Anamnesis: Remembering the Past
by Dr. Dan Sharp, Minister of Worship
The idea of remembering is significant and recurring throughout Scripture. The Israelites were commanded to remember their deliverance from Egypt. Jesus used the word “remembrance,” which is a translation of the Greek word “anamnesis,” when, during the Last Supper he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Unfortunately our English word does not quite get the full meaning of anamnesis. The biblical use of the word does not imply a mental process in which we simply think about what happened in the past, but rather a “remembrance by doing what was done.”
Anamnesis means literally “the drawing near of memory.” (Our word amnesia, the loss of memory, comes from this word.) Anamnesis makes possible the drawing into our own experience that which would otherwise be locked into the past. It brings the past into our own time. For example, this concept is clearly expressed in many of our Christmas carols, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…” Two of the most significant examples of anamnesis are communion and baptism.
Let us remember not only our nation this week, but also our great Savior as we celebrate communion this coming Sunday.