Senator Pacquiao’s jocular response to the relatively recent presidential barb calling him “punch-drunk”—Makipag-contest ako ng memorization—could have triggered not just a few snickers of derision among the intellectual snobs of my generation; which reminds me of how underrated the faculty of Memory may have been for so long (or, at least, during my schooldays).
Indeed, the human capacity to remember belongs to our lower, sensual (non-spiritual) dimension: animals also have the faculty or power of Memory, as is obvious in the way dogs can be “loyal” to their human owners. Memory is, in fact, one of the “internal senses” (along with “common sense”—used here to refer to the power to synthesize the different sense-perceptions—and the Imagination), as distinguished from the five “external senses” of touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing. It appears that classical philosophy evolved the concept of “internal senses” to define a category of cognitive (knowledge-) functions that, strictly speaking, did not belong to the external senses, but were neither attributable to the human spiritual power of the intellect.
And, yes, it must have been in reaction to (mindless) rote learning as a method of instruction—ridiculed by Rizal in the thirteenth chapter of El Filibusterismo (“The Physics Class”)—that memorization became unfashionable. Still, come to think of it, memorization will always have to be part of the learning process: “critical thinking”, among the proposed alternatives to rote learning, still presupposes something to think about; and there are disciplines that require certain degrees of precision in language—the study of Law, for instance—so much so that it would pay more to memorize the official or time-tested formulation than restate a proposition according to one’s own understanding.
I was gratified lately to hear that my youngest child, Juan Pablo (“Panglima JP”), who is reviewing for this year’s Bar Examinations, has learned to enjoy memorizing key statutory provisions.
Of course, to be truly human, what belongs to our sensual (material/animal) dimension ought to be penetrated somehow by the higher (spiritual) faculties, i.e., our human intelligence and free will. It was not so much the memorization as the lack of understanding in the process that Rizal was ridiculing. And when the Will is involved—when there is Love—the act of memorizing can even become, beyond just “humanized”, even “divinized”, i.e., made holy. Sacred Scripture, and the entire economy of Salvation for that matter, abound with the notion of “remembering”, of recalling God’s Beneficence and Promises, at the heart of which is the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
The (Seven) Sacraments of the Catholic Church are “sensible signs” that are, at the same time, “efficacious instruments” of grace, instituted by Christ (cf. CCC, No. 1131). Like all “being”, these can be understood in terms of their “matter” (what gives a thing the potency or capacity to become what it is) and “form” (what gives a thing the act of being what it is). In the case of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession), for instance, the Matter would be the “sins” told for the hearing (the sensible aspect) of the Priest, while the Form would be the Words of Absolution uttered by the latter (“I absolve you…”). In the case of the Eucharist, the Matter would be the Bread and Wine, while the Form would be the Words of Consecration said by the Priest, culminating with the injunction to “do this in memory of me” (cf. Lk 22:19).
Saint Josemaría Escrivá calls the Eucharist the “center and root of Christian life” (more elegant in the original Spanish centro y raiz de la vida Cristiana). The phrase appears to have been adopted somehow by the Second Vatican Council, in describing the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of Christian life (CCC, No. 1324) which nicely translates as ang bukal na pinagmumulan at tugatog na pinatutunguhan ng buhay-Kristiyano.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:53). He who turned water into wine (Jn 2:1-11) and who multiplied five loaves of bread to feed five thousand men (Jn 6:1-14) could certainly change bread and wine into His Body and Blood.
The Church teaches—
“Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God…that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation. The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts…The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful” (CCC, Nos. 1376-1378).
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ark of the Covenant—Kaban ng Tipan—help us all to become Eucharistic souls, to keep close to our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. (25.VII.2021)