January 31, 2017

Grandparent’s Day Mass at St. Therese Carmelite School

By Fr. Philip Sullivan, O.C.D.

Recently, I taught the Fifth Grade religion class. The subject was the Eucharist. While it is impossible to cover this subject in the short time allotted, I chose to speak about the Jewish Passover Meal and its continued influence on the celebration of the Eucharist in Mass today. 

Did you know the Sanctus or the “Holy, Holy” that we sing at every Mass was already part of the annual Passover Liturgy 110 years before the birth of Jesus Christ? Did you know the expression, “the Lord be with you,” is a Jewish greeting that was said in the Passover Meal? Did you know that the prayer, “We lift up our hearts to the Lord,” was also part of the Jewish celebration of Passover? 

Jesus said at the Passover, “Do this is memory of me.”  We continue to say these words in remembrance of the Lord’s LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION.  The word for this special kind of remembering is Anamnesis. It may seem a little technical and serious but anamnesis is an important word to know. It means to remember with purpose…like putting up Christmas trees the same way in the same place with the same special ornaments year after year.  Anamnesis is like returning to the same restaurant each year for an anniversary and ordering the same food you ordered on the day of your proposal.  Anamnesis is remembering all the events surrounding our Lord at the Mass. 

At Mass we remember God’s Passover, Our Lord’s Last Supper, Jesus’ betrayal, His Calvary, His Cross, His Sacrifice, His tomb, and Our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead. When we do this in memory of Him, we call to mind the entire history of God’s Love for us–fulfilled in Christ and celebrated within the Holy Mass. 

Every year at St. Therese School, we honor our grandparents at a School Mass. We honor and share a deposit of history that is particularly theirs and ours. We honor traditions that are passed on, a living memory that our venerable grandparents share with us in special celebrations and family gatherings. We listen with reverence and awe as they tell and retell their stories.  Grandparents tell many stories that are mysterious, albeit sometimes boring, because we don’t know their history like they do.  They tell us about wars we never knew, hardships that bring us to tears, and accomplishments that are unbelievable. Grandparents even let us taste a living history in their cooking–these secret recipes that only they know and someday they will hand on to us! 

How many times have you heard a certain story about a certain person or an event that happened a long time ago and gets retold over and over and over? This is ANAMNESIS!  It is living memory with action, meaning, and purpose. By honoring our Grandparents, we are celebrating their living history, us! 

Grandparents are so important in the Catholic Church that we even have a special memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. We seldom think about Jesus having grandparents, but it is a wonderful and fruitful thing to meditate upon—because it tells us that the way we are saved is by means of family. 

It is family that brings memory together at the dinner table; it is family that helps us understand why we do what we do and who’s who in our own personal story. It is family that carefully preserves with reverence the memory and history and, yes, family celebrates a kind of liturgy in the home during the holidays. 

Recently, I went to a parishioner’s home to bless the family home. I heard their stories and shared a meal with them and thus entered into their living memory. While I was blessing their home, going from room to room, I came upon a very old statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It came from Mexico and originally belonged to the grandmother’s grandmother! By studying the age of the statue, the faded paint, the small chip in her mantle, I could see and study in this statue history and memory. I could feel the love Mary received by those who venerated this statue and passed it on to one generation after another. It was enshrined in a glass case and mounted on the wall to be seen by all and to be protected from curious little hands. This statue told a story about the family I came to visit. 

Like this statue, the Holy Mass has memory, meaning, purpose, and history, and continues to tell the story of God’s love for us passed down from one generation to the next. We protect what we love and we carefully preserve memory by handing it on from generation to generation. This is how we enter into Anamnesis at Mass, living memory with action. This is God’s story and we are God’s family. We attentively sit at His table, listening and responding as our Lord tells us about His father’s love for humanity: “Do this in Memory of ME!” 

We are God’s family and so we belong to a huge family with thousands of years of history and a fathomless memory that belongs to God our Father. This family is most realized and celebrated when we come together at table–not only the tables at our homes but also at the Lord’s Table, the Altar.