form of a lament, “I realize, of course, it’s no shame being poor . . . but it’s no great honor, either,” he says.
The relationship that Tevye enjoys is the fruit of the long history of the covenant relationship between God and the Jewish people expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures:
I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. Genesis 17:7
For Jews, being in a covenant relationship with God was grounded in the concrete experience of being delivered from slavery in Egypt. It was to know God as one who acts in freedom and out of love. For Christians, that covenant relationship is continued and renewed in the person of Jesus. We, like Tevye, are also partners in covenant relationship and in conversation with the God who continues to act in freedom and out of love.
This dialogue between God and God’s people is expressed throughout the liturgy, especially in the Memorial Acclamation. After the priest says the words of consecration in the Eucharistic Prayer, he says or sings “The mystery of faith” and we respond by singing one of the following acclamations:
“We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”
“When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.”
"Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.”
In these responses, we converse with God, which is why they are called acclamations, statements directed to someone, rather than proclamations, statements made about someone. We not only affirm our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we acknowledge our share in the experience of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The first two acclamations remind us that we remain pilgrims on a journey, who await the Lord’s second coming. The third acclaims that we are set free for that very journey.
The Memorial Acclamation also serves another purpose in that it enables the assembly to participate in the lengthy Eucharistic Prayer which is said by the priest.
May these words help us, like Tevye, to be faithful partners in our ongoing relationship with God.