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Hallo again to all.

I never forget a face, but in your case, I'll make an exception. -Groucho Marx

This has been a week of both forgotten and remembered identities. We ran into a former acquaintance who'd met us many times who didn't remember us at all and made no matter of it. Later a bishop we'd not seen in a decade, who though clearly forgetting our acquaintance, did a remarkable job of feigning a forgotten memory.  Today, we passed by someone we'd not seen since college, who somehow remembered exactly who we were and where we had met. Still more, we attended a mumbleyear-ith secondary school reunion with people who are now spread out across the country, meeting for the purpose of celebrating memories.

Some people remember names, others remember faces, yet still others, voices. Many of us cling to our memories, purchasing souvenirs from trips, wearing poppies, keeping old diaries and journals, and holding albums of photos.

Perhaps forgetting—or being forgotten—is harder in the time of Facebook. We nevertheless dutifully inscribe the family bible, leave plaques in memory of others, and faithfully update our parish registers with baptisms, marriages, and burials. Those whose homes were destroyed by war or natural disaster have memories by which to remember their previous life. Memory is a precious thing. (Even when we wish to forget our more painful or awkward moments) Many among us regret our last conversation with estranged friends or family members, still knowing we can only live into the future. It is also why memory-effecting end-of-life illnesses can be more painful to both the sick and the supporters than those harming only the physical body.

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.*

The life of the church is centered around not only the Eucharist, but also memory. The Eucharistic canon always includes an anamnesis where we recall Christ telling us to do this in remembrance of him. The cycle of Holy Week keeps a memory of the passion. We mark days off for saints of the church. We are encouraged by the memories of the great cloud of witnesses whether we are reminded of them in the prayers of the people or a feast day.

The very choice, however, to use the Greek word anamnesis with its roots in bringing a memory into the present, does not allow us the opportunity to sit with maudlin nostalgia. Memories inform our present and future, and one of the most valuable things about the sometimes staid, sometimes overly proper Anglican tradition is its insistence that memory has during value, and it is worth quietly, persistently preserving.

We remember Christ both in the manger and on the cross. We hold onto our grandparents' wedding photos, but also remember their grave. Some of us can trace the history of our families going back hundreds of years or more but also strive to leave this world better than we left it. And why would we not? By preserving our past we inform our future, leaving our mark on those who come after.

Lois Lowry's 1993 children's novel The Giver presents a dystopian society in an unknown future. It is a black and white world with simplicity—unfeeling and mundane. In creating this world, Lowry made a world without memories. The memories of society Before were held by one person, known of the receiver, and was revered for his wisdom and feared for his power.

Memories give us life. They remind us of our trajectory, of where we were and where those before hoped we might go. Oral, written, image, or song, who we are shapes us as people and tradition.†

See you next week.

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*Christina Rosetti, 1830-1894

I carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

18 September 2016

A thin blue line
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