Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Memory and Hope"

From Stephen Gerth, in St. Mary the Virgin's The Angelus this week:

I've just discovered a book that I'm pretty sure would have influenced a lot of the thinking and writing I have done over the last decade or so if I had read it earlier. The book, Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year (2000), was edited by Notre Dame Professor Maxwell Johnson. It is a collection of essays by fourteen liturgists and theologians from different denominations. Johnson takes his title from an essay in the book by the late Thomas Talley (1924-2005), who for many years was professor of liturgics at the General Theological Seminary. As Christians we live with the memory of Christ's saving work and the hope for Christ's coming at the end of time.

I bought the book because of a reference to one of those essays in another book, Johnson's and Paul Bradshaw's The Origins of Feast, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity (2011). The essay, "The Three Days and the Forty Days," was written by Patrick Regan who now teaches at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome. Between Memory and Hope arrived on Ash Wednesday. That title is itself a meditation, a proclamation, about the way we who believe in Jesus Christ are called to live.

So far, I have looked briefly at Regan's article-how to count the "Three Days" of the Easter or "Paschal" Triduum-the name, as well as the counting, are worth reviewing at another time; and I have also read Johnson's introduction. He writes about Easter and Lent:

Easter and Pentecost are about our death and resurrection in Christ today, our passover from death to life in his passover, through water and the Holy Spirit in baptism. Lent is about our annual retreat, our annual re-entry into the catechumenate and order of penitents in order to reflect on, affirm, remember and re-claim that baptism.
(page xii)

I haven't made a study of the classic texts for the admission of unbaptized adults to the historic formation program known as the catechumenate. The Episcopal Church's version is found in The Book of Occasional Services 2003. The rite begins with one question to those who are coming to faith, "What do you seek?" The answer is "Life in Christ" (page 117).

I far prefer the questions now used by the Roman Church for the beginning of the rite-why we use different questions and answers I suspect is more than a matter of translation, but I really don't know why they are different. Their rite begins with the celebrant asking each person, "What is your name?" Then, the celebrant asks, "What do you ask of God's Church?" The answer is, "Faith." Then, "What does faith offer you?" The answer, "Eternal life" (The Rites of the Catholic Church [1976], 41).

Saint Paul writes, "Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Romans 6:22). The Greek word for 'end,' telos, carries the meaning both of 'end of time' and the 'goal toward which we move.' In the words "faith" and "hope," the Church remembers Jesus' promise that the end of all things (in both senses of telos) is in him, when he will be "all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). The journey to death and resurrection is God's plan for all human life; we make it our own through Christ with memory and with hope.

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