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A-Z of the Mass: Memorial

Monday, August 16, 2010
'Do this in memory of me'

One of the themes running through the writings of Herbert McCabe OP is the idea that when we talk about God we stretch our words to breaking point. Our language is deepened as we wrestle with the mysteries that underpin our faith. A good example of this is our use of the word 'memory.'
Sanguis ChristiSocieties, clubs and associations up and down the country exist to 'remember' the lives and works of particularly worthy individuals. The Church is fundamentally different from such institutions. We do not come to Mass simply to learn about Christ and try to imitate him, as we might study the works of Aristotle for instance, or Marx. We come to Mass to share in the life of the living God. We come to Mass to renew our communion with Christ and each other.

This communion was made possible by concrete historical events, the death of our Lord Jesus on the cross and his resurrection on the third day. But these particular historical events are unique in the sense that they cut through space and time, they transcend space and time. At the mass Christ's sacrifice at Calvary is re-presented. It becomes present. Our 'remembering' of the past, then, is also a 'remembering' of the present and - most radically - a 'remembering' of the future.

In his 1968 book Law, Love and Language Herbert McCabe argues that in the Eucharist the future world is made present to us, we belong to the future, hence the close connection made in the New Testament between the Eucharist and the Resurrection. This contact with the future shapes our entire Christian outlook. Gospel-centred lives will never be wholly explicable in terms of the values of 'the world' because Christians are looking forward to a world in which all men and women are united in Christ. In McCabe's own words: "The business of the Church is to 'remember' the future. Not merely to remember that there is to be a future, but mysteriously to make the future really present."

Nicholas Crowe OP


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