This is my article for my forthcoming Parish Magazine - placed here so I don't have to write it twice!
November is a month most associated with a key Christian behaviour—remembrance [anamnesis / ἀνάμνησις].
As many of you may know, I have just returned from a two week Seminar at the International Centre for Holocaust Studies based in Jerusalem. The school forms part of the Yad Vashem institute which was created by legal decree in the 1950s, and its name is taken from Isaiah 56:5: ‘I will give, in my house and within my walls, a memory and a name’ - יד ושמ - and as it suggests, is an establishment entrusted with the responsibility and task of recovering and commemorating the identities of most of the six-million Jewish victims of the Holocaust/Shoah.
This month will manifest its most famous tradition of ‘anamnesis’ in Britain — Remembrance Day when of course we remember yet more victims of conflicts throughout our recent history. We will pause once or maybe more times for a minute or two to remember those who died to assure us of a freedom that we enjoy in our day, closing that moment with the words ‘we will remember them’.
A key part (and indeed a necessary part) of the great prayer of consecration which we pray during our Eucharist services at various times during every week is the Anamnesis—’we remember his dying and rising in glory…’ - the moment when we as Christians connect with the narrative of love and sacrifice embodied by Our Lord.
In all of these things we acknowledge that we are connected with a heritage, a past that has helped form us and continues to form us in the present. Our world is one of hurried progress, or a striving always to move forwards—and of course this is right and proper in its own way—but it is for nothing if we don’t remember. To fail to remember, to connect. renders us all as accidents in time and space, and as God’s People we are certainly not that. During the course of this month we will also draw to the end of another Liturgical / Church year and we wish ourselves ‘Happy New Year’ on Advent Sunday, maybe even opening a door on a calendar. It is right to take stock of the challenges and successes of the year that draws to its close so that we are best prepared for the year that opens out before us. We can pray for lost loved ones, celebrate our new arrivals, give thanks for many blessings and ponder the lessons learned from situations that didn’t go as we might have chosen. May God bless you all this month as we begin to prepare once again to remember the great moment of the Incarnation, itself a precious moment amid the chaos of daily life, itself connecting past with present so that all people may have a future.
NB - I can manage to write like a proper vicar when I have to!