The Antithesis of Anamnesis

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I learned a new word this week: anamnesis. If you’re a medical person it means taking a patient history, but in a theological context it means a remembering – the act of remembering the last supper and the crucifixion in the re-enactment that is the eucharist.

Jesus gave us this one thing to remember Him by. Only one. And when we do it we are bringing to mind the night that He sat with His friends, knowing He was about to be betrayed, tortured and killed – and told them to love one another and to remember, always remember, this meal that they had shared. When we take communion we share again with the disciples, all unknowing, the mystery of the sacrifice.

‘For though we are many, we are one body’ says the Anglican prayer. Are we broken enough for Him? Are we welcoming of brokenness, for His sake? Do we allow ourselves to be broken in the breaking and the making of His Kingdom?

This is my body, broken for you.

When Jesus spoke these words He gave us something to replace the remembering that took place every year at Passover. The seder meal was (and is) a remembering of the slavery of the Israelites, and a symbolic re-enactment of their redemption, by grace. Our 21st century eucharist is a remembering, a symbolic re-enactment of our redemption, by grace, through Christ.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the opposite of this. PTSD is a remembering and an unwitting re-enactment of something awful that won’t let go. It is a suspension of time and space and a re-living, a re-experiencing, of the awfulness that caused it to be labelled a ‘trauma’ in the first place. Trauma is the Greek word for wound. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a wound that won’t heal, a festering, gangreous wound. Just for extra fun, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is when you experience so many wounds and so many un-forgettings that it screws you up even more.

But maybe – maybe we have to be broken?

By His wounds we are healed.

Do the healthy need a doctor?

All I know is that I am broken. A million pieces broken. Yet I have a feeling that there is something very special in this brokenness. I have a feeling that PTSD, and its unwilling anamnesis, is a direct, if unconscious echo of the extraordinary beauty of the eucharist. Time heals all wounds, they say (it doesn’t) but I don’t want it to heal this one. Maybe this PTSD is the 21st century equivalent of stigmata? It makes no sense. It makes perfect sense.

Lord, I have cried ‘take this cup away from me’ and I have meant it. And yet I would not want You to take Your cup away – because that would take You with it. I am so sorry for my unfaithfulness, for my pathetic attempts at loving You. I have nothing and I can give nothing. Fill me with You till I am overflowing with Your grace. Amen

 

We Say ‘Lest we Forget’, But…

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the battle of the Somme. The soldiers found out the day before that ‘zero hour’ was at 7:30am. At 7:30am they climbed ‘over the top’ and ran – as far as they could. On that first day 60,000 British troops were killed. By November one million – 1,000,000 – men of both sides were wounded or killed.

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There is a memorial in France to remember the 70,000 who went missing. In other words, they were so blown to bits that there was nothing identifiable left. How do we even begin to process these kinds of numbers?

The day before the battle began a group of men prayed for themselves and their comrades, they prayed for their loved ones back home, and then they did something rather extraordinary: they prayed for the men they were about to fight, and their loved ones, too. They asked God to help them do nothing out of revenge.

Many of these young men were perhaps a year or two older than my son. Those who made it home again had been through so much they must have come home old, old men. I cannot imagine my own dear boy in the same circumstances. All that innocent, youthful hope and optimism blasted away with the roar of untold circles of hell. It’s just so awful. I look at the world today, what with the racism, refugees, poverty, exploitation and war, and I wonder if we, humanity, have learned anything at all.

This is why Christ told us to pray for our enemies. It is not merely a pleasant or noble sentiment. Praying for our enemies is so radically unlike the schisms of war it can only reflect the God of grace. So much needed Grace. I wonder how many tears He wept over all those young men?

Love: it’s not optional.

Lest We Forget

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, peace was finally agreed. Too late for so many men and boys who had lost their lives, lost their health, lost their sanity. Too late for so many wives and mothers who had lost their precious husbands and sons.

We say ‘lest we forget’, but we do forget. When we close our eyes and our lips for two minutes’ silence this morning, perhaps we, the body of Christ, can pray for all the places in the world where the brutality of conflict is not something distant and remote but the reality of every day. God help us all.

I can’t add any more useful words, but I would like to share this breath-taking poem, slightly less well-known than Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, and these verses from the book of Revelation:

I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold… God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new… I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…”

extract from Rev. 21:3-6 (NKJV)