Amnesia vs. Anamnesis
With my 50th birthday behind me I recently experienced a senior moment. Right in the midst of a clear thought I completely forgot what I was communicating. Yikes! I pray those moments are far and few between, although when I opened my mailbox and found an AARP application I realized that may not be the case.
Thankfully our Creator is well aware of our finite mind. Since it is His creation He knows the power of memory as well as its limitations. Hence, His Word is filled with reminders to remember!
During His last supper with the disciples before his death, he offers them wine to remember his blood shared for them, and bread to remind them of his broken body. In Luke 22:19 he instructs his followers, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
This word remembrance is derived from the Greek word anamnesis. Our pastor recently described this word as the opposite of amnesia, but on steroids! With amnesia one experiences total loss of memory. Anamnesis is the opposite of that—complete remembrance.
Anamnesis for early Christians was a corporate action in which they experienced biblical truths fresh and anew through ritual repetition. Throughout Old Testament history the Israelites would gather for festivals, where they would not just hear or read about the past but reenact it—such as the David and Goliath scene or the Exodus from Egypt. By actively participating they would be transported into time, much like we are today in live theatrical plays. With their senses engaged, they were sucked into the story—so much that it would become their own story.
Communion is set in the context of the Passover feast. To Hebrews it represented all of God’s redeeming acts from the initial fall of man into the problems of sin to His solution seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To us it should not just be a ritual—it should become an act we embrace because it represents our very own salvation. We can only experience this type of anamnesis through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. This mysterious ability to make a memory from the past a current reality is the work of the Holy Spirit.
To dismember something is to take it apart piece by piece; to remember something we reassemble it bit by bit. We can challenge ourselves to daily communion. We can take the sunrise and soak in its rays of God’s faithfulness. We can savor the look of our children’s faces and embrace God’s love. We can choose to take time to listen to the music within their laughter. We can appreciate his provision in the tastes of a meal. We can mount pictures on our walls of times when He provided blessings and answered our prayers. We can reflect in the evening of God’s surprises and direction through the day.
In doing so we may avoid the forgetfulness we witness in His Word, such as the Israelites. After God parted the Red Sea for them to cross on dry land and drowned their Egyptian enemies, they quickly forgot His miraculous plan of escape and were already complaining days later. May we be more like the Israelites who later crossed the Jordan River. In Joshua 4 the Bible speaks of God once again working His wonders, splitting the water, creating dry ground for them to cross. However, this time He commanded one from each tribe to take a stone from the middle of the Jordan to build a memorial to Him on the other side, to remind future generations of His power and intervention.
Let us conquer spiritual amnesia with anamnesis, allowing ourselves to be personally aware of His story in our own lives as it happens, and then continue to remind ourselves and others of His wonders.