Returning to George Guiver’s book on the daily office, Company of Voices (see previous post), in his second chapter Guiver describes how the church’s liturgy functions as anamnesis, or “remembrance”: “Do this in anamnesis of me”.
This applies above all to the sacrament of the altar, of course, and also to our private prayers. However, the daily office is another form of this “remembrance”:
So in the daily offices of the Church anamnesis is made as we hear the “myth”, salvation-history, recounted and reflect on, and then move on from that to pray to the risen, living Christ who is in the midst. It is in this way that we can speak of the real presence of Christ in the Church’s daily liturgical prayer.
(Note that Guiver makes it clear that use of the word “myth” is used “as a technical term for a particular use we make of a story”, and “is not intended in any way to cast the slightest doubt on the historicity of the biblical events”. A very Lewisian point, of course.)
However, this is not the only “layer” to this anamnesis, for:
…we pray conscious not only of the saving events up to and including the earthly Christ, but also his work in the Church after his resurrection. In this way we are in effect making anamnesis of the history of the Church.
For example, our own commemoration of the resurrection of Christ at Easter (Guiver specifically cites the Paschal Vigil) is “heightened and redoubled” by our consciousness that we are following in the footsteps of other Christians since the earliest days of the church. And this has implications for our approach towards the church’s liturgy:
This fact of cumulative anamnesis helps to explain why it is important not to make unnecessary changes in liturgy – for we are doing it as it has been done in order make anamnesis of Christ’s work in his church since his resurrection. We are making anemnesis of all past anamneses. This helps to explain the importance of tradition.
The direction of this remembrance is not only temporal, but spatial:
[N]ot only are we recalling all of the past until today, but we are also very conscious that all the people the world over are doing the same thing together at the same time … [We are] making anamnesis of all that the Lord is doing in his Church today.
This, too, has consequences for how we worship:
This helps to explain why some basic things must be held in common in the Church’s prayer, in order that the contemporary unity of the one Body may find expression.
All of which is to say that we need to take care over the ecclesiology of our worship, to ensure that it adequately reflects our confession that the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. The church’s traditions of liturgy are the most effective means of ensuring we achieve this.