Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Holy Week is my favorite time of year, because it is a time that tears down--if only for the moment--the veil that we hang between the secret, private sphere of our spiritual life, and the outside world. Holy Week--the Triduum particularly--denies the division between what we celebrate in our faith and "normal life." Normal life disappears; daily routines shift slightly, alter undeniably, as the mystery we celebrate in Church spills over to color the whole day.

There are certain activities you just can't do on Good Friday, for example (perhaps a prime example). One couldn't just go shopping like it was any other Friday, or go to a bar as if it was the end of any other week, or get a massage or anything decadent like that. The day demands more of us than attendance at a church service: it demands remembrance. A remembrance that soaks the entire day in somber reverence.

For human beings act of memory is not just a cerebral act: it is not just an awareness inside of our hearts; when a human being remembers how they were burned by the stove, they jump as the gas light ignites the flames in the burner. Their memory leads to a physical reaction. Our memories are present in our bodies. Just the recollection of sadness can cause our bodies to crumple, past excitement can bring a smile to our face and a spring to our walk, and just the memory of anger or outrage can cause our blood to boil and turn our faces scarlet.

We hear this truth echoed in this phrase: "do this in memory of me." Memories drive us. They lead us to destroy or create; to tear down or build up. A memory demands something of us: it demands action. To keep a memory truly alive, it is not enough just to have an intellectual recollection of the facts, but to let the memories spur us to action; to let the memories inspire our daily words and thoughts, to let the memories overwhelm us and transform us.

One of the reasons I am just tickled pink to be Catholic is the central role memory plays in liturgy and theology. The Catholic liturgy is primarily concerned with memory. We read scripture to remember these stories from the past, and we offer a sacrifice with words of Christ's that ask us to commemorate Him.

Commemorate: remember with. Our participation in the memory is absolutely essential to keeping the memory alive; to preserving the memory, to keeping the memory true to what it is. And what this memory offers us in turn is transformation. The memories we hold on our own shape us so completely, so too, do these collective memories we share with the entire Church. These memories we hold as one body transform all of us: transform our hearts and transform our memories. So that, threaded through our own memories and our own stories, we have once central memory: one fundamental story.

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