Earlier this week (on my walk to work), I passed by a patch of grass that had just been mowed. The scent of the freshly cut lawn captured me. It took me back to summers at my grandmother's place, when my great-uncle came through on his tractor and mowed the fields surrounding the house. I remembered playing in those fields, the feel of the grass under my bare feet. I remembered learning to ride a bike in the hot sun and chasing my cousins with the water hose. I remembered the sweetness of wild blackberries (well worth every scratch from the brambles), climbing the peach trees to get the best fruit, and how perfectly refreshing the watermelons out of the garden always tasted in the evenings.
Just the whiff of freshly mown grass, brought the sounds and tastes of those summer days to me; they put a smile on my face and a little more pep in my step.
In my earlier life as a budding neuroscientist, I was particularly interested in memory: how our brain decides what to store and what to get rid of, why some memories are visceral and others are vague (I know it has something to do with how the amygdale and hippocampus operate, but beyond that I don't remember). It was my interest in the anatomy and science of memory that got me caught up and frustrated by the words of institution "Do this in remembrance of me." How, I thought, can I remember something that I never experienced?
Fortunately, I had a very wise priest who explained that anamnesis (the Greek word used) isn't just about calling to mind an event. "The remembrance of the liturgy," he said, "is not a just passive memorial; it is an active process by which and through which we are making memories of the saving acts of God. It is the Holy Spirit calling you back to the places you encountered Christ."
It took me a while to digest all that, but as I have lived into the liturgy, I have experienced this work of the Spirit. I have seen the powerful gift of the Eucharist at work. In it we are called not just to remember, but to become the memory. We enter into the Paschal Mystery together and we encounter Christ, fully present for us. For me, Eucharist is not just about calling events to mind. It is about experiencing the scents and sounds and tastes of the Divine, in the world and in one another, with our entire being. Like the scent of freshly mown grass can take me to my grandmother's house on a hot summer day, our worship can take each of us to places of peace and joy in our lives.
In prayer, in the touch of a partner's hand, in voices lifted in song, in the conversations and laughter we share as the people of St. Margaret's, in the taste of bread and wine, we remember. Kym+