Friday, March 28, 2008

And From Peter Leithart

"Manasseh" is derived from a causative form of the verb "forget" - hence, cause to forget. So then, the name "Manasseh" means "Forgetful" or even "Causing to forget." Judah went into exile because of her forgetfulness, because King Forgetful made her forget her Husband and Lord, forget the covenant and its commandments, forget the fact that the Lord had placed His own Name, and not the name of Asherah or Baal, in the house in Jerusalem.

Memory is nourished by liturgy; forgetfulness by liturgical perversion.

This forgetfulness was induced largely by liturgical innovations. Judah forgot who she was because Manasseh changed the way she worshiped. He built altars and an Asherah pole; made altars for the hosts of heaven; consulted with mediums and spiritists instead of with the Lord’s prophets; and led all Judah astray to do the same.

Through these liturgical innovations, King Forgetful caused Judah to forget.

Worship is many things, but worship is in part about cultivating and nourishing collective memories. Each week, we are reminded of our sins and our need to confess. Every week in our worship, we recite the Nicene or some other creed of the church, a summary of God's history with the world, and a reminder of our place in that history. Each week, we hear the Scriptures read to remind us of what He has done for us and what He expects of us.

Nourishing and cultivating our collective memory is one of the things that forms us as a people.

Your own individual sense of self is partly a product of your memories; you know you are the same person who got into a playground fight in fifth grade because you remember doing that. Families are shaped by their collective experiences, and by recounting those experiences. A church is shaped by having a common memory.

Above all, this collective memory is shaped by the Lord’s table.

Jesus said that we are to do this rite – taking bread, giving thanks, breaking, distributing, eating; taking wine, giving thanks, distributing, drinking – as a "memorial" of Him. A "memorial" in Scripture is primarily directed toward the Lord: When we do what Jesus told us to do, the Lord remembers His covenant promise and acts on our behalf. But the memorial is also for us: We are to remember the covenant, to remember that God remembers, and to be stirred to faith that God will remember and act.

The Eucharist, in short, is one of the ways that the Lord preserves us from becoming Manasseh.

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