Liturgy Matters: Our Hope lies in Memory.

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Home > Media > News > Liturgy Matters: Our Hope lies in Memory.
Liturgy Matters: Our Hope lies in Memory.

“I will live in the past, the present, and the future. The spirits of all three shall strive within me.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

I remember with some fondness my first reading of that wonderful Dickens novella A Christmas Carol. Each Christmas we are reacquainted through at least one of the many movie, television or radio drama adaptations, including I must confess, Rowan Atkinson’s own witty parody in the Blackadder genre.

Most are familiar with Dickens’ principle character Ebenezer Scrooge. A miserable old man who, having eradicated the memory of love to liberate himself from the burden of the past, lost his emotional memory and with it the kindness born of the encounter with human suffering. In the absence of these memories, Scrooge is a man bereft of hope. With each visiting Spirit we experience both pity and anger at the circumstances and choices that have shaped his life. Yet before our eyes Scrooge, confronted with his emotional memory, is like a child reborn of hope and filled with the joy of Christmas in time for Christmas Day.

The story correlates neatly with the Christmas season of Advent which is also concerned with that necessary connection between memory and hope. Advent is focused on a singular, most profound and basic emotional memory within us – the memory of God who became a child. Hope is central to the Christian life.

Memory too, is at the heart of the Church’s liturgical life, which revisits annually her great history of memories. The theological concept of anamnesis contends that in worship the faithful recall God's saving deeds. The memorial aspect is not simply a passive process, rather in the festive setting of the Mass, the remembered past is rendered present in mystery and becomes that event the assembly enacts and participates in.

In this way the feasts of the Church are acts of memory. Supported by the sacred Liturgy and custom these observances become very personal memories of our own life history gifting hope. Advent marks a new liturgical cycle of living and celebrating the mysteries of redemption anew. In the year ahead may our liturgies be noble, inspire wonder, awe and much cause for singing. May they be a source of worthy memories for we the children of hope: “For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

By Michael McKenna, Director, Office of Liturgy