One of the basic “attitudes” of Christian worship is remembrance. We do these things “in remembrance” of all that God has done for us. The Greek word anamnesis, used by the Church to speak of this mind-set, which we translate as “remembrance,” refers to far more than simply recalling events which happened in the past. Rather, these events are made present by our remembering. When we take bread and wine, bless, break and give – Christ is present, as we remember what He has done for us. We remember, and God is with us. All time is condensed, for a moment, and we are with Christ as He offers His own Body and Blood for the life of the world. We are with the angels and the saints through the ages, as we adore and sing praises.
This same understanding is at work in the Liturgies of Holy Week, as we recall the events of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. These services bring us into the events of that first Holy Week in Jerusalem. We hail Christ as our King, as we carry our palm branches in procession. We are reminded how quickly we can turn to deny Christ, as we are with the crowd calling for his crucifixion, when we hear the Passion Gospel. On Maundy Thursday we recall the new commandment (the “mandatum”) to love one another as Christ has loved us; then we see how God understands real love: humble service (the foot washing), giving His life to feed and heal us (the institution of the Eucharist), giving totally of Himself to save us, despite our disobedience and betrayal (the stripping of the altar). We remember how Christ endured arrest, humiliation, and physical torment in His love for us, as we watch for a while before the Altar of Repose. On Good Friday we remember the Cross; the stark, bare, and sorrowful character of the Liturgy calls us to remember how the disobedience of man, our disobedience, put God on the Cross – the One “whom by all things were made” died for love of creation, in order to “spoil the spoiler of his prey.” As we remember, we venerate the life-giving Cross and we are fed with “the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die” [John 6:50]
We remember that Life entered into death and destroyed death. Christ our God entered into hades and shattered its power over us, giving life to those who were dead. On Saturday night, in the Great Vigil of Easter, we see the light of Christ return, banishing darkness and showing that what took place on the Cross was victory and not defeat. We keep vigil, with chant, prayer, and scripture readings, recalling the mighty acts of God. We bless the font, wherein we share in Christ’s death and resurrection in our baptisms, and on this holy night, we renew our vows to God, that we will live faithfully, “dead to sin, but alive unto God” [ Romans 6:11]. And then, joining our voices with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven,” we proclaim that Christ is Risen from the dead! With all the joy in our hearts, with flowers and bells and bright lights, we celebrate the joyous Mass of Easter – of Pascha, for Christ has become our Passover, freeing us from slavery to sin and death, leading us through the waters of Baptism into life in the promised land of the Kingdom. Let us remember, give thanks, and rejoice!