Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent Memory: Remembering Through Reenactment

When we ponder past "peak" events in our life such as the day of our marriage, graduation, anniversaries of one kind or another, the birth of a child, etc... we do so not only to recollect the past, but also as a way of bringing to mind the promise that the event held for our lives so as to relive that promise in the present and even into the future. I call this kind of remembering, "remembering through reenactment." This mode of remembering is very active and seeks to make the event and it's promise a present and future reality. Such an "active" mode of memory is very different from "remembering through recollection." When we remember something through recollection, we are merely looking back into our past to recall an event without necessarily intending to make the implications of the event relevant for our present or future.

We celebrate the season of Advent in order to remember the birth, or, Incarnation, of God into our world in Jesus Christ. But our mode of remembering is not at all meant to be a mere passive "recollection" of an event that happened 2,000 plus years ago. Quite to the contrary, if we hope to make the most out of this season of preparing for Christmas, our memory must be an active, enlivening mode of "remembering through reenactment". In other words, preparing to celebrate the anniversary of Christ's Incarnation implies "re-incarnating" the promises of Christ's life in our own life. The event of Advent and Christmas, in a very real sense, is less about Christ's birth in the past than Christ's rebirth in the present and future in-and-through the lives of those who live in him.

Jesus' teaching in today's Gospel (Matthew, 24:37-44) regarding the two pairs of workers may very well allude to discipleship as a fundamental mode of living with an active awareness of "re-incarnating" Jesus' life and the values of the Kingdom through the daily events that make up our lives and world. The above teaching is given in the context of Jesus alerting his disciples about the end of time and what the signs of that time will be. He tells them, "Two men will be out in the field, one will be taken, one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken, one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come."

Obviously, the teaching doesn't have to do with literally being "awake" (both pairs of workers are physically alert) but points to the importance of having a certain kind of attentiveness, basic attitude, or orientation in going about one's daily duties. One person is taken and the other is left because only one of the pair was living in a mode of "re-incarnating" the life of Christ and the values of the Kingdom in their daily activities. It's important to note that both pairs of persons are doing very "mundane" or normal activities: working in the field and in a mill. This is a clear allusion to the fact that Jesus' life and Kingdom can be embodied where ever we find ourselves and in what ever activities we are engaged. What is essential at the end of the day is not so much what we do but how we do what we do and, above all, how we live our lives. By remembering Jesus' incarnation in an active mode of "remembering through reenactment" we can rest assured that God will show us through the Spirit within us how we are to "re-incarnate" the values of the Kingdom and Jesus' own presence not only for our lives, but for others lives, and, above all, for the life of the world. Pat, TOR