If a word is mysterious and also a mouthful, it’s sure to become my favorite.
When I heard “anamnesis” for the first time, I was sparked.
The concept is deceptively simple. By calling to mind the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ (as Catholics do at Mass in each Eucharistic prayer), we enter into these mysteries of salvation.
Let me put this more simply and shockingly: we do not simply remember, in a past, passive way. We participate in a present, palpable reality.
Memory is a powerful, potent process. We return in our minds to a time and place that is not here and now. We sift through the impressions of experience, in constant conversation with the changes that have happened since. Beyond mere recollection, memory is the deeper imprinting of what mattered in the past that we carry with us into the future.
In Catholic theology, memory is an act of prayer, faith, and transformation. Celebrating communion is not a memory of the Last Supper; it is a participation in the reality of the first (and eternal) Eucharist.
Anamnesis is a mouthful of mystery. We speak the words and become what we remember and receive.
Do this in memory of me.
October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Many parents who mourn the loss of a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss remember their children today.
In grief the act of remembering may be its own small hope of anamnesis. By returning in memory to those we have lost, can we participate again in the mysterious fullness of love that continues beyond death?
Memory keeps alive those who have died, we often hear. But more than that, memory continues to change the living.
As the present separates us from the past in which we were together in life with our beloved dead, we turn toward the future that is shaped by their memory—and surrounded by the promise of eventual, eternal reunion.
Today is a day for many of us to remember. (Indeed, I would argue it is the perfect moment for all of us to remember, respect, and pray for life lost too soon.)
But it is also a day for all of us to enter into the mystery of anamnesis. The truth that because Christ suffered, died, rose, and lives, we too will suffer, die, rise, and live.
Listen to catch the words of memory—past, present, and future—the next time you gather for the Eucharist. It is not an aside; it is everything.
And listen, too, to the memory of the dead speaking truth to your life. Past, present, and future are all bound up in love. This is the mystery that sustains us.
Today we are launching our #grievingtogether campaign on social media. Whether you have lost a child or want to support a loved one, we invite you to share one of these images with a message of love for those who mourn. Or you can print the sign below, add the name(s) of those you wish to remember, and share a photo of yourself holding the sign to show your support.
As we prepare to launch our book “Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage,” we want to reach out with love and support to parents who mourn. To buy the book on Kindle now or pre-order in paperback for release in November, click here.