by the Rt. Rev. Wayne Smith

bishop smith preaching_optModern Westerners often miss the full range of meaning in the word “remembrance” as it is used in the Bible. Often we get lost somewhere between making it into nostalgia (on the emotive end of the spectrum) and a turning to an academic study of the past (on the cognitive or intellectual end). It is also not a rote re-enactment. Remembrance, in the Bible, is not just what goes on in the mind. Remembrance also happens to the body and the senses, and often captures us precisely through these means. Anyone who has ever smelled a kitchen aroma exactly like one from the kitchen at home long ago knows how this works. In the moment, past and present merge into one reality, and the body and the senses do the recollecting in ways that the mind alone cannot. That is what remembrance is like in the Bible.

Holding fast to this meaning of remembrance is crucial to our making sense of the Eucharist. The remembering which Jesus asks from us is not a mind-game. It also engages “ourselves, our souls and our bodies.” (Rite I Eucharist, Prayer I) It is a deep and holistic remembrance and not “merely” a remembrance. It is a here-and-now reality rooted in the past.

With Holy Week and Easter fast approaching, this understanding of remembrance can inform how we approach the rites during these solemn days. Given their full force, these rites can transcend mere emotional pietism or attempts at historical re-enactment. The great song at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, the Exsultet, does not sing, “There once was a night,” when God freed Israel from captivity, brought salvation and holiness of life to believers, and when Christ broke the bonds of death. No. The words are, “This is the night.”

The reality is here and now.


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