Hanging onto the Comfort of Memory

What do we have to hang onto?

In 2009, the author George Bonanno writes a book about bereavement.  He argues that not everyone passes through the five steps of loss according to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:  denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.  Bonanno says that “the other side of sadness” for many people is “resilience.”

The Israelites hang onto the words and actions of the Passover.  The Lord God frees his people from slavery and fights for them at the Red Sea.  They are the people of the Word and they hang onto the promise that the roasted lamb, the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs will always mean freedom.

The Early Christians hang onto the words and actions of their Master.  They remember that on the night before he dies, he ties an apron around his waist and washes feet like a slave.  Then at dinner he breaks the bread and says to eat his body that is broken.  Then when they as they give thanks he blesses a cup and they drink his blood.  They too are the People of the Word and after the Resurrection they hang onto these things.

To illustrate, this week we remember the commemoration of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.  This year, the New York Times, ask some people to reflect on the last year as they recover from physical, psychological and spiritual wounds.  On the paper’s website are shorts stories of their resilience.  As I read the introduction to their discussions one line strikes me:  Some find solace in keepsakes that day.  Meet Deborah Markos from Wisconsin.  Last year as she is fifty yards from the finish line, the first bomb explodes.  It does not harm her physically, but she is fearful of crowds and always she is aware of the exits in restaurants and stores.  What is important in her house is the table of keepsakes.  Because of a running injury this year she cannot join her fellow runners.  So, on a table in her house, Deborah places a piece of running clothing, her 2013 credentials, all of the print media from one year ago, some potpourri.  And in the corner are three white candles.  This table resembles an altar. (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/14/us/boston-marathon-survivor-stories.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0)

What do we hang onto, in a good way?  One definition of resilience, according to George Bonanno is the “comfort of memory.”  I find solace in the pictures and stories of my deceased mother.  When the family gets together or encounters a little problem, we always ask “What would mom do, or say, or better, not say?”   The memories then make us laugh and giggle but most of the time they comfort us.

Memory of the Eucharist on the night before Jesus dies comforts the early disciples even in the midst of pain.  Every time we eat this bread and drink  this cup we enter into a deep mystery of faith and hope.  Tonight we keep the memory of Our Lord who always comes to comfort us as his followers.  It is a great way to begin the Sacred Three Days because it does not end in sadness.  It ends with Resurrection.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper




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