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God Alone Remembers: All Others Forget and Would Be Forgotten

God Alone Remembers: All Others Forget and Would Be Forgotten April 4, 2019

God recalls.

If God wishes, any truth, any event, is brought forward in the Divine Mind. Nothing needed is lost and not one good thing, not a sparrow fallen to the ground or a kind word quietly said to a friend, is forgotten. All can be recollected if needed or desired and brought out to shouts of joy from God’s children.

We forget, but God does not. Nothing is lost that should be recalled and nobody’s good deeds are left behind them. All is knowable to God as He steadily heals the cosmos from her wounds.

People are God’s image and so like God we try to recollect, but unlike God we do forget. This is a severe mercy, a sad, but necessary intellectual death. So much must be forgotten by us so we can endure long enough to be saved. We forget in order to stand bear the wait until all is renewed and all that is good, true, and beautiful can be remembered without pain.

Forgetting happens, but we fight to be remembered, forgetting first that we can put our faith in God alone. Like God, we create, but err by trying to make our creations eternal so no human will ever forget them or us.

This never works, not even for so great a writer as Dante. He has lasted hundreds of years, but Dante understood that forever wears down anything and everything. All that we make will be forgotten, just as we are forgotten. This was hard for an artist like Dante to hear, because his fame was great and he had good reason to think he was capable of writing works that would transcend his own time.

Most great artists, musicians, politicians, famous in their day, fade much more quickly than Dante. More than a few become (as another poet put it)  those whom “renown outran and so the name died before the man.” Dante realizes in Purgatory, finally and utterly, that nothing can last or should last in this way:

Ere pass a thousand years? which is a shorter Space to the eterne, than twinkling of an eye Unto the circle that in heaven wheels slowest. With him, who takes so little of the road In front of me, all Tuscany resounded; And now he scarce is lisped of in Siena, Where he was lord, what time was overthrown The Florentine delirium, that superb Was at that day as now ’tis prostitute.*

Poets famous now forgotten. An athlete dying old so the renown died before the man. The last leaf on the tree falling long after Autumn, uncelebrated and buried under the cold snow. Dante realizes that this is bitter, but also sweet. We forget some good, but we must forget the good, because otherwise the artistic icon would be an idol. The liveliness slowly is drained out of the great work until all that is left is vain repetition.

This purgation of the memory of man is good. We purge the old to give way to the new constantly, the very pattern of purgation being our image of eternity, eternal cycle of purgation, until we reach paradise. There we will stand on holy ground in a City Foursquare and nobody will be lost that can be saved.

Nothing is forgotten and all can be brought forth at the right time. We will clap and say as we always do: “This is that spoken of by the prophet . . . The poet. . . The musician. . . The filmmaker . . . Thank God.

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.**

 

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*Purgatory XI by Dante, translated by Longfellow.

**Idylls of the King, Tennyson.


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