Remember to Remember - Reflection by Canon Neal


Read Canon Neal's reflection for Tuesday, 27 October 2020.

It’s approaching that time of year when we remember to remember. Well, of course, remembering is something we can do any time. But the first half of November seems to have a concentration of prompts to remember. There is that certain ditty which gives us a clue: “Remember, remember the fifth of November…” and all that. Hard on its heals is Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, as we remember the sacrifice of countless men and women who, over the years have stepped up to the plate in the service of freedom and justice, and many paying the ultimate price in terms of their lives. The words of the Kohima Epitaph sum it up perfectly for me,  “When you go home, tell them of us and say, ‘For our tomorrow we gave our today.’”

The Church year also urges us towards remembrance. This Sunday is All Saints Day, and the following day is All Souls. On All Saints, we remember all those who have chosen to follow Jesus in their words and actions, in every time and place, those who have died and, crucially for me, all those who are still alive. Most, of course, are nameless – their words and works have been forgotten by us, but not by God. A few we do remember by name and they have their special ‘days’ throughout the year when we give thanks for them and celebrate their legacy. All Saints, though, is about everyone – all the saints! Being a saint doesn’t mean that we are perfect – far from it. We can see that very graphically illustrated in the lives of the saints – the hagiography – many of them most conspicuously had the proverbial ‘feet of clay’!

All Souls, though, is most definitely remembering all those who died, those whose faith was known to us, and those whose faith was known only to God. Those whom “we love but see no longer”, as the Funeral service puts it. This year, All Souls will, I imagine, be particularly poignant for many of us, as a great many families have lost someone special. I number myself among them, losing an uncle to Covid-19 and my father to cancer. I shall certainly be attending this Sunday’s ‘Special Memories’ service in the Cathedral at 3.00pm, which Canon Mike is organising; you can find more details and  book your place for the service on Eventbrite by following this link: For me, it will be an opportunity to pause, reflect and light a candle in memory of Keith and John. I have also brought into our house a sprig of rosemary – an ancient symbol of remembrance, with its evergreen foliage.

As Christians, we are about remembrance all year round, of course, as we celebrate the Eucharist or Holy Communion. “Do this in remembrance of me” commanded Jesus. For us, remembrance is not just about looking back, let alone nostalgia. It is looking back in order to look around and look ahead. The Eucharist is about us feeding in the here and now, receiving afresh the grace of God to strengthen our relationship with God and to equip us for our journey with God. It is also the “foretaste of the heavenly banquet” which reminds us that, one day, God will throw the party to end all parties - in heaven. No wonder we join together at every Communion in the ancient words, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”!

So, may I invite you to remember to remember at this time? How we remember is individual and very personal. By all means make use of the opportunities that we offer at the Cathedral, both the special ones at this time of year, and those that come each and every day. Remembering well, paradoxically, helps us live better in the present and the future!

Canon Neal

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