As Remembrance day approaches, and in the wake of Halloween, All Saints and all Souls days, the inherent tradition of the Church is Anamnesis; ‘Do this is Remembrance of me’. The ability to remember is a quality of our humanity which draws us closer to God our creator, in whose image we are made.
As individuals we remember things that are significant to us, the stories, experiences and shared events which help to make us who we are. The things we remember as a community are the same, in that we draw our identity as a group, from the shared stories and experiences of our past.
The beauty of a community that remembers is that it can reach back far beyond the lifetime experiences of the current members of that community, and keep stories alive through the ages. The traditions, sacramental rituals, stories, art, artifacts, liturgies, documents, monuments and buildings that the Church draws together and preserves are all a testament to the call of God that we all remember.
An example of how God likes us to remember is Jesus use of parables. These stories were and still are, a brilliant and effective tool by which Jesus instructed those living in an oral culture, to remember his lessons. That the Gospels were written into the Biblical narratives long after these parables were taught, is a great show of how successful they were in aiding the community to share and collectively remember them until they were recorded.
Jesus’ very clear instructions to us, in establishing the Holy Communion at the last supper, were to ”Do this in remembrance of me”. It is striking that in his last hours before being arrested, Jesus instituted this ritual of remembering which has formed and fed Christians for over 2000 years, as one of the core sacraments of faith. In this God was explicit in asking us to remember, but there are many other calls on us by our creator which are less obvious but still compelling.
The tradition of remembering and honouring the “Hallows” – Saints and Martyrs – of the faith is another of the calls to remember. By remembering them we uphold them as examples of Christian living for us to draw direction from, for the forming of our own Christian identities.
In the vastness of history there are many saints and martyrs who go unnamed and whose stories remain untold. Just as we know from our recent history that there are those who lie in unmarked graves who laid down their lives in times of war. We are human and are not able to retain everything and this can become the cause of pain. But there is one who does retain everything from the beginning of time until the end of days. We can take comfort in that the things that may have been forgotten in our history, the people who may not be remembered by the Church, are all remembered by God, and we can only wonder at that truth.
Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Rev’d Jamee (Manly)