This week’s Lent reflection looks at the word ‘remember’ and is by the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron.
Memories can play tricks on us. Not just the way in which we remember things, but their sudden intensity. Sometimes we can just about recall an event or a name. At other times, a chance encounter with an oddly familiar smell or a snatch of music can put us deeply and unexpectedly in touch with the past. Perhaps we can recall the memory of an old friend without emotion, and then we meet them unexpectedly in town, and the years fall away, and the delight of being with them once again fills us with joy.
The verb “to remember” is open to a wide range of meanings - from a vague recollection to an intense revisiting of the past in the present - in a way which forcefully brings that past into present reality and alters the way in which we approach the future. An old friendship can lead to a new alliance, an old resolve can lead to renewed commitment.
Faith, like remembering, operates outside of time. For the Jewish faith, each Passover is a new encounter with the escape from Egypt and the liberation of the people of God from slavery.
For Christians as well, faith brings the past into the present in a way which unlocks the future. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus’ lasting gift to the Church, is not an historical re-enactment, but brings us to the table of the Last Supper, so that Jesus breaks the bread for us, and holds out the cup of salvation. As Paul wrote,
The bread which we break, is it not a sharing in the Body of Christ?1 Corinthians 10.16
One priest that I know sees the Eucharist as a “re-membering”, playing on the English words “member” and “re-member”, so that he sees the sacrament as a pulling together of the members, the limbs of the Body of Christ, into a new reality in the present day. The congregation are called to become the Body of Christ and to go out into the community, bearing a message of hope, of healing, justice and truth as Jesus did two thousand years ago.
In the same way, the Bible is the living Word of God. “The Word of God is living and active …” (Hebrews 4.12), and if we approach the scriptures prayerfully, a text which was written two thousand years ago can suddenly speak to us with the intensity of God’s spoken command directly and personally now. It is as if we are Samuel hearing the call of God, Jesus is speaking to us to ask us to follow him, Paul has written his words into our circumstances and about our journey of faith.
For the Christian, therefore, to remember is never a wistful look back at lost times, it is stopping to focus and to understand our direction and vocation in life, to receive power from on high in order to make us instruments of a better world, the Kingdom of God.