Life & Soul Life and Soul

Mass is more than remembrance: it makes the Resurrection present now

(courtesy John Aron)

Here is the Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter in the Ordinary Form, which was glued together from bits of prayers from ancient sacramentaries. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good prayer.

Fac nos, omnipotens Deus, hos laetitiae dies, quos in honorem Domini resurgentis exsequimur, affectu sedulo celebrare, ut quod recordatione percurrimus semper in opere teneamus.

We could say “busy love” for that affectus sedulus.

Affectus means “a state or disposition of mind, mood” or “affection” in the sense of “love”. Sedulus is “busy, diligent”. Teneo connotes “to grasp”, both physically and intellectually. Recordatio is “a recalling to mind”, a “bringing of something back to the heart [cor]”.

Current ICEL (2011) translation: “Grant, almighty God, that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy, which we keep in honour of the risen Lord, and that what we relive in remembrance we may always hold to in what we do.”

Herein, we call to mind and heart gifts so important that they summon a concrete response here and now. This is true during Holy Mass, when the priest does what Our Lord commanded us as a Church to do: “Do this in commemoratio of me.” It is also true for works of mercy in daily living.

St Augustine of Hippo (d 430) connects recordatio and memoria in a letter to his childhood friend and fellow convert Nebridius (ep 7). For Augustine, memory is where self and God meet in what he calls beata vita, the “blessed life”, the happiness that comes from unity with God. Memory is both the locus of the self as well as the faculty that connects the here and now with the past and future. Memory is therefore a sort of “vanishing point”, constantly slipping away into the past. It is also where the self and God are found together. God keeps us from vanishing into something even less than a memory.

Holy Mass is more than a “remembrance of things past”. It makes the historical reality of Christ’s Resurrection, and our future resurrection, present now. Even in this earthly life, we are risen in Him. We are risen, rising, and about to rise all at the same time. Respond in “busy love” to gifts of life, of being in God’s image, of the dignity this image gives us, and of the path He opened to encounter Him face to face.