Monday 6th November, 2017
From the Provost:
November is a month that is full of the action of remembering. We begin the month with our celebrations of All Saints and All Souls, and we then take our part in remembering all those killed in the wars of our last century on Remembrance Sunday. The month will end with a very different act of remembering as, at our Annual General Meeting after the service on November 26th, we look back at the previous year in our life together at this Cathedral.
Remembering is a central and vital element to our humanity: we are formed by our memories, by the stories we tell about ourselves, the world and society we inhabit, those who preceded and shaped us. Such remembering is not straightforward, however. Memories can make us simply nostalgic, longing for our golden years back then, rather than helping to shape us for the time ahead of us, the risky and unknown future.
Remembering is at the heart of the church: we are re-made through gathering around the stories of the people of Israel and of Jesus and his disciples, re-enacting in words and deeds a tradition to which we are heirs. Saints have from earliest days been a central part of that remembering: people who in their lives fleshed out the following of Christ to which all are called. All Saints is an opportunity once again, to be inspired and challenged by their example of simplicity of life, of prayer in the midst of ordinary living, of actions to relieve the suffering of others. On All Souls we remember those who have particularly helped to shape us, loved ones whose memory we treasure, and whose faith in us we often seek to repay. On Remembrance Sunday, our remembering of the dead deepens our longing for peace and our conviction that we must do all we are able to avoid the tragedy of war.
Above all, our remembering is central to our following of Christ. Our Eucharist is testament to the truth that without our common remembering, we would not recognise Christ in the world around us; without our re-membering, our bread and wine remain bread and wine. The act of remembering puts flesh on the bones of our memories and enables us to receive Christ’s body and blood given for the life of the world.
That receiving draws us into living out of Christ’s life, death and, above all, his resurrection – that act of God which breaks open the endless cycle of violence and recrimination, a cycle often dependent on the cherishing and holding of long memories, memories that can foster division and bitterness. The resurrection reveals a God who turns our memories around, whose forgiveness, received and offered to others, breaks the hold the past can have over us. The church holds and hands on the memory of Jesus, because, in this man, we find our true home and identity; in the light of his memory, our memories are judged, and through being judged, not condemned but healed. Memories can both trap us (in nostalgia, in the longing to be somewhere other than here and someone other than who we are), or they can free us (by giving us an identity, a sense of self and a place in a larger story). May our remembering this coming month help us all into that freedom.
With every blessing