Saturday, June 18, 2011

Love and Remembrance

It has been a bad year for some of my friends who have lost wives, partners and mothers.

It has to be remembered that the cause of their pain is love. Yet Love is one of the three things that remain always if we believe St Paul's first letter to the Church in Corinth. I know that my friends will always carry the love for those whom they have lost beyond the veil of this life, and they will carry this love to their own passing. But what then? Will that love die with them? And what of others' love for them? Will that pass too. It seems that the love of man is as fleeing in contrast to the love of God Who is eternal.

Sadly, many people believe that all that humans are will pass away into nothing. Even the Bible has the rather final image of "dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return". We are reminded of that every Ash Wednesday. The Bible, of course, puts that verse into perspective, demonstrating that our human endeavours are fleeting and though they may remain for a short time, giving pleasure to folk around, they will pass. The Mona Lisa will eventually disintegrate; St Peter's Square will crumble to dust; even the many copies of the Bible will be torn and scattered away. This too must pass.

Is the love between human beings doomed to similar extinction? One can look at a patient with Alzheimer's disease and wonder how on earth they can love their spouse of many years when they can't remember who on earth they are. Does love exist when memory fails completely?

If love has its origins in us, then the answer is no. In the eyes of humanity, the lives of countless human beings are forgotten.

And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.

Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach xliv.9

With the death of the last First World War veterans, the world has lost the first hand experience of that awful conflict and the stories of bravery and generosity that came out of the depravity of human pride and anger. Our future is influenced by that past, but never again will it be seen as part of our direct experience. The Second World War will go the same way. So will September 11th 2001.

The emotional content of these events will be preserved by poetry, film archives, and Internet footage, but while they may elicit an emotional response of perhaps great intensity, will they elicit anything more than that? However, neither the emotional response, nor the media which inspire that response will endure.

Love that comes from humanity will not endure because it has no medium to sustain it beyond the confines of a human life.

If one believes that all true love has its source in God, then we have a different situation, for it is this aspect of Divine Love cultivated in human beings which carries the human soul into an existence of a nature that transcends what can be known. Too often, what some perceive as Love is nothing more than a desire to extract from the lover whatever pleases us, or to possess the qualities of the beloved that we lack in ourselves. Divine Love creates us by giving us our very selves and a freedom to be who we really are rather than that which is demanded of us by our peers or even by ourselves - this is a freedom that we can and do reject for ourselves by rejecting God.

In giving of our love to others, we pass on that which is truly Eternal and transmit that which preserves an aspect of ourselves whether or not the other is aware, or even whether we are ourselves aware. We exist because we are loved and we will continue to exist because that Love continues to exist. This is how our loved ones never die for us in this world because they continue to exist as currents stirring within the blood of the Sacred Heart and passions within Christ. When we see Him, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.

I deeply commiserate with my friends, but I do so with a sure and certain hope of the bodily resurrection from the dead.

[T]hese were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten. With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant. Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes. Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.

Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach xliv.10-14

While members of the Church may eventually be forgotten in Time's relentless and sinuous bore through Existence, they are indelibly engraved in the heart of the Divine and God's Church (a tautology!) will rest in peace and rise in glory.

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