“Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:20).
One of the most vital roles of religion in any given society is to remember: to remember the love of God, to remember the lessons we have learned from our relationship with God, and to remember who we are and whose we are as a people of God. The Christian Church has a special name for this type of remembering – anamnesis (anamNEEsis) – which literally means, “to bring to mind.” Remembering in this way means more than reviewing past events to evaluate lessons learned...as important as this may be. It is also more than treasuring the past, even though this too is important. Anamnesis involves actively recalling the reality of our past experiences in order to remind ourselves of who we are. In a world where we often feel lost and struggle with questions like, “Who am I?” and “What does it all mean?” religion seeks to offer an answer by calling us to remember our sacred history. A good example of this kind of remembering occurs when Christians gather for the Lord’s Supper...Eucharist...Mass (whatever you prefer to call it). In this highly symbolic meal, not only does the community recall the last meal of Christ with his disciples, but it takes part in that meal in a very real way, sharing bread and wine, and in doing so, claims its identity and its purpose as present day disciples of Christ.
Anamnesis is at the heart of what we do on Remembrance Day. It is more than taking the time to look at the wars of the past to learn lessons for the future, as important as this may be. A nation that doesn’t reflect on its past is doomed to repeat its follies. It is more than cherishing victories, mourning losses and celebrating our veterans, even though this too is important. Those who “...short days ago...lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now...lie in Flanders fields” as well as those who were lucky enough to return home should never be forgotten or ignored; but Remembrance Day means even more than this.
For Remembrance Day to be complete, it must complete us.
We must be open to honestly and frankly recalling the reality of the wars and conflicts that have formed us as a nation. Remembrance Day is a “holiday” only in the strictest sense of the word – “a holy-day” for Canadians. It is not a day of rest as much as it is a day of dedication. As we gather at memorials and cenotaphs across Canada and take part in Remembrance Day ceremonies, we become a part of the story. Not glorifying war, we stand with Canadians across our nation to recall who we are as a country. We take the time to remember what we have endured as a people to be able to share in the real, tangible blessing which is Canada.
“Lest we forget.”