The Third Greatest Commandment: Memory as Imperative, Defense, and Supplication

Jason Peters

My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time. These memories, which are my life—for we possess nothing certainly except the past—were always with me.

—Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited

In this essay, a survey of sorts, I attempt to understand memory in a few of its literary and in one of its liturgical manifestations. I will assume that memory is a feature of the imago Dei and thus treat it as a divine imperative that answers to man in his predicaments of exile and estrangement. But it is also, as St. Augustine taught, the human faculty that recognizes and apprehends the pattern of divine intention in the world. In its final consummation, memory is God’s answer to that irrepressible human supplication for glory that is everywhere evident in our cultural enterprise as far back as Homer. And it culminates not so much in our memory of God as in God’s memory of us.


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