This month of March, the Carmelite Library exhibits a series of works by Susan Southall based on lines from Dante’s early work, ‘La Vita Nuova’. She posted on her own blog this reflection, entitled ‘On Memory’.
To the ancients, memory is an active process. We remember those where we have an obligation; we hold in memory those we are bound to protect. For us, memory is passive: visited by memories, moved by them or suffering from them.
In the book of his memory, Dante tells of love at first sight, loss, grief and salvation: La Vita Nuova. He says his miraculous Beatrice ‘was a Christian of the thirteenth century.’ My muse Rachel was a Christian of the twentieth century; she did not live to see the twenty-first. Dante wrote for other Christians of the thirteenth century, and for us, of the twenty-first century, and beyond.
Look at objects you’ve saved, from bicycles to pictures, asking, Is this a happy memory? If a bad memory, why keep it? Do we keep our memories as a warning? Not to repeat remorse? Memento Mori is a remembrance or calling to mind of death, as a sign.
‘Recordare, Jesu pie: Remember, blessed Jesu, that I am the cause of your journey, do not abandon me.’ Dante presented his beloved in words written beyond all others. The marvelous Beatrice lives with Rachel in memory, in the new life.