Originally written on May 8, 2009
by Fr. Harold Parilla
There is a blessed word in Greek which continues to escape any adequate translation in English. Anamnesis is almost synonymous to remembrance or calling to mind but both fail to render justice to the reality which anamnesis signifies. In liturgical parlance, it means much more than psychological recall. Anamnesis connotes making present in the ‘now’ that which is being recalled from the ‘past’. Such is how we speak of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, as the making present of Christ himself, and his words and actions, making possible the communication of grace to us.
Remembering is not just a liturgical gobbledygook. It is in fact a very important human faculty. Without the capacity to recall, there is neither a sense of history nor identity. Without memory, gratitude would cease to be a possibility. We are grateful because we remember; we remember because we are grateful.
Gratitude is fed by stories. The Jews hold in their hearts the story of their dramatic crossing of the Red Sea. As the central tale in their collective identity, it is handed on from one generation to the next in order to keep alive the sense of being chosen as a people, as God’s own.
The same is true with us. There are stories that time and again we need to hear, stories of triumphs and grace-filled occasions. We need storytellers who remind us of tales which are important to us, those tales which recall for us the invincibility of the human spirit in the face of hostility and resistance. We need to remember how at one point or another we are able to overcome the challenges laid before us even as we wonder how it was all possible given our fragility and limitations. We thrive on thoughts of potential failures transformed into moments of conquests.
Our faith is transmitted in much the same way. There is a beautiful story, the story of Jesus, which is handed down, told and retold, from one moment to another. In this whole process of transmission, it is the Church which functions both as the keeper of this sacred memory and storyteller. With all her might, vivified by the Spirit, the Church preserves the story, protects it from any impurity, and communicates it for all the world to hear.
As we look back and grow in gratitude, we are also able to face the future with hope. The edifying stories become the foundation of the assurance that there is something good, if not better, that awaits us. If we have overcome an obstacle in the past, if we have conquered an opposition, there is a reason to believe that it can be done again.
For a Christian, there is no basis for hope more solid than the saving memory of Jesus. Benedict XVI says Jesus made possible for us “… an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within” (Spe Salvi, #4).
With gratitude we bring to mind all that has been, and with hope we set our sights confidently on everything that is to come, as we proclaim in the liturgy the mystery of our faith:
“We remember how you loved us to your death, and still we celebrate for you are with us here. And we believe that we shall see you when you come in your glory, Lord. We remember, we celebrate, we believe.”