LENT: The Memory Of God, by Richard Valantasis

The Memory Of God Richard Valantasis

From Centuries of Holiness

One way to articulate a goal of human existence comes from a metaphor of the ascetical tradition: the remembrance of God.  The concept is relatively simple: our task as humans is to remember that God exists and that God is present in the course of daily living.  This means that, since Christians know that God exists and that God is forever present to them, they must bring the remembrance of that reality to bear in every moment.  So the remembrance of God is a kind of recollection of God in every event of the day.  As seekers bathe, eat, work, relate to others, commute to work, sit idle, watch television – whatever seekers do in a day – seekers remember that they are before God, in God’s presence: bathing before God, eating before God, working before God, relating before God, commuting before God, sitting before God, entertaining themselves before God; all the day’s activities are done before God.  There is no place in which God is absent; there is nothing that happens that is separate from the presence of God.  To remember God, then, is simply to recognize that God is present and active in all that is done.

Metanoia, or repentance, simply means that one turns from forgetting God to remembering God in the course of daily living.  The Greek word simply means something like “changing the thought pattern.”  Repentance means to change the way of thinking and living from a way in which God is not perceived, to a way in which God is acknowledged as fully present.  Repentance, at its most basic level, involves first of all a simple remembrance of God.

Sanctification results from the remembrance of God.  It is difficult to perform actions known to be offensive to God if one performs them knowing of God’s presence.  Slowly, over the course of years, the memory of God transforms the way the Christian lives and the way the Christian understands the world.  God’s presence becomes slowly more manifest, and the believer becomes more “holy.”  The remembrance of God begins the process of sanctification, and results in holiness.  Now, holiness is not understood in the root sense of someone or something totally unified and set apart for God’s purposes.  Holiness designates the singular orientation to God that permeates every activity, thought, emotion, and gesture of the day; it is the sign that sanctification of life through the remembrance of God is taking deep root in the person.

The remembrance of God also has communal ramifications.  It is not simply that each individual brings the memory of God into each activity, but that the whole community, when gathered together for their common work (called liturgy) on the Lord’s Day, comes together to remember that they are part of the body of God in the world.  They come together to remember God.  Although it is a pun, the “re-membering” is literally the gathering of the members, the parts of the body, that constitute the body of God in the world.  The corporate body of Christ gathered together reminds seekers that they no longer function as individuals solely, but as part of a corporate body that enfleshes the work of God in the world.  So Christians remember that they are part of God; they remember that God has called them and renewed them as a corporate body; they remember that God is present to them as a group; and they remember that they are called to live and work completely orientated as a corporate body to the presence of God.  The Christian corporate body calls forth the memory of God in order to sanctify its own life and to manifest the holiness that results from consecrating each individual and corporate action and thought to the ever-living and ever-present God.

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