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Jesus looked at His disciples gathered around the table at His Last Supper and told them “Do this in remembrance of me.” And so the unbroken Eucharistic Mystery begins as we “remember” the Lord Jesus in His salvific labor to redeem humanity and the whole Universe.

But what does “remember” really mean?

The original Greek word is “anamnesis” and it defies a simple meaning.

In fact, I recall as a boy growing up in the Pentecostal world of my youth that we thought “remember” just mean to recall a past event. But I learned much later that’s too small! One of the great reasons Orthodoxy became so attractive to me was that the body of the Faith insisted I think deeper and wider than I had ever done before. I was now confronted with the terrible beauty of “anamnesis.”

The word literally means “memorial” “commemoration” or “remembrance.” But the reality is this word is practically untranslatable. It is meant to be experienced to begin to know the true power of the word. And this is why Jesus uses it here at the beginning of the Eucharistic life of His Body, the Church. Of course, we could write forever about the theological meaning and profound insight this gives to our Orthodox Christian Faith, but today is Memorial Day in the US, and I wanted to challenge us with just how wonderful and awful (in the truest sense of that word” remembering really is.

To remember is to not merely recall an old event, but to, in a mystery, relive that event. To recall the smells, sounds, emotions, and even the images of a memorable event. It’s the reason why music is so powerful. Music helps with memory. Admit it, you can hear a certain song and be immediately transported back to a significant event that is triggered by a song. Or, that the sense of smell. Smell is the most powerful memory tool we humans possess. I have often told the story of being in a mall and passing a candle shop and making the sign of the cross because a sudden smell hit me and put me in the frame of mind for prayer. Why do you think we use incense?

Today we are remembering those who have served our nation in the military of our country and the sad reality that those we remember today didn’t get to come home from war, but paid the ultimate price to defend our nation. But it isn’t enough to look at old back and white photos of these heroes. It isn’t enough to sing songs or attend Memorial Day events. We can listen to speeches and wave flags and visit cemeteries, and still not truly remember.

We have to press deeper into this mystery of “anamnesis.” We have to do the hard work of truly remembering in such a way that we soberly see clearly WHY we remember. It is more than just some sentimental or patriotic exercise. It is more than some melancholy emotion about those we have lost. It has to be a remembering that is past, present, AND future. Our remembering, if done sobering and completely, invites us to rejoin those whom we remember in the way they were AND the way they will be. The power of “anamnesis” invites us to never get stuck in the past that cannot be changed or in a future that cannot be clearly seen, but a present rejoining of the memory in such a way that enables us to actually remember the past, present, and the future for our loved ones and ourselves.

Today, on this Memorial Day, let’s spend time pressing hard into remembrance and go beyond the sentimental or merely moving into the true remembrance that opens for us the vast array of wisdom given to us by the Life, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Let’s remember today THROUGH Jesus, and watch as our memories fill up our lives with wisdom and life!

A Blessed Memorial Day!

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