Monday, March 23, 2009

Faith, Hope, Memory

"If faith is to recognize a Presence that is certain, hope is to recognize with certainty a future that is born of this faith; faith is to recognize a Presence with certainty; from this certainty, certainty for the future is born.

To recognize the content of a Presence that began two thousand years ago, to recognize it present now. What is this called? Memory. Therefore hope has a radical link with the word memory, so that without memory there can be no hope."

(Giussani, Is It Possible? Hope, 8, 
line break inserted).

"Without memory there can be no hope." The example that comes to me is that of Massah and Meribah. The note in the NAB Bible for Exodus 17:7 reads "Massah... Meribah: Hebrew words meaning respectively, 'the (place of the) test,' and 'the (place of the) quarreling.'"

The people of Israel had no hope because they had no memory. Imagine: living as slaves in Egypt, living through the 10 plagues while the Egyptians were afflicted, walking through the Red Sea and seeing Pharaoh's army drowned as they pursued, singing the great song of Exodus 15 — which we remember every Easter! — Imagine: after all this, coming into the desert and then despairing at what would happen next. So when Moses splits the rock, he's striking God's heart (the objective correlative of quarreling with God), and this is what we do when despite our personal history, despite the two-thousand-year history of the Church, despite the history of Israel — despite all this, we test God and pierce the side of Christ. 

I had always thought of Moses getting water from the rock in a pragmatic sort of way: the people were thirsty and God provided water to them. No — the mercy is that despite our despair and faithlessness, God remains faithful; despite our betrayals and incoherence, God offers mercy and forgiveness and even continues to sustain us corporally and provide for our bodily needs. 

I don't want to dwell on this sin, except to say that there is a point of decision, a point where one decides to risk with the One who has begun a good work in us.

Instead, it's better to remember our history (putting ourselves into past events as a witness): to read the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, to read the Fathers of the Church, and those other times and places where Christianity has been lived vibrantly, to look at those places and events (the Portico of Soloman) where God's glory is being revealed now. Got hope? Get memory.

Lent, Holy Week, and Easter — like Passover — is a time of memory. How can we build unless we first look to the foundation that God has built?

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

To quote a good friend, this is "sweet!"