“Mem'ries,” sang Barbra Steisand,
“may be beautiful and yet
What's too painful to rememberWe simply choose to forget
So it's the laughterWe will remember
Whenever we remember...The way we were...”
Memories can cause pain, especially if they recall past hurts. Events from long, long ago, can exert immense influence on the present for the past has the power to control life now.
But our memories can trick on us. Over time they can become selective; particular past events haunt us in a way that can continue to cause pain.
Personally we are all affected by our memories – sometimes for good but at times creating a sense of fear or leaving us with buried hurts and anger. Such can be the extent of this that, unless addressed, the lives of some are blighted. It’s for that reason that one of the most important of the Healing Ministries is that known as the ‘Healing of Memories’.
Week by week it is the same. And day by day. The Eucharist is what we celebrate because it is what Jesus told us to do “in remembrance of me”. The actual word Jesus is recorded to have used, “anamnesis”, means much more than remembering a past event. The word carries an understanding that, in ‘doing this’ the past becomes present. We, literally if you like, re-member; bring the scattered members back into one. In celebrating the Eucharist week by week – and, indeed, day by day for our Faith in this remembrance must be recalled in our everyday lives – we are affirming our belief that there is a path to life along which we can be led. But, remember this, such a path was never smooth.
The importance of constantly ‘doing this’ is that we remember the whole of the dynamic. The Passion and the Suffering and the Death. There is always the danger, as Barbra Steisand sang, that: “Mem'ries may be beautiful and yet What's too painful to remember We simply choose to forget.”
Some years ago I was fortunate in being invited to attend a wedding in a remote village in Upper Egypt. There, as part of the street celebrations in which the whole community joined, appeared the story-teller, that ancient craftsman whose task it is to rehearse the story of the people from generation to generation lest the memory fade. That’s why we read the scriptures – to remember the story that enabled a faith and inspired individuals, cultures and civilisations.
And, if we want our faith to grow – if we want it to become part of who we are and how we approach life – there needs to come a time when we claim this communal memory as our own. Today’s Mass, like every Mass, proclaims the memory of an event that continues to inspire. Not the pious recalling of a long-ago event, but the living affirmation that God seeks to bring us to wholeness. That is our Faith, a faith that has sustained the Jewish people through centuries of oppression and which has inspired Christians. The faith that, in spite of suffering and death, God will lead us through if we trust in his love.
Two years ago, in his Address to the World Youth Assembly, Pope Benedict said this to the one and a half million young people gathered in Cologne: “Jesus did not instruct us to repeat the Passover meal,… . He instructed us to enter into his ‘hour.’ … (the) “hour in which love triumphs” and that we share his hour if we “allow ourselves, through the celebration of the Eucharist, to be drawn into that process of transformation that the Lord intends to bring about.”
To remember the past is to learn from it or, as one writer has said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” On this Remembrance Sunday, in the face of continual violence around the world we do, indeed, remember the past “allow(ing) ourselves, through the celebration of the Eucharist, to be drawn into that process of transformation that the Lord intends to bring about.”