Thursday, June 12, 2014

Remembering the Fiftieth Day

Scripture for the Day of Pentecost includes Acts 2:1-21 and John 7:37-39

I’ve gotten hooked on Pandora as my online source of music while I work. Every so often it disengages into sleeper mode, requiring me to return to the site and say, Yes, I’m still listening. (Of course, I could forego that exercise by shelling out a few dollars a month, but I’m not there yet.) That moment of re-engagement must be waterfront property for advertisers, since the same ad comes on so often I pretty much have it memorized. We exercise our bodies, so why not also exercise our minds? “Challenge your brain with scientifically-designed training… Train memory and attention… Web-based personalized training program… Track your progress… Get started now.” Learn how Lumosity works for you.”

Memory. Remembering. Such a frequent topic, as one advances in age. Remembering is the key to so much that matters: Thoughtfulness. Heritage. Purpose. Responsibility. Starting the car. Remember to look up, we are taught by the Ascension of Jesus on the fortieth day after his resurrection: Disentangle from your smart phone, to-do list, agenda, and assorted compulsions… Remember to look up to regain perspective on yourself and your world in light of God’s sovereignty and the vast scale of the heavens.

Today, the fiftieth day in the new creation launched by our Lord’s resurrection, what goes up comes down. The Spirit needed to reproduce the wide-embracing love that has summoned us in Jesus Christ, the very Spirit that is in Jesus and is in the Creator God and unites them both is poured into the hearts of all who will welcome and treasure this gift, uniting us to one another and to God in Jesus.

Pentecost, the 50th day, the making-over of an ancient Jewish festival celebrating the giving of the law to Israel, transposing it to remember the giving of the Spirit to the Church for the world. Remember the common heritage of this day in both religions: the ancient law was given to fashion a people of faithful freedom. Such is also the work of the Spirit of God given today.

The Book of Common Prayer calls us to remember that the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with one another and with God in Jesus Christ. The weekly eucharist we celebrate to sustain us for that mission has at its very heart a portion called the Anamnesis. Pull that word apart and see its Greek components: “An-“ (against) “amnesis” (forgetting). This is the moment whose purpose is against forgetting. X marks the spot of deepest moment in the eucharist—one that is set off with the ringing of bells in our Anglo-Catholic parishes—when we hear the celebrant give voice to the words of Jesus, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

And then, after hearing similar words over the cup of wine, again resolving into, “Do this for the remembrance (the Anamnesis) of me,” we respond with words we know by heart, words that constitute the Church’s first and oldest creed, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again,” and we call this the remembered mystery of faith.

Remembering is key to identity, central to accomplishment, crucial to perspective and balance. As you can’t start the car if you can’t remember where you left the keys, you can’t renew faith and hope and love if you’re forgetting what they look like, what they feel like, what they require, and where their source is to be found.

Forgetting can be perilous. Amnesia robs us of all our links to who we are and what we need to do. The potency and danger of forgetting has been dramatized for us this past week, as the free world has remembered the days of massacre in Tiananmen Square, June 3rd and 4th, 1989, while China forbids that remembrance, stifles the memory, inculcates amnesia. It appears to work: school children as old as high schoolers do not recognize iconic photographs of that event (or are afraid to admit they do). Wise voices, hopeful voices, say the day will come when the story will be told and truth reclaimed by remembering.

Such potent remembering, the re-membering, the reunifying of members by speaking truth and seeing the picture whole, telling the story, voicing the Word, is what eucharist is for, what life is for.

For seniors at Williams and their families, the cup of remembering overflows today. Remembering is central to all that matters: Heritage, appreciation, reconciliation, recovery, celebration, choice, mindfulness, completion, commencement.