We entered this year with the burden of last year’s tensions. The international tensions of 1966 are the tensions of 1967, and now, as then, they bear hard on the whole of human existence. The relations between East and West, the volcanic rumblings from China, and all the other sore spots of international life are of deep significance for everyone.

But some people are so taken up with the disturbances of the present that they lose perspective on the past. Our a-historical way of thinking is in part an estrangement from the past; and this estrangement, like all others, is an impoverishment. For our time shares this with all other times, that it cannot be understood or explained in isolation from the past.

Deep and primitive forces help define the course of affairs and help bind us to the affairs of yesterday. The Church, too, has this consciousness of being bound with the past. It knows it cannot cut itself loose from the past, for remembrance of things past is close to the heart of its existence. It keeps hearing the permanent command: “Do this in memory of me.” And Paul writes: “Remember that Jesus Christ … was raised from the dead (2 Tim. 2:8).

As Israel lived out of its memory of the past, of the Exodus, of all the acts of God that were decisive for Israel’s history, so the Church lives out of its memory of the unique past recorded in the message of the Scriptures. Witnesses to Christ’s resurrection went into the world, not to declare generalized eternal truths, but to tell of their vivid past experience with the living Lord. This does not imply, of course, that the Church should try to withdraw from the present, as though it had no interest in the world of today, let alone the future. Rather, it is to say that the Church’s ...

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