2 March 2010


Strange how words grab people differently. I've just read something by "a sacramental theologian" on how, in the Institution Narrative within the Eucharistic Prayer, Anamnesis must NEVER be translated as 'Remembrance' - because that is just too, too heretical. 'Memory', however, apparently bathes within the bright sunshine of complete heavenly orthodoxy.

There is a problem. Each word, it seems to me, is inadequate, as each suggests to the modern English ear a purely celebral recollection of a past event. That is why Dom Gregory Dix as a consummate mystagogue always used the Greek term anamnesis (which is hardly an option in liturgical texts). But I would be hard put to explain the effortless superiority of 'Memory'. We use it of nostalgia: "Memories, memories", we murmur, as we fondly recall the distant day when Auntie Mildred nearly caused an international incident by pinching the bottom of the fat Italian waiter at that slightly odd cafe a little way down from the Trevi Fountain. But 'Remembrance' does have a hint of objectivity about it: "Have this brandy glass as a remembrance of Uncle Bob".

Frankly, 'Remembrance' has a lot to be said for it. It comes ultimately from the Late Latin rememorari, used by S Jerome to render anamimneskein in Hebrews (re- being a Latin equivalent of the Greek ana-). Friends and enemies have always regarded me as a nit-picking pedant, but I can't detect any subtle difference in nuance between 'Remembrance' and 'Memory'. Neither could Cranmer, who used the two words interchangeably in his Consecration Prayer. Nor did the authors of the Caroline and Non-Juring liturgies (Grisbrooke passim) who in times of persecution rewrote his Liturgy to make it express explicitly the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

There is a fair bit wrong with some of Cranmer's formulae. I have never once used his Consecration Prayer* without some sense of guilt. But it has never occurred to me that I am a heretic when I say "remembrance". I do hope that liturgical revision in Ordinariates is not going to be bedevilled by hoards of people all queuing up each with his own home-made sibboleth.


Not that he called it a Consecration Prayer, because he didn't believe in Consecration. It acquired that title when the Prayer Book was tittivated under the influence of Caroline High Churchery in 1662; a telling ikon of the tension between Cranmer's Zwinglian euchology and the rather different eucharistic beliefs of many who down the centuries have been landed with using it.


AndrewWS said...

*hordes* of people, Father

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

I had been hoping to lure some unsuspecting reader into correcting my spelling of Sib-.

The plain fact is that I, like many Latins, am hopeless at spelling English words of Teuton origin. And at distinguishing between -ceed and -cede or -ege and -edge. So there.

I also rather wonder why, in post-Conciliar books, Solemnitas doubled its L; and about the rival spellings of (Dei) Gene/itrix. Answers?

St said...

"a purely celebral recollection" - is that a cerebral recollection in the context of celebration?!

This does seem to be developing into a spelling-obsessed post.

Sollemnitas and Genetrix are the more "correct" Classical forms; I don't think there's any more to it than that.

Pastor in Valle said...

Or indeed, when one is being mediæval, solempnitas. Latham's Med. Latin Word List seems to suggest that the single l is more common mediævally.

GOR said...

I have similar concerns Father, with describing the Mass as the re-presentation of the Calvary Sacrifice - worrying that ‘re-presentation’ will be construed as mere representation

Certainly we continue to see “as in a glass, darkly…”

David, Deborah, MarLee and Liam said...

I think I like my cross-cultural understanding of "remembrance". In the dialect of Madagascar in which I minister, the word actually translates to mean "the causing to have a memory from long ago", kind of like a gerund but seems to have more depth to the meaning.

Patricius said...

Interestingly, to the Elves, ''Memory'' was more like unto waking life than mere visions in the mind. I, therefore, always see the Anamnesis in Elvish terms...

Michael McDonough said...

Ah, Unity, Fr. H, but surely the Sibboleths cometh!

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity." -- Yeats, The Second Coming


If "memory" serves, on the Anglo-Catholic blog, this "remembrance/memory" issue was raised not long ago (I don't know quite why) by (RC) Bishop Elliott of Melbourne (could he be the cryptic "sacramental theologian" of your post?).

In wondering about "why", it has struck me that there may be certain schools of gnostic religiosity (I noticed one mentioned as based in Sydney, Australia, but I cannot find the reference on Wikipedia anymore) which are preaching more of a Platonic doctrine, rather than the Judaeo-Christian one you, and we, are focusing on?

I suspect it will take a bona fide heretic to find out what the Church actually means, and then turn around and negate it! I know I have seen both English words used in ecclesiastically approved translations of the TLM from the halcyon days before the Council.

I suggested to Christian Campbell privately (email) that they get Bishop Elliott to explain his thinking at their blog, and he told me "we're on it".

Michael McDonough said...


And the Professor, of course, had unfallen Man in mind when he wrote about the deep-things of the Elves!

You're in good company.

Figulus said...

"Friends and enemies have always regarded me as a nit-picking pedant..."

Qui distinguit bene docet. Count me as a friend; I have always found your nit-picking to be thought provoking and educational.

(But I'm still not sure I fully comprehend the distinction between using "memorialis" as an adjective and using it as a substantive genitive. I'm still thinking about it, though.)

Dale said...

I remember, many, many years ago, my seminary professor of liturgics explaining that Anamnesis should perhaps be better translated in western languages as "To make present again." Which is very different from how we now understand "memory" or "memorial."

One can see how Protestants, of whatever ecclesiastical strip or jurisdiction, they exist not only in Canterbury but in Rome and Constantinople, have had a field day with the Sacrifice of the Mass being simply a memorial or supper because of mistranslating this word. And of course this has been followed up with a liturgy that emphasizes this rejection of the Catholic Faith of the Eucharist; no longer an altar of sacrifice, but a table, no sacrificing priest, but a presider et cetera.

Fr David Clues said...

A certain larger-than-life prelate in London is fond of stressing the first syllable: re-membering, as in 'putting back together again', rather than 'calling to mind'. The sacrificed members of Christ are re-assembled on the altar. Does that make him orthodox? Is it his own thought?