Category: Proust

Special Places

I was taught Latin at school and a little rhyme springs to mind from forty five years ago. placere to give pleasure and vacare to have leisure.
Perhaps the two are subtly synonymous. The giving of pleasure does have an indolence about it – it is hardly ‘work’ after all, so I am trying not to smile wolfishly as I am writing. Perhaps I have been following people’s inner lives too much in their blogs, or I’ve been reading too much soulish literature.
I am about ‘have leisure’, to revisit a slice of the past, which as L P Hartley once said, is a foreign country. We have forgotten how to behave there, its rules have changed, its sidelong glances no longer hold the meanings that they once did. This from ‘A La Recherche du Temps Perdu’.
‘I feel that there is much to be said for the Celtic belief that the souls of those whom we have lost are held captive in some inferior being, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate object, and so effectively lost to us until the day (which to many never comes) when we happen to pass by the tree or to obtain possession of the object which forms their prison. Then they start and tremble, they call us by our name, and as soon as we have recognised their voice the spell is broken. We have delivered them: they have overcome death and return to share our life.

And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.’
The Catholic Church is the expert witness on material objects having a life of their own. Paraphrasing from a Catholic apologetic: ‘In the Eucharist, Christ is not recrucified; the Sacrifice of the Mass is unbloody – after the order of Melchizedek. Christ died once, historically finite; but God is outside of time and His offering of Himself is eternal. The Grace Christ offers in the Divine Liturgy and what He offered on the Cross are of the same sacrifice; therefore, in no way can the liturgical Sacrifice be a “repetition” of the Crucifixion. His sacrifice is re-presented (“made present again in some way”). As the Council of Trent put it, “The fruits of that bloody sacrifice, it is well understood, are received most abundantly through this unbloody one, so far is the latter from derogating in any way from the former.”‘
Hum. I’m not sure I am quite there yet, if ever I shall be, but it’s a powerful metaphor for sacred time and place. Much of where I was then – those who read will understand – defines who or what I have become. Will the Wall seem the same, I wonder?
The image is detail from Ghirlandaio’s ‘Last Supper’, 1486 (Scala Museum, Florence)

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