Today, in the course of listening to someone with a hard story, I pondered on Marko Rupnik’s teaching that all of our life needs to be gathered up in Christ – not just the tidy, well-integrated parts. My mind then wandered further to Charles Williams. (Back when I was an undergraduate at Fordham, I spent a lot of time in the library basement reading Williams’ poetry and novels. Someone should have noticed, and staged an intervention!)
Williams says somewhere that while we usually aim to “forgive and forget,” the more profound formula is to “forgive and remember.” (I think this is probably in The Forgiveness of Sins, but my copy is hiding.) We may hear an echo of A.E. Waite, Williams’ guide in esoteric Christianity, who taught that the end of the mystic path is the full folding of our self-knowing into the Self-Knowing of God, from which nothing can be excluded. (See, for example, Waite’s Lamps of Western Mysticism.) Can we hand over our most painful memories, our worst violations, and our nastiest deeds to God, knowing that all this mess is held in the divine memory, not in accusation or for an accouting of guilt, but in grace and in love? Can we somehow come to hold our errors and sins, and those of others, not pushing them away from us in horror, pain, or embarrassment, but wrapping them in a Love which heals the very fabric of our memory?
Sometimes such remembering is more than we can bear without breaking, and such limits are also held within the Mercy. Williams once remarked that if God is love, then real love must carry with it some of the terror and otherness of God. Touching divine love is akin to Uzzah touching the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chr 13) – it just might kill us, but death has a way of preceding resurrection. Love is, as Dostoevsky said, “a harsh and dreadful thing,” a dangerous holiness, but simultaneously a power that can remake the world.