Thanks to Fr Martin Williams for his final guest post on the Holy Eucharist, this time exploring the theme of Memory
Loss of memory and severe dementia are always tragic, deeply painful, not only to the person concerned, who may lose both their bearings and the very sense of their own identity, but also to their loved-ones, who will experience a sense of loss and even of rejection if they are no longer recognized.
So memory is vitally important and particular memories are very precious. They represent continuity in our lives, a sense of who we are in relation to the people and places who have been important to us.
This is particularly so when a loved-one dies. We treasure our memories of that person, though it is always important to ‘let go’ and ‘move on’ into what is, in effect, a new relationship with that person.
The Church’s memory
Memory is an essential aspect of the Church’s life, above all in the celebration of Mass. “Do this in memory of me”, said Jesus on the night before he died on the cross. When the Church does this at the altar, she is not so much remembering an historical person, or a series of events associated with him – although Jesus is an historical person, indeed the centre and meaning of all human history – but she is being mindful of the present Reality: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified and risen and ascended into heavenly glory.
This ‘remembering’ is the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes present to us all that God has done for us in Christ, and gives us a foretaste of heaven and the kingdom of God. It is as though we were allowed a share in God’s own ‘memory’, to which we and all time and all creation is simultaneously present!
In the Liturgy of the Word, in the first part of the Mass, we are reminded of some aspects of God’s work in creation and redemption and above all of the promise of his kingdom. In the holy gospel we ‘see’ Christ himself and hear him speaking to us here and now. It is above all of Him that we are being reminded, with the aim of deeper communion with him in Word and Sacrament.
An eye opener
And to remember him is to remember who we are, the Church, Christ’s Body, of which we are individually members, each with our unique part to play in her life. So the celebration of Mass is not an isolated act of remembrance, but an ‘eye-opener’, a window on Reality, a mirror held up to me to tell me who I really am, the child of God, a member of Christ, an inheritor by the Holy Spirit of the Kingdom of God.
Let us not be like that man referred to by St James in his epistle ( 1, 23-24), who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror – and goes away and at once forgets what he was like!
In a society forgetful of God, the Church’s celebration of the Eucharist remembers him as the ultimate Reality, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and the Redeemer of all humanity. At the same time she remembers her own identity as the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit.