Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An odd sort of remembrance

Dan brought me on awhile ago, and now, after much needed badgering, I'm finally getting around to writing stuff. I love studying liturgy, and the studying the Eastern Churches. I'm currently working on some posts concerning the 20th century reforms of the rites of the Latin Church, but I just wanted to start with an unrelated very interesting note.

A huge part of the theology of what goes on during the Eucharistic prayer (and the whole liturgy, really), is the idea of anamnesis. 'Remembering' in English doesn't quite give us the full sense. This is a sort of recalling and remembering that actually makes present- now- the event recalled (or, better yet, makes us present to the event). Anamnesis is the Greek term used when Jesus says in the various Last Supper accounts, to 'do this in memory/remembrance of me'.

Remembering is crucial to the Jew and the Christian. It can be seen to stem from the scene in Exodus where Moses pleads with God to remember his covenant, to remember the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so that He will relent and not destroy His people, Israel. In asking God to remember, we recall the covenant ourselves. We recall all that God has done for us, and recall how we have far from lived up to our end of the bargain.

An important part of most Eucharistic prayers then, is the act of recalling the great events of our salvation.

For instance, here is the version from the modern translation of the Roman Canon (aka Eucharistic Prayer I in the Missale Romanum):

"[Preceded by the words of institution]
Father, we celebrate the memory of Christ, your Son. We, your people and your ministers, recall his passion, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into glory; and from the many gifts you have given us we offer to you, God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation."

Or from Rite I of Holy Eucharist from the Book of Common Prayer:

"Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Savior Jesus Christ, we, thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here before thy divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same."

Everything I have said up to now is really just prefatory information. Now, on to the Really Neat Thing!

In the Byzantine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, during the anamnetic part of the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer), we find the following :

"Remembering, therefore, this command of the Savior, and all that came to pass for our sake, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father, and the second, glorious coming, we offer to You these gifts from Your own gifts in all and for all."

Notice anything odd? Anything particularly different from the other two?

Let's look at the sentence taking out all the stuff that gets in the way of noticing this little oddity:

"Remembering, therefore...the second, glorious coming..."

Whaaattt?? How can we remember something that hasn't happened yet? How can we remember the future?

Partly because there's a certain already/not yet tension going on, for in the Eucharist Christ has come again to His people.

But the bigger reason seems to be that there is truly only one liturgy, the heavenly one, and all others are an inbreaking of the eternal liturgy into a particular time and place. For Christ has ascended to the Father and dwells in eternity, where all is present to God. Mystery!!!!

On a side note, in Eucharistic Prayer IV, which is modelled after an Eastern Anaphora, we get the following:

"Father, we now celebrate this memorial of our redemption. We recall Christ's death, his descent among the dead, his resurrection, and his ascension to your right hand; and, looking forward to his coming in glory..."

Which, needless to say, just isn't as awesome....


Luke said...

So what does this mean for something like, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom"?

As to your second to last paragraph, I also don't particularly like, "and ready to greet Him when He comes again."

Dan Lower / KKairos said...

HEH. Luke, I thought you were saying Mike had said that. Are you saying that's another translation which displeases you?

EricBrooks said...

It's also possible that "remembering" in the anaphora means something more like "keeping in mind." That, at least, is how I've always understood it when I've attended the Divine Liturgy, or listened to Cappella Romana's English translation, or otherwise heard these prayers, but I certainly have no knowledge of the originaly text or of its traditional interpretation and therefore hold no strong opinion. I came to this interpretation based on other places "remembering" comes up in the English of the Divine Liturgy. For instance "remembering all those who [teach the faith, sing, etc.]," comes across as "keeping these people in mind as we pray", and not as "recounting personal memories I have of these people." If you have some definite information one way or the other, either from knowledge of the original Greek, or especially from a source demonstrating one interpretation has been accepted by tradition, I would love to hear about it.

In the Roman Canon the word is "memores," obviously the root of the English words memory and remembrance, but it is translated as "calling to mind" rather than as remembering. I would not be surprised to learn that a similar variability is in the Greek word as well as the Latin. If this is the case, then the idea of remembering something that has not happened is not really an issue at all.

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