The idea that good may come out of evil, and that self-sacrifice can bring liberation, are two basic paradoxes that lie at the heart of many religions. And one of the stranger things about the month of November is the way in which we are all gathered up into acts of remembrance – All Souls, All Saints – that underline how death can also be the bearer of life, and that light is only truly appreciated when the darkness begins to cover us.
But there is more to remembering than mere recollection. We don’t recall events merely to test our memory. The function of memory is much richer. It is something in our processing – our mulling, sifting and the discerning of events – that makes memories richer, not vaguer, as we get older. It is easy to recall things. But memories are what hold, value and discern the significance of what we recall. And as we grow in wisdom – hopefully! – we find new, richer meaning in what we recollect.
Of course, we live in an age of cultural amnesia. It’s no better in the Church. The fact that the Church lives in difficult times is not the problem, says the Dutch missiologist, Herbert Kraemer. The fact that we constantly forget the Church has always lived in difficult times – that is the problem. This is partly why remembering is so vital in our time. In an age of rapid consumerism and short-term solutions, we do well to dwell on what it means to remember, and why this might be important not so much for our past as for our present and future. Of course, remembering is at the heart of the gospel: ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ are among the last words Jesus utters to his disciples. And ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ are among the last words uttered to Jesus on the cross.
This is an extract from Thirty Nine New Articles by Martyn Percy, Canterbury Press
Martyn Percy, TS, 2016
Feature Image: Canterbury Cathedral – Remembrance Candle, Wikicommons, (P.D.).