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The Quarterly Journal of St. Philaret’s Institute

ISSN: 2658-7599 (print)
2713-3141 (online)

The Temporal Dimension of Discernment: History and Memory

Archpriest John Erickson, Professor Emeritus, St Vladimir’s Seminary (Tucson)
pp. 128–151
DOI: 10.25803/SFI.2019.32.53368
History and memory: To this pairing, philosopher P. Ricoeur and others often draw attention an additional element: Forgetting. The construction of history involves elements of both remembering and forgetting. This is a selective process. Especially in Russia and Eastern Europe, where religious identity is closely linked with national, ethnic and cultural identity, the upheavals and social trauma of the past century have encouraged politicians, religious authorities and many others to construct a highly selective historical narrative capable of eliciting wide popular support, but at the expense of memory. For the appeal of such narratives, multiple explanations can be offered. Modern optimism has given way to post-modern anxiety. The immediacy of real-time technologies has deadened our sense of time and place. Discomfort with the rush of the present moment and uncertainty about the future may lead us to seize on anything that promises order and stability, however lacking in truth and moral substance this may be. Needed now, beyond faithful remembering and prudent forgetting, is forgiveness – a subject that Ricoeur explores in an epilogue to his study of Memory, History, Forgetting. For Ricoeur, forgiveness “constitutes the horizon common to memory, history, and forgetting”. Paths leading towards this eschatological horizon are not easy to discern. Even the noblest of human projects for truth and reconciliation fall short, though they may point in the right direction. Here we can only speak of grace. Along with humility, patience, fortitude and the other virtues, we must be graced with an honest and unflinching willingness to engage with the past, however painful this may be.
Keywords: history, memory, narrative, eschatology, forgetting, forgiveness.

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