Wednesday: Holy Week–A Dangerous Memory

Guest article by Fr Emmanuel McCarthy

Friends,

A third reason that accurate remembrances of Holy Week and of Jesus’ Passion in the anamnesis of the Eucharist Prayer are potentially dangerous memories is that such memories do not look only to the past; they also look toward the future. Acute memories of acute human suffering have the power to motivate people to make life better in the future, especially if the particular suffering remembered is still unabatedly operative in the world. New memories of human suffering or new insight into well known memories of human suffering can reveal the tragic flaw in the taken-for-granted worldview of a group. Pondering the memory of a single suffering person has the power to undermine the prevailing myths by which a secular or a religious society and its rulers live and operate, e.g., the memory of one Third World mother in agony and out of her mind with horror holding her child who has just been decapitated by a First World drone or smart bomb. But, memory must be kept alive for it to have a future and not just a past.

The Church is supposed to be the bearer of the dangerous memory of Jesus, a victim of the violence of the powerful, and by compassionate extension the bearer of the dangerous memory of all the victims of the violence of the powerful across the ages down to this very day. The Church is supposed to be the bearer of the dangerous memory of Jesus’ torture and death that motivates witnessing to humanity by word and deed to overcome evil with good (Christlike agape).The Church is supposed to be the Body of Christ that responds to its own violent victimization in the Way it remembers Christ responded to His violent victimization—thereby breaking the perennial cycle of violent reciprocity, retaliation and revenge by returning good (agape) for evil.  The Church is suppose to be that group of people who hears and listens attentively to the anguished cries of intolerable pain of the victim of the violence of the powerful, Jesus of Nazareth, and by the grace of His cries hears, with compassion and urgency, the anguished cries of all the victims of the violence of the powerful. But is this what the institutional Church is?

Do the Churches of Christianity, in whatever nation they may be situated, proclaim the memory of Jesus in such a way that it draws Christians and others into strongly identifying with the victims of the violence of the powerful, beginning  with Jesus? Or, is the proclamation of the memory of the torture and murder of Jesus by the institutional Churches of Christianity made so metaphysically and mystically circuitous and innocuous that these Churches nurture their Christian people into strongly identifying with the powerful and their violent agents, who operate out of the same spirit and myth as their occupational predecessors, the torturers and murders of Jesus?

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