Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Please receive our best wishes for Easter joy and blessings to you and your families during these happy days of Easter. The Lord is risen, indeed, and we are changed.
Throughout these Holy Days of Jesus’ passion, and death and resurrection, we have found a continuing theme and profound reflection on the power of remembrance.
At the Last Supper, Jesus’ own words are “Do this in remembrance of me,” and we spoke about how Jesus’ own understanding of that word is quite different from our way of remembering an event or feeling in our lives. The power of our memory, with sacramental grace, makes the event not happen again, but the “present moment” when that event happened is made really present to us now, at this moment in time. Of course, Jesus knew what he was doing. When he says “This is my body,” it is not only at that evening hour before his arrest that it happened. God is not limited by time, and what God does, God does once, for all time. All moments are saturated by God’s eternal moment. Our humanity is forever saturated by Jesus’ desire for Communion with us, changed by his being really present—“present” in the sense of the word meaning both here and now.
It continues on Good Friday. Having received recently the new translation of the Mass, there is a word that we use now that we didn’t use before, the word “conciliation.” It is an interesting word, given in definition as “the action of stopping someone from being angry, placation,” or “the action of mediating between two disputing persons or groups.” The prayers of the Mass always refer to the Eucharist as the act of conciliation, that which could not have occurred in absence of Jesus’ offering of himself on Calvary, for us and for our salvation. For you. Once again, our memory, combined with sacramental grace, makes this moment now: both in Eucharist and in confession. Our work is a work of re-membering, e-presenting, re-conciliation. It is the work of union with God.
This mystery of our memory is something that is most undeveloped as an integral part of our spirituality. Memory requires prior experience, it also requires a desire to recall. Maybe I’m just getting older, but I seem to hold onto the things that I know I must remember, and don’t retain so readily the mundane details, routine minutiae of everyday life. Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, however, give much importance to the memory. Without it, both say, we could not be fully human. It is likely one of the things that sets us apart from “lower forms” of life, the ability to learn, to apply knowledge to circumstances in the form of wisdom, helping us to not make the same mistakes over and over. But also to do the good and noble things of our exalted humanity over and over! Imagine how frustrating it might be to glimpse the truth only once, and know that it was gone from that moment forward.
Today I think about my Uncle John: he is in memory care in Kansas City. He remembers his family. The last time I visited I loaded a bunch of 50 year old family photos in my phone. He was delighted
to see them and remembered all of them and told many stories. But he can’t tell you what day it is, or what he had, or even if he had, breakfast. He forgets that you came to see him and is pleasantly
surprised while you are sitting there with him: “When did you get here?,” he smiles.
All his life he went to Mass every day. It was the most important thing to him. And he took Communion every day to people in nursing homes. Now, at Villa Saint Francis, he goes to Mass every day still. They tell me he knows every prayer, sings all the hymns, finds moments of great peace in the middle of days that are confusing and frustrating for him, as he realizes he is losing his grip on memory. If you ask him, he can never tell you whether he went to Mass or not that day, though he did. But notice, he hasn’t lost his grip on the present moment, only of his memory of it.
Of course, when we are in heaven, everything (and I mean everything) is now, everything we have ever or will ever know. There will be no need of memory, it will all be the moment of blinding flash, joy of new life. It will be fresh morning and empty tombs, all will be alive and all potential will be fulfilled. The moment of sacrament, a song that fills our senses and a complete peace we have never known—there will be no longer past and future.
But for now, we are people of hope, living in a prayer and a song we call to mind, a memory of God’s great love for us in Jesus. Alleluia!
God bless you.