Dory, Anamnesis, and the Sacraments

Pixar just released another trailer for the release of “Finding Dory”, slated to appear in theaters this June. From what you can see, the plot line is basically that all of the sudden Dory, the memory-plagued co-star of “Finding Nemo”, remembers something. And for Dory, remembering something, anything, is a big deal. It causes her to go off on a quest to find her newly remembered family.

When Jesus celebrated the last supper with His disciples, giving His Church the institution of the Lord’s Supper (something that we call a sacrament because it is a physical sign combined with Christ’s own Words and command), He used the words “do this in remembrance of me”. Theologians have referred to this concept of “remembrance” as “anamnesis”, and statements were made regarding the fullness of this remembrance in the liturgy of ancient churches. This anamnesis had to do with much more than eating bread and drinking wine. It had to do with the remembrance of the entire person of Jesus, His attributes, His qualities, His work.

When a Christian has a moment of anamnesis whether through the Word of God connected in a sacrament, or the Word of God read or spoken to them, there is a literal experience of the person of Jesus, the Christ. It is like Dory remembering her family. It moves us to remember a reality that we perhaps were unsure of, or perhaps even unaware of before. Like in the trailer, a disembodied voice of the Triune God speaks over us in Word and Sacrament, in Baptism and Communion and Absolution and says “we will never forget you”.

God promises us that we are not forgotten, and does so by using the very faculty that we are weak in, our memories that tend to forget God’s goodness to us. He restores our memories and gives us those moments when we can exclaim, “I remember . . .” and remember something that we would have no memory of without God’s work – His grace and divine remembrance of us.