memory vs. presence

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Sweet is the memory of Jesus, giving true joys to the heart; but sweeter beyond honey and all else is his presence.

– quoted by Aldous Huxley in The Perennial Philosophy

Memory and presence.  Two sweet joys, but they don’t go hand in hand, they are not two of the same thing.

When all we have is memory–of a loved one, a cherished friendship, a triumph at work–there is a tendency to pedestal it, or maybe romanticize it until it suits us and what we need from it at that moment.  We remember the sweetness, and good for us if we find joy in what once was, but let’s not forget that before all our emotional ramblings over this memory, it had a life of its own–which was objective and a preview of the actual event, person, or feeling it captured.

Whatever comfort we find in memory, let us caution against getting swept up in it, and lingering in it.

This applies, too, to our faith.  Our rituals and sacraments do well to uphold the memory of something divine–Christ said to break bread and drink wine in memory of him–but let’s always be mindful that the formalities of our religion, no matter how pure and well-intentioned, are just stopovers.  We are there to renew ourselves and to make ourselves stronger, along with others who are on the same journey to a consistent and lively presencing of Christ everyday : sweeter beyond honey and all is his presence!

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